In mid-2000, Lovepreet Kumar was yearning for open roads sans traffic jams, rickety cycling trips, unadulterated food, pollution-free air, a meditative experience and a house in the hills. He was a software architect at the time, and constantly thought about escaping a mundane life in the city.
Unlike those of us who limit our wanderlust desires as soon as reality hits, Lovepreet took the plunge in 2012, and moved to Ramgarh, a village in Uttarakhand’s Nainital district. He purchased a 2.5 Naali (1 Naali = 240 square yard), built a house and reserved some area on his plot for farming.
It was a combination of reasons that pushed Lovepreet and his wife, Preeti to leave Gurugram to lead a quaint and peaceful life in the hills. “I wanted to free myself from the clutches of a 9-5 corporate job. My hectic job at an MNC left me with very little time to enjoy and appreciate much else. Besides, I wanted to live in a healthy environment with clean air, food, and water. I was done with the rat race, and wanted something that could resonate with me,” Lovepreet tells The Better India.
As for Preeti, leaving behind a comfortable life was scary, but something she was willing to try. “Who doesn’t love the idea of escaping their hectic routine? But I was apprehensive about adjusting to the climate, slow pace of life, and absence of amenities. Fortunately, because of Lovepreet, I fell in love with nature.”
But the couple was faced with several tough decisions, including choosing a school for their children, giving up on many materialistic aspects of life, and so on. Lovepreet and Preeti have been actively sharing their experiences and learnings from their new home on their YouTube channel, Punjabi Trekker.
Making the move
Lovepreet’s fascination with the hills and mountains began in 2006, when he took a trip to Shimla with Preeti. Awed by the breathtaking vistas, he began taking more trips thereafter. He would judiciously utilise his leaves from work, and drive from Gurugram to Uttarakhand with Preeti. He had found the time to explore lesser-known locations across Uttarakhand, and a partner who was as adventurous as he was. But his discontent was growing.
In 2008, Lovepreet quit his job and took up freelancing opportunities that allowed him flexible working hours and the ability to work from anywhere in India. During one of his trips, he spontaneously rented a house in the region.
“After returning from the trip, Lovepreet told me he had rented a house and was going to shuttle between Delhi and Uttarakhand. By this time, I had gauged his love for the hills, and the house only affirmed it. We would visit the house during our children’s vacation from school. After a few years, I was ready to move there permanently” Preeti says.
In 2012, they purchased a property in Ramgarh, a village with a relatively low population. For the next few years, Lovepreet shuttled between his house in Gurugram and Ramgarh. In 2018, Preeti and the two kids joined him permanently. They enrolled their son and younger daughter in a public school in the area.
The couple has designed the house in a way that resonates with their philosophy of sustainability and minimalism. It has pinewood flooring and roofing, small windows at various intervals, a studio-like kitchen in the living room, and overlooks a beautiful cliff, allowing ample sunlight in.
Lovepreet strongly suggests experimenting with the idea of living in the hills before making life-changing decisions such as purchasing land or quitting a job.
‘Keep yourself busy’
With unpredictable WiFi, cellular network and limited entertainment options, getting bored (or even frustrated) is a common phenomenon, says Lovepreet. Thus, having an activity that keeps you busy is a must. The couple found solace in farming.
Unlike Lovepreet, Preeti, who is originally from Haryana, has agrarian roots. However, she had never tried her hands at farming, “Our main aim was to consume organic and healthy food. So, we collected some seeds and began growing,” says Preeti.
Ramgarh falls under Kumaon, a region that is favourable to fruit trees. The couple started by growing peaches. This was followed by apple, maple, walnuts, pumpkin, malta, apricot, plum, oranges and sweet limes.
“The main produce in fruits are peaches, and we have around 150 peach trees, each producing up to 40 kilos. We also have five plums, four apples, two apricots, one walnut, three deodar and four oak trees,” says Lovepreet. The peach trees are also a revenue-generation source for the couple. Each tree gives around 40 kilos of peach, and they sell per kilo from anywhere between Rs 150 and Rs 400.
The farmland also has vegetables including bottle gourds, tomato, potato, cucumber, okra, french beans, rajma beans, radish, brinjal and other seasonal items for self-consumption.
“For me, farming is like meditation. I forget my worries while working with the soil and plants. It brings me immense satisfaction to know we’re maintaining good health and consuming organic food. We use spring water for farming, which enhances the taste and health benefits of produce,” Preeti says.
Joy in the little things
Lovepreet proudly reveals that the family’s overall expenses have drastically reduced as they have stopped chasing “unnecessary” things.
“We don’t have superstores or shopping malls, where one goes to buy one item but ends up buying multiple things they may not even need. The cost of living is less in a village compared to the city, as groceries are cheaper. We get wheat flour at Rs 28/kilo in the hills, in contrast to Rs 45 in Gurugram. Besides, the quality of produce here is better, as it comes directly from farms. Medical expenses are negligible, as we live close to nature. Likewise, electricity and water bills are very low,” Lovepreet says.
As for the family’s health and well-being, the biggest difference they have noticed since moving to the hills is in their son’s migraine issue. After moving here, he no longer gets headaches. The family’s endurance levels have also improved.“The hills are our gym. Our exercising routine entails working on the farm and running daily in the fresh air. We feel more energetic,” says Preeti.
Lovepreet feels like he is finally out of the rat race.
Summarising the overall experience of living in the hills, Lovepreet and Preeti say it’s the small joys in their daily routines that keep them going. “Whether it is feeding rice to the birds in the morning, taking a stroll near a stream during sunset, learning about the local culture and listening to historic tales, or spending time with our Hachi, our Husky, we have experienced unparalleled joy every day,” says Lovepreet.
As for their children; they will move in with their joint family in Gurugram after they complete Class VIII. However, Lovepreet and Preeti are content knowing that their kids have learned valuable life lessons.
Edited by Divya Sethu