Innovator: Navin Pangti
Vocation: Designer, writer & farmstay owner
Location: Almora, Uttarakhand

Our latest parindey are members of a family that has decided to stay away from the fast-moving city life and settle down in a village. In this village, they are not only reconnecting with their roots but they are also working with the local artisans to help create an identity for their art and improve their livelihood.

Navin Pangti hails from Munsiyari region of Uttarakhand. It wasn’t long after Navin entered an engineering school that he realised something was amiss. But he wasn’t sure; and he couldn’t see a clear road ahead of him either. So he graduated as an engineer and then went ahead to study visual communications. He even worked in the areas of graphic designing and video production. Through this route, he was trying to give a new direction to his life.

It was during this phase that Navin started his own company. Though the company was doing well, he wasn’t enjoying what he was doing. So he exited from his company after a while and decided to take up freelance projects. Around the same time, his wife Deepti quit her job with the armed forces and decided to dedicate her time to her children.

For Navin and Deepti, it was pre-decided that they would not send their children to school. Instead, they wanted to homeschool their children and liberate them from the shackles of mental slavery that the modern education system pushes kids into.

The couple was very sure that it wanted their children to stay as far as possible from the pressure and follow-the-crowd attitude of modern education system.Interestingly, when Navin was working on his freelance projects, he felt the same sort of freedom and liberation that he wanted to give his children. Taking advantage of his free time, he decided to set out on a journey of self-discovery. And soon, he realised that his destination was a village. He wanted to settle down in a village, work in an agricultural field and get in touch with his roots. This vision of his was shared by Deepti but she did not want to force the decision upon her children.

They discussed the matter with their children; and decided to first move from Gurgaon (Haryana) to Haldwani (Uttarakhand). The next step was moving from Haldwani to Almora (Uttarakhand). The idea of this phased-shift was to slowly and gradually accustom their children to lives away from the hustle and bustle of a busy urban life. It was only when the children felt comfortable in Almora that Navin sold his property in Gurgaon and moved to Haldwani so that there was no looking back. Today, they’ve made a home on that land, where they also manage a small farm.

Navin now wants to start a farm-stay in this region to enable people to really understand the importance and joy of living a life; and to allow them to reconnect with their roots. Navin’s efforts also include initiatives through which, at a cooperative level, he can start small enterprises with the village community.

“We first want to build a relationship with the villagers. We don’t want the local community to think of us as the ‘outsiders’. Until we build an honest relationship with them, they will not trust us. They will think of us as outsiders with money who can do whatever they want and say whatever they want. To some extent, this is true, too. When a person travels from a city to a village, he/she has these fancy and big things to talk about and flaunt his/her bookish knowledge. However, these are the things that distant a city dweller from a village dweller. Therefore, it is extremely important to mould ourselves into their lives and to become a part of their happiness and sorrow. It is only then that the villagers will be able to build a relation with us and begin to trust us. If we don’t do this, we create a hierarchy of sorts that stays with us from the start till the end; and no matter how much we try, this gap will not reduce and a bond of trust will never develop,” says Navin.

He adds that in the time to come, the family hopes to earn the villagers’ trust. It is only after that that they will start talking to them about the importance of the village, the need to preserve the environment; and opportunity to give an identity to their knowledge. Till then, Navin and his family will continue to work on the community’s primary problems such as income, employment and health, among others.

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