I’m not sure how Sameer and I first connected. We’ve chatted about this and come to the conclusion that social media will have played a part, sharing similar passions is another. He is one of those people that one just inherently knows that, despite having few meetings in the flesh, we’re from the same tribe which has meant that it’s a connect that sees our paths cross effortlessly. We didn’t actually meet until, again, thanks to social media, we realised that we happened to be in the same city at the same time and flying out of that airport within 30 minutes of each other the following day. Early check ins were arranged and we sat and put the world to rights, or the part of it that we are passionate about at least, over a south Indian coffee or two. Sameer has a determination to realise his passion, slow tourism together with sustainable projects means creating a better environment for the local populations and which play a small part in creating a better world at large. And that’s just a part of it! Read on to discover more about him.
- Who you are (naturally!)
Many things, and curious about more! Father of two, husband of one, traveller, cyclist, entrepreneur, trying-to-be-farmer, ex-techie, poet at times, rebel without a pause at others. Entrepreneur at Linger.in. ex Founder of Beforest.co and helped create a lovely community at the Tamarind Valley Collective. Since Nov 2020, I have been heading Rainmatter Foundation to try put into action the many ideas, desires and goals to try and fix some things we really messed up for the coming generations.
- What inspired you to create your business?
Serendipity got Linger going. A desire to retire in a small place amidst nature and the bug in me to follow such whims and desires gave that serendipity a chance. I realized that conventional travel – at “done” places and resorts and the like often gets in the way of the true experience of the place, the people there, the food there and so on. Many travellers feel a little inhibited at traditional homestays. Linger was an attempt to bring the best of both these worlds into one idea, and I’d say, over a decade, that it’s worked!
TVC and Beforest were born of a growing understanding of what’s gone wrong with farming, our food systems and our lives in the city. Eventually, the questions got bigger and the linkages between these, inequity and the climate crisis got connected. I took some time off, stayed at my Coorg farm, wrote a fair bit and through a completely chance event, landed up at Rainmatter Foundation. That has been an amazing opportunity to try and do something about these concerns and epiphanies.
3. An anecdote which epitomizes your India?
The wife and I were riding to Ladakh and got delayed at Taglang La, and reached Rumtse as it was getting dark. This was way back in 2003, and apart from the BRO outpost, there was just a small restaurant there – “The World’s Highest Idli-Dosa Point”, no less. Dinner done, we asked about places to stay, and he said there were none, and promptly offered to close up early and set the charpoys around for us to sleep in overnight!
As a token of our immense gratitude, we spent some time sharing a south Indian recipe to go along with the dosas he made, and slept. Morning brought folks from the BRO camp who got us breakfast from their mess, a Sikh priest who opened up and gave us a tour of “The World’s Highest Gurudwara”, and much conversation and warmth.
Another one was more humbling – someone we had hired for a couple of day’s wages at the farm gifted us a sack full of groundnuts from his harvest – this would have been more in market value than the wages he got paid! This abundance-mindset that has forever existed and that we’re risking losing became a principle to live by.
I’ve had many moments of magic travelling and working around India – but this stays strongly etched in my head.
- One thing that you can’t live without?
Oxygen? 🙂 No really, I love the fresh air of the hills and keep escaping to them (only till we move permanently, soon). And yes, my wife – I love travelling with her and we’re looking forward to a life in the quiet, green hills. I’m starting to become umcomfortable not being amidst trees and a forest.
- One thing that you hate?
This applies to travel as to many other aspects of our society and economy – it completely saddens and often angers me to see “the city” seep into most of India – with the attendant garbage, mistrust, packaged drinking water and packaged foods, attitudes that kill entire ways of life and demean them, and the show of money and an assumption that it can buy anything – that’s a very city habit. We’re making the same goals, aspirations and attitudes popular everywhere through messaging, and losing much by way of local knowledge systems, ability and self reliance, and beauty and cultural strengths.
- If you could change one thing about India what would it be?
I’d love to see a stronger village economy, more capacities in villages and a more distributed and fairer economy, travel, services. It’s a vast country with so much social, cultural and natural wealth that’s under appreciated and utilized.
- Who is your greatest inspiration?
I’m an ideas person and don’t feel inspired by individuals as a whole. There’s much I’m impressed by in the ideas of Gandhi, in the songs that Roger Waters wrote, in the everyday philosophy of so many Indians including Kabir and equally those I meet as I travel, in the fascination with the forest that Corbett and Kenneth Anderson had, and so many contemporaries whose journeys and experiments inspire me to explore more without fear and inhibition.
- What is your favourite quote?
Never thought about that till now – but here’s what came to mind :
“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”
― Omar Khayyám
- I have noticed huge changes in India over the last few years but what is the biggest change you have noticed in India over the last 10 years?
Happily, connectivity improvements – both road networks and digital. Sadly, packaged food and a uniformness of many things that the roads and internet bring – India is a celebration of diversity and we should never lose that.
- What do you think are the biggest challenges India faces over the next ten years?
Like pretty much the rest of the world, ecosystem degradation and the resultant pressures and calamities. We’re a naturally abundant nation and should find our answers and methods in that abundance, not in the economic models built around scarcity.
- Which is the destination at the top of your bucket list?
I’ve resolved to fly as little as I can, but I do want to be in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey for a few weeks and experience the feel of it being the cradle of civilization, and the junction of many different ones over time. Within India, I still have to explore the Chola temples and MP.
- What is the one place you visited that you have NO desire to return to?
- Book or Movie?
- Just for fun! I am doing a survey to find India’s most popular breakfast, what is yours?
Common? Boring old bread and omelettes. Favourite? A masala dosa + a hot vada + good filter coffee.
- In retrospect, what is the one thing you wish you could have told your 20 year-old self?
Nothing. Because the moving finger writes, and having writ…. 😀
Related links to check out:
Founder/CEO: Linger – Do nothing holidays.
CEO: Rainmatter: Set up by Zerodha, Sameer leads the team. It is a climate focused fund that Zerodha has commited $100 million to in order to support efforts and innovations that create lasting change towards addressing climate change and eco system degradation and to help creat a more ecologically sustainable ecomony.
Founder of Beforest: An effort to buy into and actively participate in communities transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle at a collective farm, conserved and regenerated using permaculture primciples.