Thursday, April 12, 2012

Volunteer of the Week Story

This week's Volunteer of the Week (here), Adam Levine shared a very interesting story about his role in building (literally) the Shanti Bhavan community. We couldn't fit his whole story on our Facebook feature so here it is in its entirety! Thank you for sharing Adam!

"While I was at Shanti Bhaven, Dr. George (knowing that I was in the middle of pursuing my Masters in Architecture) asked me to design low cost homes that he intended to build for members of the local community. It was a great opportunity for me, and I enjoyed directly working with Dr. George to design a clean, efficient, and inexpensive house. The idea was to defy conventional practices, respond to the climate, and build something that would simply make the lives of the tenants easier.

Fast forward a few months. The architectural drawings were complete and the materials were thought out. We hired a mason to set the lines of the foundation and had the village show up for a Puja, to break ground properly on the first house. I even had a number of my 5th grade Math students come over from Shanti Bhaven to be a part of the ceremony.

Just before the ceremony, a local architect showed up, uninvited. He swiftly dismissed my plans for the building and began drawing out his own. He halted the work of the mason and even told the family who was receiving the house to not trust this foreigner (me), and to refuse to live in the house. He told them that I had violated rules of Vaastu Shastra by placing certain elements in incorrect ends of the house, and anyone living there would have ill fortune. Through a translator I realized that this man was trying to unravel our long planning, and I became afraid that the project was not going to be accepted.

The day came and went, and I went back to Dr. George with the bad news. With a smile he assured me that we would work through this problem, and that we would find a way to satisfy all parties within our constraints. After a long night of tinkering with the plans, I found a solution that I felt answered the questions brought up by the local architect that also achieved all the practical goals that we had set out to accomplish in the project. We went on to build the house (with happy tenants), and Dr. George went on to build 7 more houses following that model.

I was humbled by this project, and learned to be more sensitive in my problem solving. The 'local architect' intentionally or not helped me improve the design to better suit the people who would live there. Meanwhile Dr. George taught me too see that things are not always black and white. With perseverance and the willingness to put aside one's preconceptions, solutions can be found to any problem. I carry these lessons with me fondly."