From earning a lakh a month, Shweta and Govind now earn Rs 25,000 and help rehabilitate elephants in a small town in TN.

Jumbo shift Meet the Bengaluru couple who dropped lucrative jobs to care for elephants
news Human interest Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 16:26

Many people who dwell in the city often dream of leaving the hustle-bustle behind and eventually leading their lives in sleepy towns, closer to nature. More often than not though, these aspirations are reduced to getaways, and rarely transform into lifestyle.

Enter Shweta Govind (30) and Govind Gorur (37), a couple from Bengaluru. Shweta and Govind are exceptions to the above rule, impulsively quitting their well-paying jobs in the city to pursue their dream of being close to nature and conserving wildlife. They now live in Marakkanam, a small town about 30 kilometres away from Puducherry, and help rehabilitate elephants.

From May last year, the couple works with an NGO which hosts a facility that can house up to six elephants. Currently, Govind tells TNM, they are working with three elephants, all of whom have been bred in captivity and have faced neglect. “We nurse them back to health,” he says. “We also rein their behaviour through positive reinforcement. No use of punitive techniques like beatings,” quips Shweta.

While Govind works as the centre manager, Shweta works as the positive-reinforcement coordinator. Earlier, Shweta, a computer science engineer worked at an IT company, while Govind was into hotel management.

Govind says that they used to earn about a lakh per month each while working in Bengaluru. “Now, our salaries are around Rs 25,000. We’ve wanted to contribute to conservation and now we are. It makes us happy,” he says.

Impulsive, life-changing decisions

Shweta and Govind are both avid trekkers, a passion which also led to their meeting in 2012 and eventually falling in love. After about a year of dating, the two decided to get married and the date was set for December 2014. Both of them, Govind says, shared similar aspirations of leaving the city and going somewhere to live a quiet life.

Two months before their wedding, Govind was talking about something similar with Shweta. Both of them were at work. “I was chatting with her and telling her that this 9 to 5 job scene is not for me. Most times, she’d just listen, but that day she said something which stuck. She asked me if I was just going to keep talking or do something about it,” Govind narrates.

The very same day, Govind informed Shweta that he had quit his job, much to the latter’s shock. “She thought I’d have a plan and didn’t expect me to be so impulsive. But about an hour later I received an email from her – it was a copy of her own resignation letter,” Govind recounts.

With two months to their wedding and no job in hand, the two didn’t have an idea about how they were going to follow their dream. So, when Shweta sent Govind a link to an NGO founded by Billy Arjan Singh, a conservator Govind has always admired, he went straight to their careers page.

For the next year or so, Govind and Shweta travelled and also worked as educationists at Dudhwa National Park, situated in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh. Govind says they held conservation awareness programs in the nearby villages, prepared kits and also educated 120 tribal children. But when that work began stagnating, they again quit with nothing in hand.

Govind then had a brief stint with a trekking community called IndiaHikes, where he worked as a green crusader, cleaning up the trekking trails of the trash left behind by trekkers. Then, the duo was introduced to the elephant care facility they currently work at, where they moved to in May 2016. There has been no looking back since.

Do they miss the city?

Govind says that the transition from their earlier life to the present one hasn’t been that difficult. They stay in an apartment provided by the organisation they work for and haven’t really given up on luxuries like dining in restaurants occasionally. “It’s just the frequency which has reduced,” Govind says, adding that it doesn’t really bother them.

He explains that the transition has been smooth for them because of two reasons. “Our parents have always been supportive. They are also financially independent which is why we can have jobs that pay less but make us happy. And secondly, we ourselves don’t have big aspirations. We don’t want a bungalow or a big car. We don’t think about the future that much,” he says.

Eventually, he wants to work in the area of vulture conservation.

For Shweta, it’s meeting up with friends and weekend treks that she misses the most about the city. She also wants to work in the area of waste disposal. “I know that I may have to go to the city for that. But for now, we can see the sun set and moon rise in the quiet of nature. What more could you want!”

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