June 12, 2013
'Ere's the scuttlebutt then; we've been proceeding at least partly by a comedy of errors
But of course, that is entirely normal for an experimental creative undertaking such as this;
which simply means, we've tried to adapt as necessary and as we are able, and, we have also
chosen to just giggle our way past every shot we might fire into our own feet along the way.
After all, we have nothing really to fear on this, other than that the sky might fall in
upon our heads.
Nonetheless, it did come as not a little bit of a surprise that the main issue we bumped up
against was simply about sourcing the 'right' bamboo,.. which was compounded quite handsomely
by my own personal inexperience with both bamboo and also the general bamboo marketplace in Assam.
After all, verily has it been said that, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
To begin with, we had actually been proceeding very, very correctly, having arranged for a
knowledgeable person to individually identify, harvest, treat and deliver the bamboo from Morigaon,
which is about 70km out of Guwahati. That was to be good examples of the variety of generic Assamese
bamboo that is locally known as 'Jati Baah' (Baah meaning bamboo in Assamese)
But then, I met a reasonably eminent bamboo architect in Guwahati, who roundly pooh-poohed Jati
Baah, and recommended that we instead go with what is called 'Bholuka Baah',... which
he'd been sourcing for his own various works from someplace apparently too far away from Guwahati
for us to take recourse to for our own small project. Which naturally brought up a nasty little
kink in our progress.
So, I put the Morigaon bamboo on hold, and instead visited the primary bamboo bazaar of Guwahati,
at Bhorolumukh, to pick up a batch of both Jati Baah and also Bholuka Baah. And, since
it was all pretty recently harvested, I also slowed down on actually beginning the bamboo work, so
as to allow the stock to dry out a bit. And, as it happened, along with some of the masonry work we
had to get past anyway, there were other affairs that also 'conveniently' diverted me a bit at the
When we finally started cutting the bamboo though, it was almost immediately obvious that the whole
damned starter-stock that we'd bought was immature, being still sort of papery, rather than woody. And,
I was also quite disillusioned by 'Bholuka Baah' itself, because it is almost impossible to get
straight pieces of any great length, and also because, whereas the walls of the bamboo at the base of
each stem can be quite handsomely thick, they are generally quite thin from just a few feet up the
My first reaction to all of this was to immediately start riding out to villages around Guwahati, so
as to source a supply from actual stands of bamboo. And, what I quickly discovered was that, almost
everybody selling bamboo is selling it immature (i.e. just one year old), so as to maximize turnover.
And, since almost all of it is used for pretty short-term stuff, the Guwahati market is almost entirely
unconcerned about that in lifting everything on offer.
Meanwhile, I was also kindly given a hearty hard-sell, by a local friend, on the merits of bamboo crafts
and craftsmen of the Garo Hills, which set me off on a long and rainy 2-day ride, down along the south
bank of the Brahmpatura, and then, back up along the north bank,.. which altogether taught me that, whereas
basic bamboo usage was pretty much the same everywhere I went, what did change quite a bit from place to
place, was the local sorts of bamboo that people got to work with, and also the local sorts of applications
and designs that people put their bamboo to.
For example, bamboo huts and the like in the Garo Hills often look to be far better made than bamboo huts
in the neighbouring plains of Assam, partly because there's lots more of it, and also, largely because
they get to work with a lovely, slim, and straight bamboo, that grows quite tall, almost without any branches
What that all then came down to for our own project was that I referred back to our connection in Morigaon,
and ordered 150 full lengths of Jati Baah, to be delivered to our site in Guwahati, as soon as possible.
And, for reasons that are still not entirely clear to anyone of us, our connection in Morigaon had the bamboo
harvested for us by somebody other than the person I had originally met there for this.
What eventually came to us, as a result of this, were bamboos far smaller than what we had been hoping to work
Meanwhile, the pre-monsoon rains had arrived,.. crowned with the fact that I had only then realized that the
actual monsoon arrives in North East India almost a month earlier than I have become used to, in North India.
The net result of it all was that I sort of fatalistically decided to just go ahead with whatever we had in
hand, and immediately began construction, just doubling up the main structural members to compensate for the
shortcomings of our bamboo.
The two core pyramids of our original design were up within a couple of days, after which we quite quickly also
got up the outward-inclined uprights, so as to have all of the vertical structural elements in place, along
with scaffolding to hold everything together and also allow the workers to be able to get up and down
And then, we slowed down.
That's because, even with the bamboos doubled up, the framework just did not inspire the confidence we needed
to proceed with the originally intended height of the structure, unless we did so just for appearances, which
would obviously have been idiotic.
At the same time, any possible change of approach and design would have to deal with the given that our masonry
base pillars were already done, and would take quite awhile to replace.
And so, we just clipped off about 7 feet off the tops of each of the uprights, gave the new profile a few days
to sink into our design thinking, and then, came up with the clean new roofline that you see in the image at
the top of this page.
As things stand today then, I am presently in Delhi, due to be back in Guwahati next Sunday (June 16), after
which we hope to very quickly finish the roof-frame, lay bamboo matting over it, and then stretch PVC-coated
fabric over that to complete the roof.
A simple roof altogether, but, hopefully a good one.
With that, whereas we had originally thought to build from the bottom up, we are now looking to build top
down, mainly on account of the monsoon.
On the side meanwhile, the rcc framework of the water tower/toilet block is now fully up and fully set,
which means we can start building up the walls,… although that is slightly complicated by the fact that
our chief mason is now our chief bamboo person. LoL
With all of that said and done though, we like to think we are still well on-stream to come in with a
substantially finished facility come August, as scheduled.
Um.. fingers crossed.
June 12, 2013