COLUMN: Our House
Civil Engineer Manaph Sulaiman's house is one which fills him with pride and happiness
By Shevlin Sebastian
Photos: By Ratheesh Sundaram. The house viewed from outside; dining table and chairs placed in the inner courtyard; Manaph Sulaiman and wife Smitha
Just above the door to Manaph Sulaiman's house at Vazhakkala, Kochi, there is a Quran inscription which states, 'This is a gift of God'. In the living room, there are several verses of the Quran, which have been placed in glass frames and put on a wooden mantelpiece.
It is a large and spacious house, with an area of 3300 sq. ft. and set in 56 cents of land. “This is an ancestral property,” says Manaph. “We have been living in this area for about hundred years now. My father and grandfather were businessmen.”
Manaf inherited the tharavad from his father who died 22 years ago. He is a Civil Engineer who works for the Al Habtoor Leighton Group at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “Like most people, I wanted to build a house in my own style,” says Manaph.
On the ground floor, inside the house, there is a courtyard, which is covered by a skylight. “As a result, there is plenty of light in the house,” says Manaph.
But now, a dining table and chairs have been put there. Their three children, Fidha, 10, Mohammed Fadhil, 6, and Imtiaz Alam, 4, study there. “Since the kitchen is nearby it is easy to serve them their meals,” says wife Smitha.
At one side, Manaph has constructed a 6 x 3 ft washroom. This is used exclusively to wash the hands and feet before prayers. On the ground floor, there are two bedrooms with attached bathrooms, as well as a working area near the kitchen.
In the dining room, a door leads to the outside. “I made a separate entrance, so that the women can enter through there, during official functions,” says Manaph. “For the men, there is a door which leads into the living room.”
For Manaph, his favourite room is the living room. “It is spacious, has good ventilation and plenty of light comes in because of the large windows,” he says. “When there is a function, a lot of people can be accommodated.”
For Manaf the best part of the day is when the children return home from school, his wife is back from her software engineer's job, at Info Park, and they sit around with his mother and have snacks and chat with each other. “I feel a sense of togetherness,” says Manaf. “This is rare for me, since I work in the Gulf.”
Meanwhile, regarding the design, Thomas Kuruvilla, Principal Architect of Living Stone Architects and Designers, says, “Manaph gave us a sketch. We did the design based on that. The style is a fusion of Mughal and traditional Kerala architecture (nalukettu). To compensate for the courtyard set inside the house, we have made a split-level sit-out above the porch. The house is a mix of curves and squares. The staircase has been designed in an unusual way, with each step having a specific style.”
Indeed, the curved staircase is made in such a way that each step is at a slightly different angle from the next. And the underside of all the steps has been painted in a deep brown colour, which makes it shine. The wood used for the doors and beams is original teak. “Half of the wood has been obtained from the teak trees in my own property,” says Manaph.
On the first floor, there are two bedrooms, with attached bathrooms, as well as a door which leads to the terrace, where wet clothes can be hung. Right on top is a dome. “I added this to create a sense of elevation,” says Manaph.
It took two years to build the house. During the construction, Manaph had been based in Dubai, so he could come home every 45 days or so to oversee the work. “Thankfully, there were no financial or labour problems,” he says. “Architect Thomas ensured that the construction went ahead smoothly.”
And for Manaph, the most memorable event was the housewarming, on May 25, 2014. More than 800 people had been invited. They included friends, relatives, family members, contractors as well as the architects. “Many people said that they liked the house,” he says.
In fact, later, when Manaph returned to Dubai, and showed the pictures to his colleagues, quite a few them liked the design. One friend, Yasin Mohammed, a mechanical engineer, asked Manaph for the building plans. “He told me he wanted a build a similar house in Hyderabad,” says Manaph. “I felt good to hear that. Today, whenever I look at the house, I feel proud and happy.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)