Greetings Tarun! Tell us about your background.
I was born and brought up in the countryside of Kumaon hills. My father is a horticulturist who worked in a government department. Due to frequent transfers, we lived in many parts of Kumaon and experienced it’s rich variety of ecosystems. So from childhood on I am interested in our local ecology and environmental matters.
After my graduation in natural sciences, I had to decide whether to pursue a career in the plains away from my native place or to make a living in the hills I am so much attached to.
It’s an obvious choice for me. I could not dream of leaving my beloved place for anything. Then the next question is what would I do here? How would I make a living here? What are the opportunities locally? What can I create?
Yes, let’s know what you did then.
Our place is in Chaukori, famous for its tea gardens and spectacular views of the Himalayan snow peaks drawing tourists and trekkers from India and abroad. Over the years many hotels were built that cater to these visitors causing damage to the environment.
So I had an idea that I could do something about it. Why not offer the visitors a place to stay and experience the local way of life amidst the natural environment away from the crowded hotel street? Offer them organic home cooked food and guided treks while teaching them to appreciate our way of life and landscape? Give them a place to relax and meditate and minimize the harmful impact on the ecosystem at the same time?
So on our farm we started a home stay that cared for the well being of our visitors and also the local environment.
Interesting, how did it take off?
At that time I worked at the Himalayan Inter College (HIC) in Chaukori helping the students develop their fitness and health. Himalayan Education Foundation (HEF) has been supporting HIC since 2008. Sometime in 2013, I came into contact with Jayant Hardikar, the president of HEF. Their work has included supporting locals in developing sustainable livelihoods and employment opportunities.
So we worked together in developing this social enterprise called it “Kaaphal Hill.”
How specifically has HEF helped you realize your aspirations and dreams?
More than financial help, HEF brought me into contact with a larger network of people with interesting ideas and connected me to the bigger world. Many of those contributed to the success of our Kaaphal Hill.
Over the years HEF helped to develop our website (kaaphalhill.in), enabling us to reach out to the wider world. It also funded a small library of books on the Himalaya at Kaaphal Hill. I am lucky that through their mentorship, we came to develop a philosophy of hospitality that reflected ecological sensitivity and at the same time enriching the experience of our visitors.