Benny Kuriakose remembers when his father built the first house in his village in the southern Indian state of Kerala with a concrete roof. It was 1968, and the family was proud to use the material, he says, which was becoming a “status symbol” among villagers: the new home resembled the modern buildings cropping up in Indian cities, which in turn resembled those in images of Western cities. But inside, the house was sweltering.

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