From GB’s keyboard…….

“Where do I begin
To tell the story of how great a love can be
The sweet love story that is older than the sea
The simple truth about the love she brings to me
Where do I start…”

Should I begin from the beginning? Should I dwell on the way Svanir developed? Should I not mention that fate often takes a hand in the planning and we change course even at the very beginning? I wonder what the readers and the visitors would like to read…

I for my part would like to salute those whose wisdom and guidance has brought Svanir from the original idea (a retirement home for my wife and me – children living their own life away at their work place) to what it is today. Yes, that is what I will dwell on in my first blog, and the first person who comes to my mind is Mr Saroj Kumar Patnaik. At 79 he is still full of ‘josh’ and ideas. But unlike many dreamers, his dreams are rooted to the ground. He knows where and who can get his ideas to fructify. A professional forester, he has held the highest rank in the State forest bureaucracy, has and is still a sought after member of national and state level committees/ advisory bodies….and for us the Mukherji family, a founding father. Indeed, it was he who first helped me acquire the land more than thirty two years ago.

Saroj Patnaik standing next to the unprotected property along village Dalua road

The others who can come under the category of founding fathers is Mr Bijoyram Das, a soil conservationist par excellence. At 88 he still moving about, advising many institution on how to landscape their property and what trees to plant and where to get them. He is the first person who had doubts about building Svanir entirely on the ancient Santal pattern with mud and wooden pillars in an area dominated by white ants. Actually, I waited more than four months for Santal families to come and construct – but they had no time for me, even for money.

Saroj Patnaik (second from left), Bijoyram Das (first from right) on a site visit more than a five years ago

Mr Hrusikesh Rout is the unusual, hands-on civil contractor who installed a borewell under the guidance of his friend-engineers, set up the 132 pillar steel and concrete elephant resistant wall exactly along the twice demarcated property boundary, constructed a 26 ft high structure to store 6000 litres of pure water, and with his team, built the living accommodation that would withstand cyclones. Although he had no experience of energy conserving structural designs, he went along with my ideas borrowed from my knowledge of tribal designing and the work of the famous British Indian architect Laurie Baker. The result is for all to see. Yes, mistakes were made and corrected; some problems still persist (leaking roof during very heavy rain on sloped steel-aluminum sheets); and specifications were tested and changed across cottages (all rooms and bath are not exactly uniform in size) – but are handicrafts made by village artisans not of this character?

Hrusikesh Rout the Class I contractor who showed his mettle in accepting and executing unconventional ideas

There were many others who contributed to the making of svanir…I seek their pardon in not mentioning them at this stage…but I surely will write about their contribution in the course of fresh blogging.

Finally, I cannot forget the workers drawn from many parts of Odisha and Bengal, who worked under basic conditions, spending rainy nights under tents, sleeping on cement bags, cooking and eating simple meals. They will always be welcome at Svanir. A cup of tea would be waiting in our kitchen for them….

The photos are all copyright protected. For use, please contact GB at

23rd September 2019

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