A few months ago, Nikita and Karthik left Bengaluru to embrace solitary life at a 50-acre mango farm called Velanga Orchard, which is named after a 200-year-old wood apple tree (Velanga in Tamil) that adorns the farm’s entrance. Apart from being home to the couple, this farm in Andhra Pradesh—half of which borders a forest—also houses a residential pottery studio where students can learn pottery while enjoying the slow, farm life. Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Nikita. By Kasturi Das
1. What motivated you to move from Bengaluru to a remote part of Andhra Pradesh?
In 2009, Karthik bought a farm in Andhra Pradesh, close to his grandparents’ house. He always wanted to do farming. His love for mangoes compelled him to buy this farm as the area is known for its mango orchards. Although he grew up in Bengaluru, he—who comes from a construction background—wanted to maintain the farm while working in the city. On the other hand, I grew up in New Delhi, studied Accessory Design in Bengaluru, and got interested in pottery five years ago. We always envisioned ourselves living outside the city and leading an alternate lifestyle. A few years ago, we decided to make the move and shift our pottery studio from the city to the farm.
2. Tell us about Velanga Orchard.
Our mango farm is located in Bangarupalem’s Jambuneradipalli in the Chittoor district. As of now, we grow mangoes, coconuts, and rice here. A vegetable patch and more fruit trees are also on the list. We’ve also moved our Slow Pottery studio, with a bunch of cottages for our guests and students, from Bengaluru to the farm.
The idea came very naturally. Being a potter, wanting to practice my craft close to nature was my priority, and Karthik was in sync with this idea. As we are isolated from the city and have no home-stays near us, we decided to build cottages for our guests. Karthik’s love for antiques and vernacular design and my love for old-world charms and minimalism led to this concept. We wanted to build something basic styled in local architecture; a no-frills approach. We sketched our designs in notepads and executed them one wall at a time. We have also collected and repurposed a lot of vintage materials, most of which are locally sourced.
3. How does an ideal day on the farm look like?
We get up early, meditate, and do some yoga. Even better, we go for a hike or walk to the lake nearby. We cook our own food and like to eat together with a nice cup of black coffee. Sometimes, our farmers get us fresh coconut water from the trees. After this, I go to the pottery studio to work on my collections or orders. Karthik and the farmers either work on the farm or build structures. The farmers work every day from 8:30 am till 5:30 pm.
By 1:00 pm, everyone breaks for lunch, naps a little or just rests for two hours. This place makes you want to laze around guilt-free. We continue working in the studio till late in the evening, or get off work at sunset, take a walk to the lake or the paddy fields, have a cup of coffee, cook dinner, drink in our courtyard under the stars, and wind down.
4. Tell us about your residential pottery classes.
I’ve been conducting pottery courses for the past three years, except now I get to host my students as well! My courses start at various levels: beginners, intermediate, or advanced. In the last week of the course, students create their collections—which we glaze and fire together—to take home with them.
Besides pottery, we plan hikes, long walks, and bird-watching; organise barbecues and spend Saturday evenings drinking wine. It’s all about savouring the slow life experience.
5. Will the farm be open for guests, other than students, in the near future?
Besides pottery courses, we plan to curate events next year. This will involve yoga, slow food, movements arts, and artist residencies. We won’t be taking in visitors just to stay; it’ll always be through events and curated experiences.