UP: A house built by one man, with mud and perseverance

  • | Wednesday | 27th September, 2023

LUCKNOW: Mud houses are back in fashion – among fashionably eco-conscious city types. But those are mud houses designed by architects and built in a few months by skilled labour using modern tools, materials, and techniques. This mud house, in an obscure corner of UP, was conceived and built over 13 years by one man, who had a spade for a tool, straw and twigs, alongside mud, for materials and as for techniques, he adapted old methods as he went along.Irfan Ahmed of Hardois Bibwikhera, a tailor by training, was 27, coping with his fathers death and what he says was an unexpected election defeat in panchayat polls, when he started. He finished his mud house late last year. He had turned 40.Ahmed says his lonely labour was a way of coping with grief. The results are remarkable, though, and his mud house is already a local attraction. The two-storey house is underground. Well-placed skylights at the ground level allow natural lighting in the main parts. He bulked up the mud he dug himself with twigs and straw, to fortify walls and ceilings. Fresh water comes from a well. And in UPs unforgiving summer, Ahmeds mud house is a cool getaway from the heat. In my darkest hour, I realised I was meant to do something else. I decided to shape mud into something out of ordinary…on the two-bigha land my father left me, he says.Ahmed, who had returned to his native village from Delhi in 2000 and taken to farming, turned a recluse when he lost his father and the election he was convinced he would win. I had no definite design in mind to begin with. But I had a purpose for living. I built staircases that led me to corners, corners led me to arched doors with cornices, then to rooms, a hall, a balcony and a place for offering prayers, he says, making light of what would have been hard work for years. He isnt planning to lay down his spade either. On his to-do list are a living room, and tables and chairs, made not out of wood but mud.Ahmed grows potatoes on the rest of the family plot, and what he earns selling them is his sole source of income. The structure will outlive me…it may last 200 years or more, he says, with the quiet, unassuming confidence of a man who built a house singlehanded, with nothing but mud and perseverance.

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