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When I was three years old, I used to wander into the rivers and forests near our family home to look for creatures and critter to play with. Whenever I would bring a turtle home, my parents would encourage me to bring it back to the forest. The turtle had family, friends and needs just like we did, and it was unfair to simply take it and claim it.
This early childhood education about our relationship with nature lead me to develop a huge passion for nature. Through pressure from my father, I studied Electronics but later swapped to Architectural Engineering in protest. Neither ever really peaked my interest. You could say that my interest in Zoology and Biology stemmed from my grandfather. He was a hugely successful Botanist that was highly regarded for his slides, collections and works being completed even with the crudest of tools at his disposal at the time. This stories, tales and wealth of information fascinated me. Here at Shola Shack, we have created something truly unique. Everything has minimal impact on its surroundings. We don't cut anything down to clear way but let nature take its own course. Many years back, a friend told me about this place by phone. Without even seeing the place, I told him to put my name down and we bought it. Maybe the trees were calling me, I don't know but sat here, a servant to the forest and nature is where I belong. We host people here from all over the world as a haven from the fast paces of modern society and a truly immersive experience in nature.
I've lived here pretty much all my life. It's a place that has a real history to it. This is my family home and it's over 350 years old. I live here with my mother and my 2 years old daughter. It's a real shame you're not here in two weeks time. We have a truly unique festival here for our summer camp.
A lot of us dress up and paint ourselves as tigers while the rest play volleyball or wrestle in the mud. I think what makes this place so unique for people is how authentic the experience is. We are fully in the middle of nature and people travel from all round to come check out the snakes, birds, plants and wildlife here. I've always tried to show people the local values of where we are. Whether that be cooking a meal on a fire by the backwaters, swimming the the rivers, seeing the traditional local dances, talking to kids in the school or getting to eat some home cooked traditional food. Its about introducing people to the characters of the area and showing them how life is here. The people here are friendly and work hard to create a sense of community. That's the sense of the India as I grew up knowing it. Something I think is worth preserving and it's our duty to do it.
We do things a little differently here. A lot of places around India use conservation for business. They use the term eco-friendly or conservation area as a marketing tool to drive business. We do the opposite. Me and my wife Chandini, are conservationists at the core. We do a little business by inviting people into our home and hosting them to generate revenue to support our conservationist efforts.
My work with wildlife has brought down many roads in life. It's been somewhat of an obsession since a very young age and brought me and Chandini together when I got a mail from a teacher in Delhi to join my trails. Wary of a Delhi-ite now being up for the adventure, I pressed a few gruelling questions. A few years later, we are happily married. Not only has it brought me love in my life but wildlife has brought me to work with some amazing and not so amazing people. I worked for National Geographic form 1993 to 2004 curating scenes for wildlife documentaries and often featuring phoney dramatic hosts who wont be named. Let's just say it rhymes with Cleave Caustin. Feeling that this wasn't making any real efforts to make any global change or at home in India, we bought this site. We are working towards creating a new source of anti-venom for poisonous snakes and creating an ecosystem to encourage more species to take sanctuary here as we intend to extend our borders in the future. If we don't take care of mother nature, how can we expect mother nature to take care of us.
Never get married when you are old! That's all I can say. I got married at the age of 40. There was nothing here in this area when I was growing up in 1968 so I left to travel India and spent some time studying Commerce in Pune. I lived my life before settling down and maybe that was the making or breaking of me.
A muslim friend of mine, insisting I should get married, hooked me up with my wife. We live here in our house that was built in 1825 and is a sacred site in this area. People come from all around to pray here in the sacred chambers within the back of the house. My wife and I will often sit here in complete darkness on our front porch talking and bathing in the starlight. We never fight. Not to praise my wife or anything but her cooking is very good! We have a festival every year where men in large bamboo head pieces will trail around the area before arriving at this house for the ceremony. This house is a home but a very sacred place for us and the people around us.