Archive for the 'Housing' Category

Old and new homes…

Monday, January 28th, 2013


Dear St Oswald’s primary school, how lovely that you have snow in London! In Chembakolli the weather is moderate. Although it is the end of our winter at the moment, it is never as cold as London.Thankyou for inquiring about our school. We don’t really have distinctions between junior and higher classes in our school. Since there are only 150 children we use just one building for everyone.

How exciting that you sang in front of so many people. Although we don’t have a choir in our school we spend a lot of time singing. In fact, very often our day begins with singing. Traditionally we would sing along with a thudi (a traditional drum) and a Cheenum (a traditional flute). Here is a photograph of the two. In the villages as soon as poeple heard the sound of music they would gather to sing and dance together. However these days, since everyone is busy going to work and school, people gather less frequently.


Chatti playing the Cheenum in class

Dear Turnham primary School, although the weather in chembakolli is quite lovely there are parts of India where it gets very cold. Here is a picture of the snow in Mussori in North India.

In western India, in the desserts of Rajasthan, the nights are freezing cold too. Unlike in London, very few people here use electrical heating or radiators. And so, in small villages, people sit huddled together around a fire to keep warm.

Great to hear about your experiments with quails. Infact quail is a delicacy in many of the small restaurants in Gudalur town, where our school is. It is called ‘kada’ locally and often fried with spices and eaten with onions and a slice of lemon.

We’ve been keeping quite busy lately. Last week we visited some of the villages and spoke to people about the ways in which their lives and lifestyles have been changing over the years.We heard a very interesting story which we would like to share with you….

Vasu, from the Paniya tribe told us that traditionally houses were built out of material that was available in the forest. Groups of men would bring back bamboo and dried grass to build their homes. The floors used to be leveled with mud and water and dried cow dung was spread around the house to disinfect the area.Everyone is the village has identical houses. No ones house would appear bigger or better than any other.When a person in the village needed to build or repair their house, everyone would come together to help them. One didn’t even have to ask for help since people would simply land up at the work site ready to lend a helping hand. They did not receive any money to compensate for the time they spent. This was the way in which the community lived together.

Traditional home

However, today the old homes have been replaced with cement houses made with bricks which are then plastered and painted. None of this material- bricks, cement, paint etc can be sourced locally. All of it needs to be bought for money from the market place. Laborers need to be paid a wage to build houses and our neighbors are no longer able to help us. The adivasi ideals of generosity, sharing and sustainability have been replaced. What do you feel about this?

Until next time….goodbye!


What is your house like?

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

The pupils in the second standard at Vidyodaya School have been learning about different types of housing in their social studies lessons.  The children come from different adivasi villages near the school.  Their houses are often similar but can be divided into four main types, based on what the roofs are made of.

  • Thatched roof

Thatched roof

  • Tiled roof

Tiled roof

  • Concrete roof

Cement roof

  • Cement sheet or tar felt sheet roof

Cement sheet roof

Traditionally the walls of the houses were built using small wooden materials and sticks.  The walls were then plastered with mud.  Each family built their own house and everyone in the village helped.  Houses used to have just one room where everything happened but nowadays more and more houses are built with at least two rooms and a verandah outside.  For most adivasi families houses are mainly used to store belongings and sleep in.  People live outside the house most of the time.  Cooking takes place in the verandah of the house or inside when it is raining.


Each of the pupils drew and talked about their houses.  Here are some pictures and descriptions by three of the children in the class.


From left to right, Mathan, Ashwini and Manju. 

My name is Manju.  I am 9 years old and I live in the village of Chembakolli.  I live with my mother, father, sister and brother.  The roof of our house is made of grass.  The walls are made of sticks.  We have two rooms.  We sleep and cook inside the house.

Manju's house

My name is Mathan.  I am 9 years old and I live in Kodamoola.  I live with my father, mother and brother.  My roof is made of tiles and the walls are made of stone.  There are three rooms.  There are no windows.  We eat and sleep inside the house.

Mathan's house

My name is Ashwini.  I am 7 years old and I live in Kanchikolli.  I live with my father, mother and sister Ashwathi.  My house is made of cement.  The roof is made of metal sheets.  Our house has four rooms and four windows.

Ashwini's house 

What is your house like? 
What are the roof and walls made of? 
How many rooms do you have? 
How is your house the same and different to these houses?

India: August 31st to September 5th (entry 108)

Sunday, September 6th, 2009


Hope all of you had a good break. Here, we too had Onam holidays for the last one week. The monsoon is still continuing. In July, we had very heavy rain for three days. It rained continuously and everything was closed down. We were informed in the morning that all the schools were closed for three days.

Our class decided to write about this in this week’s blog.


I live in Chembakolli village. Because of the heavy rain, all the banana trees in our village were uprooted. The well was full of flood water. The elephants were very close to our village. We heard that there was no electricity in the Gudalur town.


I played in the rain and went to catch fish and crabs. We went swimming. Our Vidyodaya School was also closed; so, we had to stay at home for a week.


In July, when we had very heavy rain, I played in the rain. I collected rain water in vessels. I caught a lot of crabs. I washed our cow shed. A tree fell on the shed; so, we had to remove it and clean the shed.

We made paper boats. We had a big herd of elephants very close to our village. Actually, there were 22 elephants. They ate all the bananas from the fallen trees and all the jack fruits also.

The flood water washed away the bridge across the stream in our village. So, we could not go to the town for a few days. We had to vacate some people from their villages, where the flood water had entered.



I live in Kotharavayal village in Gudalur. In our village, the well was overflowing with the rain water.

We collected rain water and used it for washing clothes. We went to the forest after the rain and collected firewood. We found lots of twigs fallen from the tree. There were leeches in the forest. I had one on my foot.

We also collected mushrooms. We made mushroom curry. I played in the rain as we didn’t have school for a few days. I had fever at the end of the week.


The field near our house was covered with water. I caught crabs and fish. The well and ponds were full. I heard that some Adivasi villages got flooded. Some houses were destroyed, as flood water entered the houses. The walls broke and the roof came down. In some places, the soil in the hill slopes caved in and fell over the roof of the houses, destroying them.


We had 15 inches or 38 centimetres of rain in 24 hours. Though Gudalur receives lot of rainfall and it is wet almost four months of the year, we haven’t had such heavy rain in a single day in the last 20 years. We had few landslides on the Ooty-Mysore main road. The roads were blocked .


Some Adivasi villages got flooded. The people went to the local schools and the government provided cooked food. The Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (AMS) stepped in and joined hands with the government in the relief work. We had volunteers at these schools helping the families. The people were given mats, blankets and the volunteers made sure that they had enough food.

The people stayed for a few days in the local schools. Then they repaired the houses. Once water receded, they returned to their houses. Some houses which got fully destroyed needed to be rebuilt. The AMS provided support for all those families.

India : September 15h to 20th (entry 73)

Sunday, September 21st, 2008


I am Tulasi.


As the long monsoon season of the Gudalur valley is coming to an end, we thought of writing one more blog about the rains. This week, I am going to write some good things about the monsoon.



The stream near the nurses’ quarters is over-flowing. It actually looks like a small waterfall.


The fields opposite Kotharavayal, which are on the way to our school, are looking green and beautiful.


Another good thing about the rainy season is that we don’t have to walk far and climb steep slopes carrying water during the monsoon. The rain water is pure, so we use it for all purposes.




People use different techniques to collect rain water. In Chembakolli, Badichi’s parents have tied four bamboo posts outside their house. A plastic sheet is tied to the posts. At one side there is a slope. A vessel is kept to fill water as shown in the photograph above.

Almost all our houses have a slanting roof. A bamboo piece is tied to the bottom edge of the roof. A long bamboo pole is slit into two and a piece is fixed to the roof as a pipe.

The rain water from the roof top falls into and flows through this bamboo pipe. People keep buckets and fill water.



A few years back, the government made it compulsory to collect rain water like this. This is outside Amrita’s house. But, we were doing this for many years even before that! Now all the houses in Gudalur have one like this.



In the nurses’ quarters, where Maya and Manikandan live, the houses have a common central courtyard, where they can collect water from the roof like this.



We use the rain water to wash vessels and clothes, and also for bathing. We use it for drinking, but only after boiling it.


This week, we had rain but not all the time. Some days it was heavy in the afternoon. So, children going to schools had to use umbrellas. These Adivasi kids are going from Kotharavayal village to the government school.



The teacher says: “As you can see from the picture above, all the children love rains. Unlike the weather in UK, it is not very cold in Chembakolli and Gudalur. Hence, people like rains. Of course, we need good rains if we have to get drinking water in the summer. And, a good monsoon is very important for growing our food and for our agriculture.”






India : July 7th to 12th (entry 69)

Monday, July 14th, 2008


This week’s blog is also about the monsoon.

In our class discussion, we spoke about the difficulties during this season.

Gudalur gets lots of rainfall. We get an average of 150cm of rain per annum. Devala gets average 200cm rainfall. Most of the time, it just pours.

Gudalur town during rains


Remya said – ”We like to play in the rain, but sometimes our parents scold us. It gets cold when it rains and we can get sick easily. If it rains heavily in the night, then the government will declare a holiday for all schools in the hills. When we see elephants in the forest on our way, then we go back home. We miss few days of school.”

Ambika said – “The rain has started and it will last till September. Since I stay close to the school (in Kottarvayal), I use an umbrella to walk to school in the rain. It gets cold here and we use warm clothes. We catch fish and crabs in the field.”

Firewood stored outside our homes


In this season, it is difficult to get firewood. So we collect before the rains and store them outside our house. We take a little at a time and keep it near the stove to dry.

Firewood kept near the stove to keep it dry


Anju said – “We use umbrellas or rain coats. Our parents have to work in the fields even when it rains. Here people cover themselves in colouful plastic sheets and continue to work during rains.”

Tea pickers work even when it rains, covering themselves with plastic sheets

People working in rains

“We have to watch out for leeches when we walk. There are lots of them here. If we notice a leech in our body, we spray cooking salt on it to get rid of the leech.”

A crab hole


Sudha – “Last week I went to the stream to wash clothes and catch crab. Crabs live in small holes. We use thin twigs or grass to catch crab. We insert these twigs or grass inside the crab hole. The crabs get curious and will try to catch it, then we quickly pull the grass out, so that the crab also comes out of the hole. Crabs are quite tasty to eat.

Sudha trying to catch a crab


“I came back home and put the clothes on the line to dry. I had my lunch and when I came out to wash my hands, I noticed some blood and when I checked I found a leech on my ankle. It had sucked lot of blood. When a leech bites, it is painless, so usually you won’t know. When it drops down, you will see the blood. It was more than an hour after I came back from the stream, that I noticed the leech.

“We wanted to get a picture of a leech but we couldn’t get it. We will try and get a picture of a leech for you sometime later. We have only a crab now!!”

A crab that we caught


Badichi – “Everyone in our class says they like rain and it is fun.”

Hope you enjoyed this blog.

Bye and have fun during your holidays,


India : January 7th to 13th (entry 47)

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Hi, this is Sudha once again.

Did you like to read about the Christmas celebrations at our Vidyodaya school?

This week I would like to introduce my family and my friend to all of you.

I am from the Paniya tribe. I live in Kotharvayal Village. It is very close to Gudalur town. My father’s name is Oduakan. That is why I am called O.Sudha. (Here, children have the first letter of their father’s names as initials. How is it in your country?) My mother is called Kempi. I have three brothers. They are called Subramani, Suresh and Ramesh. All of them studied at the Vidyodaya School. Here is a picture of me with my mother, Suresh (in the red shirt) and Ramesh.


My oldest brother Subramani works in the Adivasi Soap Unit. Suresh is studying 10th Standard at the government high school in Gudalur. Ramesh is in class eight. He will join the high school next year.

We do not have any land. My father works on nearby agricultural land for daily wages. My mother works as a maid in a few houses. In Kotharvayal, all the houses were built by the government, so all houses look the same.


We have a nice view of the paddy field around our padi – we call our villages ‘padi’ in Paniya language. Many people from our village go to work in this field. During rainy season, paddy is grown here. After harvesting paddy, vegetables are gown between February and June.



Now, I would like to introduce my friend to you. This is my friend Nandini. We are best friends. She is also from Kotharavayal.

Her father is Vellen and mother is Kothi. They both work in the fields near our house. Nandini is very fond of her grandmother. Her grandmother is called Patta. She is 55 years old.


Nandini has two sisters called Jyothi and Parameswari. Jyothi studys in our school. Parameswari is two years old.

We have lots of girls of our age in our padi. We have two other close friends. They are Rasathi and Ambika. We go to school together.
We will write in detail about our padi next week.


O. Sudha

India : 26th November to 2nd December (entry 44)

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

This week, I will write about our close relationship with forests.


The forest is very much linked with the lives of Adivasi people. They got their food like fruits, tubers, meat etc. from the forests. We love the wild fruits from the forest, like this jack fruit.

Jack Fruit


People collected honey when it was in season from the forests. Materials required for building their houses like bamboo and grass for the roofs were available in the forest. A traditional building using such materials is shown below. This is a sacred house of the Kattunayaka tribe in a village called Venna.



Our forests were full of medicinal plants. Our people had knowledge about the value and use of these herbal plants. People led a healthy life.


Our people also knew how to take care of the forest. We took only what we needed. So, we could live in harmony with nature. We Adivasis worship the forest and nature. Here is a sacred grove called ‘Kavu’ of the Paniya tribe.


We perform puja every year to such sacred trees and worship them.


Today, even though the forests have reduced, we still have a strong link with the forest. In Mullukurumba tribe, the men take the young boys to the forest to teach them hunting methods.


The Bettakurumba and Kattunayaka men collect honey from the forest even now. People go in groups and stay inside the forests for a few days to collect honey.


We still have lots of medicinal plants in the forest and using herbal medicine is a common practice among the Adivasis.



During the last two months, people in our village have been collecting the root of a plant called ‘Sadaveri’. They can identify the leaves of this plant and then dig deep to get the roots. It is a tuber (like potato, it grows under the ground).



Everybody in our village collect this root during this season. This is sold to people who prepare medicines using it.


Now, we grow vegetables in our gardens. Almost every family has at least a little bit land to grow vegetables. We do not use pesticides on the vegetables grown in our kitchen gardens. So the vegetables are good for our health. Here is a pumpkin plant in our village.



But, over the years, we are not able to use the forests like before. Our lifestyle is also changing. Our grandparents tell us stories about the forest and the wild animals and it is interesting to hear those stories.


Hope you like what we have written,


India : 29th October to 3rd November (entry 40)

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007


This week, my friend Anitha also helped me write the blog. She is studying in Class Four. We are going to tell you about our village.

Our village Manalkolli is small. There are only forty three houses in our village. There is a broad passage between rows of houses.



Each is an individual house. In your place, I think, you have multi-storied houses. But, our houses are constructed in a single story only. Some more houses are being built in the village right now.

The walls used to be built with just mud and bamboo sticks many years ago. Later, our elders started using sun-dried bricks. When the government helps our people to build houses, they use burnt-bricks or cement blocks for walls.


It is good, but very costly. Sun-dried bricks can be made by ourselves, but these burnt-bricks or cement blocks have to be purchased from outside by paying money.


Traditionally, the roof of our houses used to be made of grass, that our parents collected from the forests. But, it has become difficult to get such grass now. Then, people started using other materials like clay tiles, tin sheets, asbestos sheets etc. For our climate, (since it rains a lot), grass and tiles are the most suitable roofing materials.

We have a common house called “Deivapera“. (Literally translated, it means, ‘God’s house’). The elders of the village gather here on all important occasions.


In our villages, we don’t get running water inside the house through pipes, like the cities have. It is always from the a well or from water holes. In our village, we have a huge tank. Water from a nearby well is pumped into this tank.


We take water from the tank and carry it to the houses in pots. It is a special skill carrying two or more pots filled with water in the head. In most of the houses, this difficult work is done by the women.


To come to our village you have to climb a slope. In the monsoon time, it becomes very slippery and we have to be very careful. But, now they are doing up the road laying stones and waterways. Soon, we will have a nice road to our village. Then, jeeps and auto rickshaws will be able to come right up to our houses.


Manalkolli is around 3 kilometres away from the nearest town, Ayyankolli. Here we have all kinds of shops. On Sundays, the town is crowded. Everybody likes to go to the town on Sundays.

We will write more about our village and our school next week.


India : 3rd to 8th September (entry 33)

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Hello !

We are happy to be back again. Hope all of you had a wonderful Holiday. For the next few weeks, Babu and Pavithra will be writing the blogs from India.

Babu and Pavithra


I am Pavithra. I am 11 years old. I study in class Six. I live in Ezhumuram village, which is very close to Gudalur.

In our village itself, there is a Government school. You can see it in the photo below. I studied up to class Five in this school.

Village School

This year, I moved to another Government school in the Gudalur town, since our village school has only up to class Five.

My mother is Kamala and my father is Madhan. We are from the Paniya tribe. My parents go for work in a nearby tea estate.

Pavithra's Family

I have two brothers, Manikandan and Gopan. Manikandan is studying in class Eight and Gopan is in class One. Gopan studies in the village school.

Tiled House

We live in a tiled roof house. We have a cow and a goat. The cow was given to us by the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam (AMS). We have built a small shed for our cow near the house.


My parents bring grass from the estate to feed the cow every day.


My name is Babu. I live in the same village and I am in the same class and school as Pavithra.
Babu's Family

I have two brothers and one sister. My younger brother is studying in class four in the village school. My elder brother Subban and elder sister Vellachi are both married. Subban has 2 children and Vellachi has 3. We all live together in our parents house.

Sheet House

My house has a sheet roof. In our village which we call a Padi there are 50 houses and around 75 families.


Ezhumuram village is surrounded by beautiful hills. Here is a view just in front of our village. When we come out of our houses, this is what we see in front.


Don’t you think it is beautiful ?

We will write more about us in the next weeks.


England: Northstead School, Scarborough (entry 2)

Friday, June 15th, 2007

This is Laura. Thought that you might like to see some pictures of where I live.

Laura's front garden

I live in a semi detached house in Scarborough. I have a front garden and a back garden.

Laura's backgarden

I have two rabbits and one guinea pig. They live in a hutch in my garden. I really like looking after them but not cleaning them out!

Laura with one of her rabbits

Do you keep animals in Chembakolli?

My step dad has two aviaries in the garden. He keeps budgies, canaries, quails and parrots.

Laura's step dad's aviary
I’m going to pass you over to Callum who’s going to tell you a bit more about our past week.
Bye for now,

This is Callum.

I thought that you might like to see a picture of my house. I live in a terraced house in Scarborough.

Callum's house
At Northstead various events and activities have gone on this week.

Forty of our Year 6 children have gone to an outdoor pursuits course in the Lake District which is an area of outstanding natural beauty with lakes and mountains.

They took part in activities such as abseiling, rock climbing, canoeing and walking. They had lots of fun and learned to work as a team.

Unfortunately we have had lots of rain this week in England so they have got very wet, even when they have not been swimming.

Year 5 took part in a swimming gala at the local indoor swimming pool. They swam lots of different races involving different strokes such as front crawl, breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly. They had lots of fun taking part and everyone was awarded a certificate.

Year 5 at the swimming gala

Year 4 had a visit from a rugby coach who taught rugby skills and they enjoyed playing tag rugby.

At the end of the week I had a trumpet lesson at school. Here’s a picture of me with my trumpet…

Callum and his trumpet

That’s all for now,