Thursday, Oct 06, 2022
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Rural Pleasure: The Rear-View Mirror of Indian Tourism

In a world where we dream of a luxurious holiday with martinis and charter planes, here comes Rural Pleasure - a reminder to help grow as we go

Rural Pleasure's focus is on making rural travel sustainable and engaging
Rural Pleasure's focus is on making rural travel sustainable and engaging

It’s time we all admit that if there’s one thing that we all share in common, it is our infatuation with speed. Keeping our lives fast-paced is the only way to keep ourselves thrilled and interested. On the other hand, with the COVID pandemic acting as an eye-opener, the concept of sustainability is now in the know--a concept that demands patience. Sustainable travel is a concept that appears to be both inaccessible and expensive because of the extra measures that are taken to steer clear off anything that might hurt the environment. Just when sustainable tourism seemed a little far fetched, a mechanical engineer in Gujarat named Chirag Munjani decided to jump on board sustainable travel and started Rural Pleasure, a rural travel based company. 

Rural Pleasure is an experiential travel company based in Gujarat
Rural Pleasure is an experiential travel company based in Gujarat

Rural Pleasure is an experiential travel company based in Gujarat that has a winsome yet wise outlook on tourism. Initially started as an effort to promote cultural Gujarat in 2012, Rural Pleasure is here to take you on wildlife and heritage tours in Gujarat. This won’t be anything like your average trip to Gir or Kachh. Rural Pleasure makes sure that you don’t just see Gujarat, but rather feel it tangibly with all five senses. 

On a trip to Gujarat with Rural Pleasure, not only will you buy traditional handicrafts and clay pots, but you’ll be making them as well. With the core belief that the locals are the heart of any destination, Rural Pleasure facilitates guided tours in Little Rann of Kutch, Great Rann of Kutch, Savarkundla, Gir, Chhota Udaipur and Ranthambore. By the end of the trip, you’ll have given back to the local communities just as much they give daily to make sure you have a memorable trip. Rural Pleasure sure does bring the ‘rural’ to you.

Rural Pleasure facilitates guided tours in Little Rann of Kutch, Great Rann of Kutch, Savarkundla, G
Rural Pleasure facilitates guided tours in Little Rann of Kutch, Great Rann of Kutch, Savarkundla, Gir and more

Chirag Munjani, the founder of Rural Pleasure, is one of those few people who didn’t sit around and wait for change to happen. In 2012, he decided to quit working in rural Gujarat as a mechanical engineer and started working for rural Gujarat instead. “I wanted to do something which could make an impact on the community because that is the value my family has. Why not do something that is for-profit and part of it goes into the community so it becomes sustainable?”

“We try to do good while travelling. That’s the whole theme. We do good to the destination. We identify a problem or challenge which can be solved through tourism,” he says. Rural Pleasure has worked towards easing the daily lives of many local communities, like the salt workers of Kutch. Salt harvesting has numerous occupational hazards, and Rural Pleasure managed to provide aid with the help of travellers. Visitors were made aware of the problems faced by salt workers on a daily basis; cataract, caused by the reflection from the white waters they work in, constant skin infections caused by standing in saltwater for long, tedious hours and the paradoxical shortage of water that harshly impacts children and women who are going through their menstrual cycle. The initiative helped raise funds for sunglasses for UV protection and gumboots for protecting the salt workers’ feet. 

The initiative helped raise funds for gumboots for protecting the salt workers’ feet
The initiative helped raise funds for gumboots for protecting the salt workers’ feet

“If responsible tourism or sustainable tourism has to become successful overnight, it will not be possible. I've been living with this philosophy for the last 10 years and it’s a very slow process. But it’s the choice I have made. I find that this is the right way and I’ve stuck to it,” says Munjani on disseminating the idea of rural travel to the Indian masses. It is true that the average Indian traveller might not jump with joy at the idea of indulging in organic farming on a vacation. The environmentally conscious section of society, he believes, is their start line. 

In a world run by social media, the rural travel industry (which might not be as Instagrammable as the Taj Mahal, mind you) has to work twice as hard and consistently come up with new angles in order to make its audience aware of the importance of giving back. Chirag Munjani had an interesting solution to this. 

Photographs of lions and leopards on social media, for instance, would make a little more sense with a narrative built around them. Rural Pleasure gives you a peek behind the curtains for you to appreciate the show. The Maldhari community is the only group of people that is allowed to live inside the Gir National Park because of the symbiotic relationship that they have with the big cats. They take care of the animals’ feed and even make sure to fill up pits on the floor of the jungle, which are responsible for the deaths of many animals each year. Photographs on social media portraying such relations between humans and the animals aren't meant for likes and comments only. Such content manages to collect genuine appreciation for the animals. You don't just ride a jeep through the forest with Rural Pleasure; you connect with and truly understand what you see.

Rural Pleasure focuses on giving back to the community
Rural Pleasure focuses on giving back to the community

Sustainable rural tourism might appear to be somewhat of a utopia since its impact might be a little too gradual. But the founder doesn’t look at it the same way! He tells us how the impact of rural tourism can be observed in every aspect involved. It is simply heartwarming to see the local communities hold their heads high as generations-old myths of untouchability and marginalisation are shattered with city-dwellers coming into small villages to experience the ways of the village. As for the travellers, they go back with their luggage overflowing with compassion, empathy and some old-school knowledge. “This creates magic,” says Chirag Munjani with a grin of pride and satisfaction. There is a productive interplay between the locals and the visitors. The appreciation and respect from the visitors empower the locals and remind them just how important it is for them to preserve their goldmine of traditions for posterity to cherish. There are countless stories of sustainability that can be found in rural Gujarat in the form of beautiful, entertaining experiences. 

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