October 11th, 2017
In this world of increasing technological advancements and meeting deadlines, most of us turn into Elizabeth Gilberts from ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. Tired and exasperated by the fast-paced world around us, we often try to cajole us into thinking that what we are doing is the only best thing we could do for ourselves. But usually we are trapped into our so-called secured lives hardly realising that there is a lot more that we could do.
The sad part is that in spite of realising the banality of all this we are afraid to make efforts to break through that monotonous life and do something worthwhile. Only a few dare to make the different choices – choices that question the status-quo.
The Logical Indian brings forth the story of Robin Singh of Peepal Farm, a real-life Elizabeth Gilbert who found back his way into happiness after his visit to India. In an exclusive interview, Robin has talked about how his life underwent a complete makeover and what led him to form Peepal Farm along with two other founding members.
A rough past
A jovial and candid person at heart, having a conversation with Robin was a pleasant experience. But life has not always been the same for Robin – he has had his shares of ups and down. A nerd since childhood, Robin, was fast to learn about computers.
“But evidently I did not use that knowledge in a proper way. I was caught for making misuse of the knowledge. This incident did have a lasting impact on my mind,” Robin admitted. “But the man who caught me, gave me a job and taught me a number of things,” he added.
After this incident, he flew to the United States Of America. He run a tech company there and was doing good for himself.
“Or so I thought. But I knew I wasn’t happy; something was not right,” he said. He was 31 when he came to India to fight the angst that was bothering him for a long time.
It was soon after this that he made his trip to India to ‘rediscover’ himself. “And rediscover I did in the peace and sanctity of Auroville.”
It was here that Robin came across Lorraine, an aged woman who was anaemic but was doing her share to help the stray dogs.
“Something struck me, and I realised that this is what I want to do with my life. All my life I have wanted to cater for stray animals, and after seeing Lorraine I instantly decided that this is what I wish to pursue right now,” Robin explained.
He went to the USA in 2013 after his trip but only to wrap up his chapter there.
“This time I was clear in my mind about what I wanted to do – animal welfare it was,” Robin sounded happy and contented about the decision he had taken a few years back.
Robin was joined by his neighbour back in USA, Joellen, this time he came to India.
They started off as an animal welfare group in Auroville where they were working in an animal rehabilitation centre. Then they shifted their base to Delhi where they were working in a sterilisation programme.
“But soon we realised that we are missing out on a lot more unless we increase the scale of our activities,” Robin said.
However, increasing the scale of animal welfare is not easy, he explained, and so what they concentrated on was inspiring and involving more people in this act.
Thus, Peepal Farm came into existence with the help and support of Joellen and Shivani in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.
‘Badmash Peepal’ Making Its Way
Peepal Farm is a two-in-one haven for stray animals, which not just works as a recovery centre but also an organic farm.
“The organic farm is complementary as we now have around 15 cows and we get ample cow dung from them. With that, we perform organic and no-till farming,” he explained.
Robin laughed when asked why the name ‘Peepal Farm’ was chosen. “Initially the name was Badmash Peepal referring to the notorious peepal tree that makes its way through any terrain. So are we – rebellious, questioning the society and making headways in tough situations,” he said.
What all goes on at the farm?
The two major concerns of Peepal Farm are: to find a home for homeless animals, treat those who are abandoned and to keep farm animals off the plates of people.
But Robin and his team have understood that driving these points home is not easy. “People tend to ignore these discussions when told on a serious note,” he said.
Hence the concept of culture jams. Through these jams people are made acquainted with several important issues like that of adopting Indian breeds of dogs, using organic products, apathy towards cows and popularising the idea of veganism.
“When people are shown the cool thing to do, they instantly opt for that. Culture jams are nothing but tugging at the emotional chords of the people,” Robin explained.
Cultural perception manipulation is done through these culture jams – when cows are draped with cloth saying ‘This cow is mine’ with a picture of Lord Krishna, or when peanut butter is popularised with adopting a cute, Indian breed puppy, that is what is taking place.
Peepal Farm runs mostly on the donations from friends and family; recently the sale of organic products from the farms have added to the revenue of the farm. They also have the facility of farm-stay that adds onto it.
In spite of some initial problems from the neighbourhood, Robin claimed that they had gelled well with the local people who now help them with rescue programmes. Peepal Farm also encourages people to grow turmeric to help save their crops from the attack of the monkeys – it promises to sell those turmeric produced by the locals.
The Logical Indian appreciates the efforts that Robin and his team have been making in bringing about a positive change in the society. In Robin’s own words, they are not rebels without a cause, but they are always upfront to question any wrong that this is happening in any quarter of the society. Their maxim for life is: “Do good and live life by an example.”
We wish Robin and Peepal Farm all the best in their future endeavours and hope that they successfully thwart many more stringent norms that are pushing the society backwards.