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TBI Blogs: How an Engineering Dropout Found His True Calling in the Kumaoni Himalayas

Finding one’s purpose in life can be a challenging prospect, especially for a young student. Manvendra Singh Inaniya talks about his experience discovering his purpose while working on sustainability in the Himalayan mountains.

There was a moment in my college when I had 13 backlogs. By the last semester, only three were left. Then I quit. From “So close, should have finished it,” to “You are a coward running away from your responsibilities and hard work,” I heard it all.

Thus began my irrational life, with its own moments of fear and wonder. The moment I realized I could do anything with my life, the world opened up to a million possibilities, and I frantically looked around for answers.

With Satish Kumar at a talk at Bhoomi College.

The lost became found when one entered Bhoomi College for a course on Sustainable Living. The ideas about living in harmony with the Earth, and before that, in harmony with oneself, inspired me. Nobody ever talked about these things before—I wondered why.

I got to learn hands-on with small projects on reforestation in remote locations of Andhra Pradesh, about building houses using earth-bag construction in Tamil Nadu, and the philosophy of organic farming wandering across the length of the country meeting established organic farmers.

Campaigning for sustainable agriculture.

I landed in my ancestral village to practice the farming I had learned. Alas, the restless heart was not ready for the solitude and stillness the farming life brings. I left and went on to work with Greenpeace India on sustainable agriculture campaigns for three years.

The challenges we face as a species are so interconnected that trying to explain them to the people in a way that moves them to action is always a challenge in itself.

But for some time, the mountains had been calling. I moved again. I signed up as a volunteer with Alaap, a spawning organization based in the Kumaoni Himalayas, working to conserve the forests and their connection with the people of the hills.

For some time now, I have been living in a hut jutting out of a hillside, with no electricity or water connection. It has helped me understand that communities are dependent on forests for firewood, water, fodder, and food. With every water source drying up and the forests dwindling, one has to walk much further and forage much longer to meet basic necessities.

With the pines’ monopoly over the hills, animals are forced out of forests on to people’s farms, causing havoc for both the sides.

That’s what I am going to do here. I’m going to help communities better manage their forests so that they can sustain lives better—so that songs shall still be sung as they walk through these forests sustaining birds, animals, and mankind in harmony.

(The author is a vagabond campaigner with extensive experience in farming, sociocracy, and long walks.)

Find out more about the various learning opportunities available at Bhoomi College on the website.

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