Understanding THE CHALET
Chennai is facing the worst water crisis. Lakes and rivers all over the country are drying up. Garbage management is at its worst. Today, we are facing the worst consequences of climate change. What is the solution? environmentalists and activists are collectively naming one term – Sustainable living. Adopting a more conscious living is a difficult and long process but is the most promising way to save our nature and ourselves in turn. Tanya Burgula left her 9 to 5 job(or a 10 to 10 job as she says) in order to pursue her passion for sustainable and conscious living. We had a quick chat with her about The Chalet, a place that nourishes and celebrates sustainable living. Here are the excerpts of our conversation-
Hi Tanya! Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us about your background and how did The Chalet happen to you?
I would say it was very accidental since I have no background with respect to sustainable living or anything related to that. My mother works very actively with weavers all across the country. We own handloom factories and produce khadi. Probably that’s where my interest initially started off. Going to the factories and observing women working on the loom intrigued me a lot and I wanted to try and understand more.
About five years ago, I thought about how Hyderabad or India for that matter as a market has so much potential with respect to sustainable living. With the heritage property and the culture that we have, we can do so much with respect to sustainable living. We, at The Chalet, try to put all of that in one space and promote it. It’s extremely important for us to focus on a slightly more conscious way to live. Handloom is an industry that’s extremely vast. There are different kinds of factories across the country that have people working with a very specific skillset. We work with all of them and create a market for them. We try and sell at a cost price and not hike it up to ridiculous prices and make a profit. That’s not we’re trying to do at all.
What prompted you to create The Chalet now?
This was an idea that I’ve been working on since the past five years. I was working at a 9 to 5 job. I didn’t have the time to think about it and follow through this because I was so occupied with my work. Last year I decided to do this for myself. I needed to make a decision for myself. For me to put this together, find the investor, find the bang on location, it’s been exhausting and exonerating but I am very passionate about what I am doing and it just became a lot easier to follow through.
So what is the basic idea behind The Chalet? What does it offer?
I would say that the basic idea behind The Chalet is to create a conscious lifestyle for people, to make it more interactive and get people to understand the urgency of the situation and also make the process fun.
The house is divided into several spaces. We have a retail space that houses different brands across the country which offer products based on sustainable living. 90% of brands that we have on board are run by women entrepreneur and it feels amazing! All of their products only and only focus on sustainability. Some of them upcycle and recycle used products and things. There’s no wastage involved. Everything is organic. We are trying our best to make people understand why is it important to go with slow fashion.
Another side of the house is the café. With the café, we are trying to do something very interesting, the details of which I can’t reveal at the moment. It’ll be an extremely unique and fun concept.
Who are your target crowd or are you catering to with this space?
There’s no specific kind of crowd that we want to cater to. It’s open for all. I am doing everything that is close to me. The kind of clothes I wear, the food I eat, the activities I do, everything in the house is a piece of me. The amount of work I am able to put in is because I know I like all of these things. I think the kind of people we would like to cater to is the creative bunch who understand and value these things. Because there are very few people who understand the kind of fashion that I am talking about or the kind of activities I am talking about.
How are you planning to reach out to more people? I sense that there’s a very strong passion for bringing a change and spreading awareness about conscious living. How are you planning to contribute to it through The Chalet?
The kind of activities and workshops that we are doing around the house would really set a benchmark. We are not doing a regular dance class or kickboxing class, we are not even catering to that market. We are trying to house people who conduct workshops, firstly, related to only and only sustainable living. Secondly, to create an impact on your individual lifestyle.
For example, we are doing a permaculture workshop. It’s an extremely easier way of farming. Not many people have information about it. Even our meditation and yoga sessions have a very different approach. The reason why we are doing different kinds of sessions is that I feel like we work in such a high-stress environment and people need an outlet. I think there are not many places that provide such an outlet for people. That’s the opportunity we are trying to create. We are also trying to focus on getting people to change their own lifestyle.
We have a ‘no plastic’ principle. When you smoke a cigarette, there’s a cotton bud at the end of it. That doesn’t decompose. So, there’s this small practice that we started. We collect the cigarettes in one space and at the end of the day we sit and rip off the cover and we’ve been collecting it. We plan to clean up the cotton and upcycle it, use it in sofas, cushions and floor pillows. These are very small things that we are doing.
The other interesting thing we are trying to put together is that we are planning to do a plastic drive. We have collaborated with some artists who are willing to come on board and are willing to create pieces of art with plastic. Mainly plastic bottles. So anyone who has a lot of plastic objects(obviously cleaner once) can come and hand it over to us. We’ll try and recycle or upcycle them, give them back to you to take home.
Where do you think Hyderabad stands with respect to sustainable living and conscious living?
I don’t think I am equipped enough to talk about Hyderabad as a whole. I can say that 90% of the people I’ve met through The Chalet have told me that this is the only way that they would want to live and have been practicing. I’ve learned so much from them. All the people that came to the events are very passionate about sustainable living, conscious living, and slow fashion. That’s 180 people. Although it’s not a big number, it was a great push for us.
Can you explain to our readers what one can do in order to support sustainable living and where to begin in order to adopt this lifestyle?
I was actually having a conversation with my friend yesterday about turning vegan. She told me that it has to come from within. You have to feel disgusted that you are eating non-vegetarian and that’s when it’ll come to you. And I feel like that’s how you have to look at the situation also. Till you are absolutely disgusted with yourself and the situation we are in today, you are not going to want to make a change. A lot of people say, what can one person do? How will one person make a difference? 8 billion people are probably saying the same thing. And that’s what we need to change.
It’s not just plastic. There are so many different factors that we need to take into consideration. If you want to begin with something small, just be careful with what you buy! Think it through before buying anything. Especially if you are parents, think about your kids. Whether you believe it or not we are not in a situation that is pleasant. It’s a nightmare. A lot of people choose not to talk about it, choose not to watch these videos that talk about environmental damage because it scares them. We are in a situation and we need to act right now.
How are you planning to expand The Chalet?
Well, I haven’t really thought about it. I actually want to take one step at a time. It’s more about creating an impact, make people understand why we are doing what we are doing.
The place looks gorgeous. What went into making The Chalet look the way it does?
We got lucky with this property. It’s absolutely beautiful as is, we only played around with the colors to make it pop.
Finally, what is it that one needs to know about The Chalet as a whole?
Hyderabad is an ancient city and has always been a capricious one- ever so curious, ever so eager. It is squarely within this curiosity that The Chalet situates itself.
The Chalet tries to help rediscover yourself while creating an opportunity for change for the community. The world today is dealing with a climate catastrophe. There has never been a time in the history of the world for a more desperate need for change, at The Chalet, we are trying to create awareness on how we can bring about this change in whatever capacity we can.
The Chalet is an open cultural space wherein one can experience and even learn things; from yoga and sound therapy to art and photography. Our passion for wildlife and its conservation runs deep owing to the fact that we realize the importance of the fine balance that nature has taken many many years to perfect. We work with wildlife conservationists and environmentalists to work on raising awareness about its importance by visiting sanctuaries.
Our passion for sustainability runs deep, and it is a passion we can’t wait to share with you. The food we serve will be wholly organic, as will be most of the products- from footwear, bath products, crockery to stationery, home furnishings, handloom fabrics, and clothing. Overall, The Chalet wishes to shift your focus to a more self-aware way of life- one that is centered on empathy, discovery, and community.
That was lovely! Thank you so much Tanya. All the very best!