Bucking the trend of rural youth fleeing to cities in search of greener pastures is this unsung hero, Sunder Singh Bora, belonging to a tiny Himalayan hamlet Gaunap, in the heart of Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary near Almora in Uttarakhand. This young man is not completely unknown to the outside world. His fame as a bird watching guide and naturalist has spread to all corners of the country and even abroad. He has immense knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region and knows the forest like the back of his hand. People who have heard about his skills call him from far-off places and engage his services as a nature guide.
Gaunap is but a tiny hamlet and all of 10 families live in it. Completely devoid of modern trappings (Gaunap is not even connected by road or the electricity grid and you would have to walk 3km downhill on a trekking trail from Binsar), this hidden gem sitting far away from the madding crowds has an abundance of natural beauty. Sunder grew up in this village, soaking in the sights and imbibing an understanding of nature in a way that city folks cannot fathom. He had never been to the plains and seen a black-topped road until he was 16! Like most rural youth he too went to the nearest big town for a college education and thereafter in search of a job to various big cities of India. It didn’t take him long to figure out that his heart belonged to his village. “I like to wake up to the chirping of birds and not to the blaring horns of vehicles” he says. He adds, “After visiting Delhi and other cities I have realized the true value of unpolluted air, the panoramic view of the mountains and the crystal clear water from our village spring that we had always taken for granted”.
To eke out a living, Sunder has set up a home-stay in his village. Aptly named Idyllic Haven, the home-stay is meant for city folks to experience a slice of the peaceful, uncomplicated life in a small village in the Himalayas. Visitors from India and abroad have commented that the visit to the village and the home-stay was an experience of a life-time. Sunder has also established an adventure outfit called Outdoers that organizes wholesome, meaningful and experiential camping trips and family treks in offbeat locations in the Himalayas (www.outdoers.in)
Talking to Sunder, one realizes that he is not devoid of ambition; only his ambitions are not the run of the mill ones. He wants to channel a part of the profits earned through his ventures to establish an NGO that sets up bio-gas systems and smokeless chulhas at subsidized rates. “Most women in our region suffer from poor eyesight by the time they enter their forties and this is due to the heavy smoke that emanates from traditional firewood stoves. They toil every day to gather firewood. This also degrades the forest.” he says. He is convinced that bio-gas and fuel-efficient chulhas are solutions to these problems. Sunder is also working on setting up an organic farming collective that will grow medicinal and aromatic plants and market them.
All of 27 years, Sunder is already a role-model to the youth in the region. They seek his advice on rural tourism projects and career options in rural areas. His brother who has been working in the software industry for a few years is returning to the village to join him in his venture.
Sunder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org