On a rainy April morning, Mintu Roy checks the emerald rows of bitter gourd and cucumber creepers climbing on wire trellises on his two-hectare farm.
The plants are heavily laden with vegetables, much to Roy's delight. He's hoping this season’s yield will be a profitable one, so he can complete the third floor of his ambitious dream house.
The vegetable farmer, who is from a small village in West Bengal, India, has a unique dream to build a house modelled on a famous ship, the Titanic. Inspired by the doomed vessel's grandeur and magnificence, Roy has spent the best part of 10 years determined to turn his dream into a reality, funding the project by selling his seasonal vegetable crops at local farmers' markets.
“It took me so long to complete this house because I am dependent on the rain and favourable weather conditions to get a high yield of vegetables," he says.
However, thanks to a bumper aubergine harvest a few years ago, he was able to start making progress.
"That year’s harvest earned me more than four lakh ($4,894) which gave me the confidence to build the second floor," Roy says. “I need about 10 to 15 lakh more to complete and furnish my ship abode."
In total, Roy estimates he has spent upwards of 15 lakh on the project, with the help of income from his crops and from his second job as an electric rickshaw driver. And thanks to a stint learning masonry, he has been able to carry out much of the project's construction work himself.
“I worked in construction in Nepal for a few months because I wanted to learn the techniques to build a house from scratch,” he says.
“At first, my neighbours thought I was crazy. They couldn't understand why I would want to live in a house shaped like a ship. But as they watched me work tirelessly for months, they began to see my vision slowly coming to life.”
Roy's house in the village of Nijbari, Phasidewa, about 14km from the Indo-Bangladesh border, has become something of a landmark, popularly known as Jahaj bari, or the ship house. The house is often visited by people keen to get a look at what he has built, from journalists to school pupils.
“We have given multiple interviews and have started getting visitors from nearby places,” says Iti, Roy's wife of 21 years. “We like the attention that our house is drawing but sometimes it becomes overwhelming to respond to phone calls and random visitors.”
Iti, with the couple's two children, Babita, 19 and Kiran, 16, have helped support Roy's dream, which was sparked in childhood when he saw decorations built for the Durga Puja festival in the shape of the Titanic. Since then, he has been steadily working on creating his dream home, replicating the famous ship as closely as possible.
"The house will have three levels, with the first level resembling the Titanic's deck, complete with railings, lifeboats, and even a replica of the ship's wheel, with an anchor hanging by its side," Roy says.
Inside, there are three rooms that resemble cabins, as well as a kitchen on the ground floor.
“His attention to detail is exceptional. He wants to recreate the Titanic's grand staircase, which was the centrepiece of the ship's interior," Iti says. "The house's interior will be designed to resemble the Titanic's cabins and lounges.”
Outside, the home's structure has also been designed to closely mimic that of the original, including the bow and stern, using steel and concrete. "It wasn't an easy task," he says. "I had to break and rebuild the bow of the ship a few times because the local masons were not able to get its perfect shape."
Since starting the project in 2013, Roy has made slow but steady progress and is hoping with the funds from this year's crops, he'll be close to completing the ship's third floor. And once the project is finished, he hopes it will offer another stream of income for the family. “I want to run a small tea shop on the deck and host guests,” he says.