When the first wave of the Pandemic hit in 2020, Thein landed in Russia for a research project in time for a nationwide lockdown. She found herself stuck in a small room with a small kitchen and only her laptop to help overcome the perpetual silence and the days that seemed to last forever. She neither knew the language nor anyone else in the city, so she decided that she would spend the long hours creating a website and start a conversation
with people on the internet. The bright screen lit up her face as she sat in a corner of her room typing out the word ‘Nonurbanism’.

“All of us in the city have similar origin stories. If you map back two to three generations you can find your grandparents or great-grandparents in a village with an occupation in the primary sector. My story was no different,” says Thein Sowrirajan, architect and founder of the Nonurban Foundation. “My grandfather used to be a farmer. He moved to Chennai in the early 80s and started a business. He hired people from our village (most of who just had basic education up to 8th grade) and upskilled them to work at the business. A lot of my family still lives in a village in Tanjavur so…


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