When Bandra-based Anabelle Ferro and Clement DeSylva married in 1991, the couple nurtured a dream to build a home in Goa away from the chaos of city life and in tune with nature.
Unlike today, it was more cumbersome to hunt and buy real estate in the 90s. There were no websites or transactions online. Information was scarce, and one had to rely on supplements, newspapers, and bulletins for it.
And so, eight years passed and their dream was far from being a reality. Until Clement, an architect by profession received a commission to build a home in Pawna.
The serenity and beauty of the place enthralled him. A dip in the lake at the end of a work day would take all the exhaustion away. When he took Annabelle on a trip to Pawna, the couple realised they had finally found the perfect location for their dream home.
Located about 125 km from Mumbai, nestled in the lap of nature, with a spectacular view of the Pawna lake and Tungi hills, lies Deogadh, the Homestay.
Fondly known among the villagers as DeSylvancha Bangla (the bungalow of the DeSylva’s), the home, spread over a vast area of 3,500 sq ft, is built with natural, locally-sourced material.
Clement’s inspiration to build the sustainable home came from what Mahatma Gandhi once told renowned architect Laurie Baker.
“When you build a home, construct it with material found within one km radius of your site.”
And so, skipping the use of reinforced cement concrete (RCC), Clement began building the home with stone. Perhaps it was a stroke of luck that quarrying for the construction of Mumbai-Pune expressway started around the same time. Thus, with the help of several villagers, Clement was able to source stone in large quantities.
The home is a blend of modern and traditional architecture. From a picturesque porch to rugged stone arches, walls covered with trellises, large wooden doors and windows reused from an old bungalow in Alibaug, the entire house seems to have sprung up from the earth!
For its water needs, the house depends on rooftop rainwater harvesting. Apart from an orchard with over 50 mango trees, it also boasts of an organic farm where most of the veggies, as well as grains, are grown.
When they first started living in the home, Anabelle and Clement managed without electricity. The insulated walls, the low windows, and the passive air cooling helped considerably.
“The area suffered power cuts for long hauls. Sometimes there would be no electricity for two-three weeks. So, we decide to build the home in a way where it wouldn’t require lights or fans. But once our twin daughters were born, Annabelle would often joke about having to change diapers in the night in the candlelight saying, ‘I am afraid I’ll put the diapers on the babies’ head instead of their bottoms!’ And so, we had to take electricity connection,” recalls Clement.
Till date, they have not needed to install an air conditioner.
Deogadh continues to be a second home for the couple. It was only four years ago that they decided to convert it into a homestay.
“I design homes for a living. And I firmly believe that homes fall apart if they are not lived-in. So, when the girls went to college, we decided to run it as a homestay. A farmer from the village approached us who was being cheated by land sharks. He told us, he wanted only us to buy his land. And he came from a difficult background. Of course, we couldn’t build another home on the land since we already had one. But later we purchased that piece of land and set up a campsite which now runs under our venture Camp Deogadh.”
When the duo started building a home, they focused on creating a sensible house and not a green home per se.
During its construction, the couple laboured together with the villagers and often slept under the stars.
What first began as a single room, now has a spacious living room, two bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, a storage room and most importantly, a front porch with a hammock with the Pawna Lake and Tungi hill in-view.
From birthday parties to weekend getaways and barbecues, the homestay is a place to create happy memories, says the feedback from the customers.
Orchard & Farm
Apart from mangoes that Annabelle loves to pluck for the guests, their orchard has a range of fruit trees like lychee, sapota, custard apple, cashew, lemon, papaya, and love apple among others. The grove is lush with Gulmohar trees, bamboo, various herbs, and an age-old banyan tree.
Much of the food cooked for the guests including rice and a few vegetables, come from their organic farm.
“Whenever we think we are running out of food, the organic farm comes in handy. You can step out, pluck a few veggies, wash them and whip up a dish,” says Clement.
The campsite is spread over 1.5 acres and has state-of-the-art Coleman tents.
While many campsites are infamous for their lack of sanitation, the DeSylva’s have gone the extra mile to ensure hygiene.
They have western toilets with bidet sprays. Besides, the tents also have plug points for campers.
While trekkers climb the hills and take a dip at the nearest waterfall, birdwatchers can be found peering through their binoculars at egrets in flight. Forts like Tunghe, Vishapur, Lohegad, Tikona & Bedse caves are also close-by.
Campers go swimming, windsurfing or kayaking in the lake just down the road.
Like the porch is to the homestay, the Agni is to the campsite.
From photography, star gazing, discussions, sharing of anecdotes, and memories, the campfire is fondly named Agni. It has three rows of seating like a mini amphitheatre and is a space for many activities like theatre workshops, stand-up comedy acts, poetry slams, independent film screenings, reiki, yoga and farm-to-table cooking sessions in the space.
Whenever in Pawna, the couple stays in their private quarters on the first floor of the homestay giving their guests privacy. The warm and friendly couple love to make their guests at home and in their absence, the caretakers ensure that the guests have a comfortable and memorable stay. Annabelle and Clement continue to share a great rapport with the villagers as well, often being invited to share meals.
The next time you are in Pawna do not forget to check out this eco-friendly place.
Write to Clement DeSylva at email@example.com
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)
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