Sadabahar in Kerala 2023

by Devasiachan Benny

While trying to sleep inside my newly built concrete home I listen to cars racing, bikes cruising and lorries speeding. I feel confused. Why me? Am I listening to my future as well as my present?

Deva separate green key 18.6.23
Key for opening the door of the author’s childhood home in Kerala made of teak

The iron door key opens my memories of a tiled worktop faded by ash from a wood-fired kitchen. Next I see a dining room door made from four pieces of hardwood teak with unquestionable strength (though not sufficient to prevent its deconstruction).

All structural elements are of wood and wood alone. Other objects in that space come from the ground too. The food cooked by the wood fire on an earthy clay pot tastes heavenly. The water cooled by a clay pot has a unique taste that replenishes me. It is very common to find termites in our teak house, which are loved by the hen. Even the hen’s eggs taste delicious.

I never blamed any, but I do testify to the importance of intangible and tangible heritage. The reality is that the concrete home I moved to when my teak house was taken away is also to be demolished.

A personal loss is growth for the nation.

The proposed Greenfield National Highways are two alignments that precisely cut through my family’s newer version of a home near Pala.


This highway duo will boost responsible tourism initiatives by the Government of Kerala. Travellers will wonder wide-eyed at our lush green nature and biodiversity, while cars and bikes and lorries roll over my dreams once more.

My home was a traditional house made of teak.

Memories quilt my dreams, giving me energy to question the ways of my current world, where humans and creatures and plants need to find “home” together.

Screen Shot 2022-07-29 at 14.00.24

1) Whereas the author’s childhood teak wooden home was naturally temperature controlled, expensive air-conditioning cannot control the temperature of its concrete replacement.

Wooden houses had a low social status. The author’s teak home was taken apart piece by piece and reconstructed, piece by piece, to make the kind of hotel where tourists want to stay. The value of this hardwood is now understood.

Concrete buildings are expected to have a lifespan of forty years or less. Families take out big loans to buy a concrete house, but it is common for the home to be taken over by the bank.

2) Sadabahar is an Urdu word that means evergreen.


(Copyright: Devasiachan Benny, 2023)


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