"I just knew I didnt want to work in chemistry, but wanted to do something different" says Inir, a strikingly tall science graduate armed with an MBA. "And in the corporate world, there is little concern for anything but the self anf profitability. I didn't want to sell my soul to this, but instead wanted to figure out if there was more to life than profit." So how did he go about that?
For the past three years, having set up and run Grassroutes, a sustainable rural tourism project, Inir has managed to turn around the fortunes of villagers in Maharastra, whilst at the same time give urban dwellers the chance to experience the simple joys of Indian country life.
"Although I haven't travelled as much as I would have liked around India, I had seen enough of the country to realise that we needed changemakers." And change is what Inir has brought to two villages just over 200km outside of Mumbai. Since 2006, he has focused his enrgies on training villagers to be guides, hosts and cooks to tourists from nearby Mumbai and Pune, so that they can enjoy India's abundant natural environment, and of course savour the delights of seasonal produce cooked by local women. "We've targeted people form cities who have somehow lost the ability to watch a bird, use their own hands to grow plants or simply sit idle and watch an amazing sunset."
His efforts are helping to transform the lives of the villagers by providing an alternative means of income, which has alsohelped to stem the seemingly inevitable migration of villagers to cities. "Because there isn't any employment in the village" explained one of the female hosts, "usually one parent would have to move away to look for work. But now with the tourists coming, we can both stay in the village and live like a proper family." Three years on, the villagers have welcomed families, youth groups, college students and have also hosted a number of corporate team-building away days.
Inir explains that despite the fatigue, confusion and long days, he has experienced a personal journey the he could not ever have dreamed of. "I have been able to have heartfelt conversations with farmers in their local language, with heads of some top multinational companies and everyone inbetween. I have learnt a lot about myself and am grateful to be fulfilling a dream of mine to try to address some of the disturbing balances that I see around me." He goes onto add, "I've had a very decent life and right now I have the time, freedom and space to do this kind of work. My family and friends have been amazingly supportive in my endeavour, even if they still dont quite understand why I'm doing it when it is not highly paid!" he says laughingly.
So has Inir found the alternative to profi and corporate life? "I've learnt many things, but especially that there is wealth not only in money, but also in people, communities and traditions."