Close to the heart of Kochi city, at Mulanthuruthy, there’s 7.8 acres of lush green lands with close to 100 varieties of trees, 30 kinds of birds, butterflies- an eco system of sorts that sustains an organic farm and close to 25 poultry in form of emus, turkeys and chickens. This completely green land is Hinterland village, where Unni Thirucovil and his wife Sridevi enrich holidays of tourists- national and international-with a dose of wellness, naturopathy, Ayurveda and detox tools.
“Our wellness and detox packages are aimed at the middle income group tourists and hence it isn’t a fancy, luxurious place,” says Unni. “We introduce them to a lifestyle change of sorts with yoga, Ayurveda, detox foods and more.” Most tourist groups get to Hinterland through word of mouth. Unni hasn’t been marketing this eco-friendly homestay.
Open to public in 2012, Unni bought the land in 2007 and started populating it with more than 100 varieties of trees from 2008 to 2012. “We wanted to ensure bio diversity and attract a variety of birds, butterflies and other insects,” Unni explains. That was the reason to consciously plant a variety of fauna including different types of bamboo. “Kochi is usually a place people only visit and go. We wanted to give them a reason to stay longer,” he adds.
The next phase for this eco-friendly holiday home is what seems really exciting. “In each tourist group there are people with calibre in different areas like photography, digital marketing, painting, etc., we want to try and make it accessible to the local youth here- start an exchange program of sorts. Get the foreign tourists to teach a subject they know well, in exchange for something these youngsters know more about. It can be anything right from music, yoga or even digital painting- anything really. We hope to help the youth here expand their horizons, exposure and improve their confidence- interact with people from different nationalities on a level they may have not seemed possible before,” Unni says.
“There’s an educator called Elizabeth Reiner who travels to poor countries and organizes workshops and training programs in the schools there. When she was here, we asked her to teach some of her methods to the youngsters here in exchange for lessons in yoga, wellness and food counselling.”
Unni wants children and youngsters to participate regardless of their economic background and to make this possible, he plans to register as a non-profit by April. He however doesn’t want to limit intake of kids to those from an underprivileged background as he wants the program to be sustainable too- he hopes that believers in the cause will support it.
“There are kids here who are immensely talented in music, but cannot go, lets say, to a country like South Africa and participate in their talent contests. But with this program, they probably can travel to different countries and showcase their talent. And at the same time, youngsters from Africa or some other country get an opportunity to come to India regardless of their economic background,” Unni says.
Unni, who has been a businessman in Kochi since last 28 years want the youngsters to take advantage of the different connections and associates he has made in different countries over the years and use their talent as a ticket to visit them. “It isn’t about teaching the kids a pre-set syllabus, but honing their natural talents and abilities,” he says. Fond of an eco friendly living, Unni tells us that they recently had an Australian company conduct a workshop on making light weight homes from air compressed concrete. “These simple structures are low cost and hence make practical sense in the event of a natural calamity like a tsunami or a flood where it could be easily destroyed, but the process by which these homes are made, make them eco-friendly, including making it easy to dispose off garbage in them.”
Unni and his wife Sridevi stay at the property to interact with the various tourists and make connections with them. Sridevi supervises aspects like healthy cooking, yoga, meditation and cultural activities like discussing lessons from the Gita and Ramayana. Unni himself has been a practitioner of yoga since 18 years and has a keen interest in wellness and holistic living with help of Ayurveda and natural living.
Unni maintains an organic farm which provides produce for the kitchens that make food for the guests. “While compost for the farm comes from excreta of the birds reared here, the fruit and vegetable waste becomes food for the birds,” he explains. Also, since he has solar grid system- though not everything runs on solar energy- units of energy goes back to KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board). Since the farm and eco home stays is located on a low lying area, Unni is consulting on various ways to conserve water that gets collected below sea level for later use.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t much scope for natural cooling and some of the rooms need to be cooled using air conditioning as some of these rooms were part of an traditional Kerala style house. And I have only made them more comfortable instead of modifying it completely,” he says.
For more information visit Hinterland’s Facebook page.