Our Choices

‘Tread softly lest you destroy that which you so desperately seek’  

A man wanted to use this quote and the way we operate our business to argue that I and we are contradictory for refusing to let him and his family stay in our Twin Cabin room. He claimed that because they are on a tight budget, he would bring his own cooker and cooking equipment so they could prepare their own meals. He expressed his regret at learning that we would not let him cook and urged us to do so.

As many people are aware, in this field there are many who are so persistent that they get what they want, that somehow we are the “bad guys” if we reject. These decisions are ones we make after many encounters, along with the awareness of the inability to just say no when things go too far.

The following is a brief explanation of the quote’s main idea: We had driven a German couple to several off-the-beaten-path locations in Arunachal, Nagaland, and the Khasi Hills-Lyngam region. Now, when we visit these areas, we are not there to interfere with their lives or intrude, at least not in my opinion. If we are invited or accepted, we also accept; if not, that is also fine. This couple, who was with us for their third trip, continued harping on about how tribal regions were becoming more modern, with girls donning cosmetics, heels, skirts, seeing satellite TV dishes on roof tops as well. Now, to them, this was more than just an observation; it was a conclusion that these individuals or locations were not entitled to these possessions.

They wanted a sort of “sheet to cover all these areas so nothing changes, and come, lift off the sheet, and take the desired pictures of ‘these’ people so they can come back and show their friends that they went to these undeveloped places

Now, I don’t go to see these things; rather, I travel and engage with people to observe the changes and respect everyone’s right to evolve, have desires, and aspire to greater things. In terms of philosophy, the desire for less comes only after the desire for more has expired.

I once worked at a senior couple’s Canadian house who were both retired university professors. One afternoon, the husband returned home carrying a sophisticated coffee maker that could be programmed to brew coffee at a specific time the following morning. The housewife, who was battling consumerism and occasionally visited ashrams in India, said that they didn’t need this and that, in fact, she could live in a small hut with just a few pots and pans and be content. I’m sometimes a bit blunt, so I tried to be as kind as I could when I responded, “No, she couldn’t.”   If you looked around, however, you would find that they were affluent, retired, and owned expensive art on their three bedroom, two living room, large kitchen home.

The idea of doing this is some sort of romantic picture of giving up everything they had and living this “simple” life. The poor people who are struggling and living in a little hut with a few pots and pans and are happy—but who are not there by choice and giving up their wealth, but who are there due to circumstance—are being disparaged. I am not criticising what they had or saying they should or should not have it. Being rich makes it challenging to truly feel empathy for others who are less fortunate.

Returning to the topic of cooking on our land, it would not be appropriate for us to make an exception for one family because we would then have to make an exception for everyone, which would entail allowing anyone to visit, have a picnic, cook on our property, etc. There is nothing wrong with this, and there are locations with these amenities, but it’s always amusing to observe how people seem to misunderstand the fact that we are not offering what we are not selling. If we don’t provide that service, you can either accept it or choose not to come.

When I walk into a hardware shop to buy hardware, I don’t go in and tell them they should offer coffee because I want a coffee.