Often on my travels I meet really interesting people. I find it very valuable to get an insight into their lives. Ranaji, a pioneer based in a lesser known village called Jibhi, in Himachal Pradesh is one such person. I spent a month in this mountain village and was eating almost one meal a day at his Kshatra Cafe (run by his son Gudu Rana). During these meals I had many long chats with him about myriad topics. From caste system to yoga to future life plans. I want to share a bit about his life and also his insight into Life with you.
Hailing from quaint backgrounds of a small mountain village, he pursued higher studies in the bigger town of Banjar. Daily the school to home circuit was a trek of 15 kms of mountain stretch. The reason I called him a pioneer is because, he brought tourism, and maybe the idea of it too, to the then small village of Jibhi. Over the many years, it is now not a small village anymore, it is quickly growing into a small town. There are at least 10 – 15 hotels and home-stays all around.
After his schooling, Ranaji got into the Indo-Tibetan police force. Later he got a scholarship for flight training and even procured a Private Pilot license. After a few years spent this way, he returned home and applied to the nearby school for a teaching position. But his time in the army had exposed him to many new ideas. And probably this is why he chose to start his own tourism business instead of taking up a salaried job.
He started by renovating his ancestral property, right by the main road that passed through Jibhi, into a guest house. It wasn’t an easy ride. The influx of outsiders and this very novel activity was viewed with skepticism by others in the village. Specifically, the mingling of outsider guests with Ranaji and his family led to a lot of conflict related to traditional caste rules in the community. Moreover, being a nature lover he also fought many government attempts to harness the natural river flowing by the town as it would impact its flow and ambience.
If you talk to Ranaji about caste and other such traditional rituals, he will strongly proclaim that he is a Human and a nature lover above everything else. It is the only identity that matters to him.
He has a natural, organic farm around his home in Jibhi mainly because he wants to eat chemical free, fresh produce. You may find there many unique plants sourced from around the world. It is not surprising because his guests are a smattering of foreigners and Indians mixed. Many of these are close friends of his that he has known for maybe decades!
What a lot of guests won’t realize unless they fall sick or something is that Ranaji is quite an expert in home remedies and natural healing too. From a variety of illnesses like heart problems to dandruff to exhaustion – he has home remedy ideas for everything. And from everyone who tried it out, I have heard only good responses.
So, I asked him on one of my chats with him, as usual, a slightly deeper question,
How Should One Live Life?
I find it valuable to talk with people especially those who show successful path-breaking qualities and find out what they consider valuable for a satisfactory life. Through these talks – we youngsters can gain insight. It can be very useful for us to put value on the right things in our lives ahead.
#1 Follow your heart
When he returned from the army to his village, he had the option of taking up a salaried job as a teacher. But his heart was in a different place and so he just went with it. And then on this path of doing something very new, there were many obstacles but he faced them and got through.
And it is only by following his heart that he keeps doing something new, something novel which really makes his life a very interesting one.
The problem of course with this ‘follow your heart’ advice is that a large number of urban population aren’t in touch with their heart at all. After many years of meditation, sadhana, travel and moving off the routine path, I can say that now I am in touch with the heart. It is a most cherished matter for me. But we both agreed that most of the urban youngsters are all-mind and nothing else. Too much thinking without much connect with reality.
#2 Life takes its own course
One also needs to be aware and accept that life takes its own course. Like when he was in the army, he wanted to continue there and take higher exams and so on. But that didn’t pan out. So he returned back to his village and from there this line of tourism and farming came his way.
So, I must say, these are two very fundamental ideas to live life.
A lot of us urbans tend to overthink Life. “What’s the purpose of life” is a question often heard. Identity crisis situations or utter confusion is very common in youngsters…. Over time I have come to realize that it is a consequence of over thinking and a social environment where in the name of ‘modernity’ our basic culture is being unhealthily questioned and judged too much. Add to that an influx of western ideas which are not really understood in the proper context but rather glorified to suit personal interests and market needs.
As Sadhguru says,
If you were very blissful and ecstatic at this moment, would you think, “What is the purpose of life?” – No. Only when in some way, life has become burdensome, these questions arise: “To be or not to be?” “Is there a good enough purpose for me to exist?”
I think these two basics – follow your heart and passion… And keep in mind that life takes its own course. Are really good markers to life.
If you visit Jibhi, do drop by for a chat with Ranaji. He is one of the people who have a lot of very diverse experiences. Over the many days I was there, I kept finding out more amazing bits of his life every now and then. Like for example, he spent many months at the Osho ashram in Pune. And that he went true-blue backpacking – camping, cooking food on a stove and all the works of a truly rugged trip in Europe many years back.
Let’s be such people with lots of diverse experiences. I think it is the best thing. It opens our minds, broadens our creative thinking and hopefully for us urban creatures – roots us in our hearts.