Have you ever had a dream and dared to make it happen in every way possible? Then this tale of a ‘magical world’ in God’s Own Country is bound to life your spirits.
‘The Shelter’ at Kottayam
If you have grown-up reading the tales of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood or even Beauty and the Beast, then this house will bring your imagination to life.
Situated in Mooledam, Kottayam district, is a house so unique in terms of its construction, layout and vibes. The calligraphic work on tiny wooden sign boards, placed in various parts of the plot, add to the charm of the place.
“The Shelter” stands out for being an eco-friendly home in all respects. From the stone-walled entrance to the backyard, the space is indeed an example of living in harmony with nature. The area also houses a little store that is currently being used to sell some of the products produced here.
The Little Girl’s Dream
Wondering who could be the creative-mind behind construction of the house? Meet Alice Leen, a mother of three as well as a multi-talented nature lover.
Raised in Mumbai, Alice and her family had travelled to many places before moving to Kottayam. “I saw this plot one fine day and had begged the owners to let me buy it off them. While they refused to do initially, I told them that the image of this space was etched in my mind and kept me awake all night. Thankfully, everything had worked out as I had longed for,” said Alice.
As you enter the premises of Alice’s home, you are welcomed by a charming stone-walled home with its entrance leading to a balcony with a magnificent view of the sunset. Each object in the house has been placed in a most thoughtful manner – including the various souvenirs. An ardent fan of the term ‘environment-friendly,’ Alice and her family use ceramic vessels as well as mud-pots to cook and store food. The Shelter is also an example of how one could reduce, reuse and recycle materials. It is no surprise that one might find carpets and even cushion cover made of old and tattered pairs of jeans.
The Honey Business
Alice and her husband Jacob grow a variety of fruits and vegetables in their organic farm. “We wanted to grow different types of fruits and vegetables in the most natural manner. Everybody is scared to buy eatables in the markets, fearing that they may be infected with pesticides. So we decided to do things differently,” she said.
It was sheer coincidence that led to collecting honey in its most natural form. “My husband once spotted a swarm of bees around a tree in our garden. To our surprise, those were honeybees. It was then that we wondered if we could truly make honey at home as well. We were amazed to see how much we had collected from the honeycomb. Interestingly, the honey even had tinge of rose apple extracts in it; giving it a unique flavour,” explained Alice. It could be noted that the rose apples are also grown in Alice’s organic farm.
The couple decided to distribute this product to all those who wish to consume honey in its purest form. “We felt that it would be nice to share some of the excess produce to those who have always been sceptical of consuming such items, that are readily available in supermarkets,” she added. To their surprise, the demand for their product has been quite high. Alice also stated that such practices were quite common in countries like New Zealand. “We have seen many people selling the goods they produce at their own homes to the public in Kottayam. Hence, we thought we could try our luck,” said Alice.
Word of Mouth
Alice and her husband decided to spread the message regarding their natural products among their friends and family. Social media, especially Facebook, also helped to build a large customer base. Then again, the stock cannot be replenished easily. “Some of our customers have been requested to wait until we extract the next ‘lot’ of honey. Fortunately, many of them are willing to do so,” commented Alice. Her customers not only hail from different parts of the country, but also from across the globe. It is for this reason that the husband and wife duo often think of alternative ways to transport the products safely. “We hope to be able to distribute these products in containers that are eco-friendly and are not breakable. But that would take a while,” she said.
Alice hopes to open a store for organic honey as well as coconut oil. The USP of the venture does appear to be – natural all the way. However, they do intend to take small steps towards establishing a full-fledged venture.
For now, Alice hopes to share the fruits of joy provided at ‘The Shelter’ to all those who yearn for it.
Alice lives in Mooledam, Kottayam district. It is situated approximately six kilometres from the town of Kottayam. You could contact her on +91-8281861129 or via Facebook here.