After trying and searching the world over for years to follow their dream, Pamela and Anil Malhotra finally chose Kodagu to settle down and gave India her first and only private sanctuary, Sai Sanctuary.
Pamela and Anil Malhotra have no children, a decision they took early on in their married life. What they wanted instead was to have a forest of their own. The couple worked hard in their respective careers - she as a sales rep for a pharmaceutical company and he as a banker - till they could afford one of their own.
A forest of their own
Pamela grew up on the east coast of the US on a small farm that bordered the vast estate of a rich man. “Luckily, he liked children,” she says. She spent her childhood roaming his estate and befriending woodland creatures, the love for nature firmly taking root in her young heart.
She met Anil while she was home from college for the holidays. He ran a successful Indian restaurant in the area where she lived in New Jersey. “He was the first to set up an Indian restaurant there and it was very popular,” she says with pride.
After college, Pamela landed a job with a pharmaceutical firm which required her to move to Denver, Colorado. Living among the Rocky Mountains was a long-cherished desire.
Anil gave up his restaurant and started on a career in banking, so he could be with Pamela. Together the newlyweds embarked on a life of a shared vision of one day owning a forest. “We subsisted on my income while we saved Anil’s commissions from his bank job for the sanctuary we would have someday,” says Pamela.
A horrifying sight
Pamela’s job required her to travel frequently. While returning to Colorado after one such trip she was met with a horrifying sight. “The mountain heads had been chopped off for strip mining!” she recalls. Eventually, the hunt for uranium-contaminated the local waterbodies with lead and arsenic. People began to get sick as the ecosystem became increasingly poisoned.
Pamela and Anil felt helpless about the situation but we're determined to do something. Finally, they came to a decision.
Even though they were financially not ready to follow through on their dreams of nature conservation, they could not wait any longer.
Pamela gave up her job while Anil secured permission to work remotely and they moved to Hawaii. The tropical paradise was where they intended to settle down and have their sanctuary.
A Hawaiian detour
They bought a chunk of land in Hawaii and began their efforts at conservation. They practiced organic farming on a small part of the land. This was for their own consumption and not for commercial purposes. They donated the excess produce to a local women’s shelter. They assiduously afforested the rest of the land and kept away from interfering with any wildlife activity.
Meanwhile, to supplement their finances, they undertook various real estate restoration projects in their spare time. It was a hard but richly rewarding life. That is until the Hawaiian dream came to an abrupt end.
Living in Hawaii meant importing the majority of their supplies from the mainland at 40 percent higher value. This was an expense the couple’s fledgling income could not sustain.
But a more sinister threat lurked at every corner. Rampant tourism coupled with unchecked construction was wreaking havoc on the fragile ecosystem of the island.
Destructive human activity all over the island drove the wildlife away. Pamela and Anil were keenly disappointed at how futile their conservation efforts were turning out to be. Then came the fateful phone call from India. Anil’s father was on his deathbed. They decided to temporarily halt work in Hawaii while they went to India to be with him and simultaneously contemplate their future on the island. They did not know then that it was the end of their American sojourn.
Pamela and Anil hope that people, especially the youth because they are the ones who will be most affected by climate change, be inspired by their example and work towards restoring their own corners of the world. She says, “This is our life's work and it's been the most fulfilling experience of our lives. We'd love to pass on to others what we've learned and helped inspire them. Because truly our future as a beautiful living planet is dependent on it.” private forest for retirement life privately owned forests