Consulting a traditional builder

The Achari in Peruveli village [which is close to the pointReturn site], came over to friend Babu Reddiar’s house to offer his counsel. I had bought 20,000 curved roofing tiles salvaged from rundown or dismantled homes. They were being crushed and spread over ditches and gullies. People were surprised someone was willing pay for and carry them away. The project site is full of rocks that would yield enough material for laying the foundation and raising a plinth. There is good red soil as well. I planned on raising walls using cob or rammed earth.
Using the free Google SketchUp [-which I recommend everyone to try for its fun, ease of use and precision] I had prepared a design and printed it out as an isometric in vivid colours. It consisted of a 15′ wide by 40′ long main building. At each of two ends, two 15′ wide wings extended from it at right angles. There were two valleys where the extensions joined. The whole thing enclosed a courtyard open only on the fourth side. There were to be two quarters for farm-hand families, a guest room, a small overnighter suite for myself and a store-room.
If I may say so myself, it was a good-looking drawing, presented stylishly and lucidly. Radhakrishnan gazed the drawing for a while in silence and then without commenting on it, asked me: “Have you checked the Aayadhi?”
I stared blankly. There were a couple of villagers in the room who exclaimed in unison, “Oh, Aayadhi is the first thing to check”. They seemed to know something with unconscious ease. The Achari told me, “The external dimensions of the major structure are critical and must be established first. Your dimensions are 15′ by 40′. Multiply the two and divide by 9. See if there is a remainder”.
There was. He shook his head and called for a Panchangam, which very few affluent, nuclear families keep anymore in their homes. Less ‘modern’ Indians do. Babu Reddiar’s wife darted in with the family copy. A Panchangam is an almanac listing lunar cycles, eclipses, auspicious days and hours, festivals, omens and so on. Amazingly, the slender booklet also had acceptable house dimensions. 39 and 38 were taboo but 37 would do. We tried 37X16 and 37×17. Neither was divided cleanly by 9.
We tried the next approved set: 36×16. Bingo! We were home! The Panchangam said such a house will be a Garuda Manai or a Royal Eagle’s Nest. [By the way, un-approved lengths prophesied poverty, plague or ruined peace!]
Radhakrishnan Achari next turned to details. “You won’t find patient workers to do your cob or rammed earth work. Adobe requires puddling. Also, if the earth is not dense, termites creep in. A number of houses in Peruveli are under attack.”
I explained and proposed compressed earth block with 5% cement added. He liked the idea. Next, he suggested detaching the two extensions and making three separate structures. Dimensions of the minor buildings are not critical. “Roofs with country tiles nearly always leak in the valleys, though they look pretty. You will be constantly mending them”.
A long conversation followed on rafters, doors and windows. He relocated the lavatory and bedroom. He analysed the design fully and patiently.
My pretty drawing was in tatters. In the classic phrase, it was back to the drawing board- with some wisdom, this time.

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