Unni, a native of Thripunithura, had a unique dream when he returned from abroad, 12 years ago, to settle down in his home town. He wished for a beautiful house where trees and plants and even animals would have a place. His quest for such a house that stood surrounded by lush greenery ended at Pulikkamala in Mulanthuruthy, which is around 17 kilometres away from Ernakulam town in Kerala. A grand old house that was 136 years old and an adjacent rubber orchard had been waiting for Unni there. Having fallen in love with the charming countryside at the first glance itself, Unni purchased the house and the plot.
Unni cut down the rubber trees in the plot and planted more than 3000 saplings of 300 varieties. Now, Unni owns a private forest that is sprawled across 8 acres. This would be the perfect place for bird watchers as many rare avian species are spotted here. Besides, the forest is home to more than 20 varieties of butterflies and various types of flora and reptiles as well. Unni has a beautiful organic farm too where healthy and pesticide free vegetables are grown.
In 12 years, Unni has changed this place into a haven of natural beauty. He also developed an organic home stay called the 'Hinderland Village' where the guests could enjoy the pristine beauty of nature. Earlier, Unni had run businesses in his hometown and abroad. However, his dream was to make farming and nature an integral part of his life. That is why he gave up his businesses just to take care of his farm and forest.
The forest sprawls in 5 acres and the organic farm is grown in the remaining 3 acres. The forest is home to impeccable varieties of plants, trees and many medicinal herbs as well. There are 22 varieties of bamboo alone.
In the beginning, after cutting down the rubber trees, Unni had planted more than 1200 casuarina trees in the orchard. However, he had a reason for planting the casuarinas here and then cutting them down as well. “The fertility of the soil had been lost as rubber trees were planted here. I planted the casuarinas to regain the fertility of the soil. These trees filled the soil with nitrogen,” explains Unni.
Paddy and organic vegetables are grown in the 3 acres field that is closer to the 'Hinterland Village'. Around 3000 – 3500 kilos of paddy is grown at this farm every year. After taking whatever they needed, the remaining paddy is sold to the people of the locality at half the rates. After reaping paddy, vegetables would be grown in the fields. Unni uses dried leaves of trees as manure. He assures that only organic manure is used for the paddy and the vegetables in the farm. To keep away the insects, he sprinkles an organic pesticide made from the leaves of neem, eucalyptus, camphor and ginger. Cow dung and urine too are used as manure for the plants.
The 'Hinterland Village' resort was opened in 2014. The century old house was modified, without losing its unique charm, to transform it into a heritage resort. Solar panels are installed to produce around 15,000 kilo watts electricity. Besides, there is huge tank to store rain water and 3 ponds too.
Unni said that many had tried to dissuade him from opening the heritage resort in Kochi. However, he was determined to achieve his dream of being one with nature. Unni has the wholehearted support of his wife Sreedevi and children Anagha and Ajay. Both his children are film makers. Ajay, meanwhile, is based in Australia.