Today a happy Robin is sitting at the dining table in the community kitchen of his farm stay in a small village at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas and is one of the co-founders of Peepal Farm
By K S Shankar
A successful information technology entrepreneur, financially secured, a beautiful house and other worldly comforts—Robin Singh had it all in the United States- the land of the treasures. More remarkable was that he had “made it” all at a relatively young age. Yet, he actively contemplated suicide.
Today a happy Robin is sitting at the dining table in the community kitchen of his farm stay in a small village at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas and is one of the co-founders of Peepal Farm, a stray animal recovery center, organic, vegan farm, and a low impact farm stay in Dhanotu village of Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
Robin said “ I have always loved animals and as a boy I wanted to do something for their betterment. However, as a young man, my priorities changed, and destiny took me to the United States where I established my own business. I was a successful entrepreneur, but I was dissatisfied; there was something amiss. I returned to India to travel, after meeting Lorraine, an elderly lady in Auroville taking care of stray dogs.
Sometime around 2011, Robin became preoccupied with what he calls the “suffering footprint”- an idea that has recently taken off in India with growing concern about the environment and animal rights. No matter how carefully you live, Robin realized, you can’t avoid doing damage. “I could be living naked on a tree, but I would still be causing suffering.” To compensate, he vowed to work to reduce suffering where he could. With that goal in mind, he returned to India permanently and worked with stray and abandoned dogs, first in Auroville, then in Delhi. At Auroville, Robin worked with the old lady and helped her to start a volunteer program. Following this hands- on experience with dogs, Singh established a sterilization center for stray dogs with some acquaintances in New Delhi.
They established 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 sterilization programme.
“But soon we realized that we are missing out on a lot more unless we increase the scale of our activities,” Robin said. Thus, Peepal Farm came into existence with the help of Robin’s wife Shivani in Dharamsala. What started as a small place in 2014 became a big shelter home for stray and injured animals in just a year. Today, the non-profit farm spans nearly one-and-a- half acres with an animal clinic, cowshed, and kennels. The farm has a staff including a veterinary doctor. Over the years, the team has rescued and rehabilitated hundreds of dogs, cows, donkeys, mules and horses.
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 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 the Far from madding crowd_ PeepleFarm se points home is not easy.
Despite 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 that turmeric produced by the locals.
One of Robin’s goals is to get farmers to think differently about how their cattle should be treated once they are no longer useful. To do that, they employ what Robin calls culture-jamming, “where you piggy-back on known associations’’. With the help of visiting Russian graffiti artists, for instance, they devised a campaign in which they would make ‘sweaters’ for stray cows out of gunny sacks. Shivani said: “ All products are local. We give training to the local women to make food products from the organic produce that we grow and sell in the local market and through the online market. Social media has helped us a lot.”
She said Peepal Farm was always envisioned as a haven for non-humans as well as a non-profit foundation that aims to raise awareness on the need to adopt an ethical, low-impact and cruelty-free lifestyle. Before the products, our reach was limited to our social media followers and volunteers. Peepal Farm Products was introduced to broaden our horizons and spread our message (both literally and figuratively) far and wide. Along with helping animals, Peepal Farm grows a large variety of grains, fruit, vegetables, greens and oilseeds, largely as an experiment in farming done without tilling the land. To create awareness about their work and generate a bit of income, they sell fresh mint, lemongrass, curry leaves and moringa leaves as well as a chocolate spread and peanut butter.
Source: Himalayan News Chronicle