Am I a junglee?

I don’t care about my looks, so why should you?

By Sanjay Sondhi
Published: Tuesday 31 December 2013

Sanjay SondhiOne day our domestic help sidled up to my wife, Anchal, and whispered, “Doesn’t sahib have any clothes? He keeps wearing these very dirty, worn-out trousers.” My junglee trousers are filthy as I often kneel in gooey mud and at damp spots to take photographs of little things in nature.

It is another matter that I have six trousers of the same kind, all of them marked with numerous jungle stains, so even our help gets no respite from seeing them.

I thought about the various discussions I had with Anchal in the past about my junglee traits. Recently, someone remarked that I was an introvert, and hence could observe nature at work. I agree; I am an introvert. But was I so unsocial? Was I really a junglee at heart?

I looked down at my shoes. They were old and scratched. I had a better pair, but continued wearing this one, and would do so till they are absolutely useless. I had to put into practice my preaching about re-use and re-cycle, and part of this meant using things till they could not be used further. I wear my socks for a week, as long as they don’t smell, so that I can reduce my laundry. As long as you don’t come too close to me, sniffing, (and I am happy if you don’t) you should be fine. I then examined my T-shirt. It was tattered but comfortable, not yet at the end of its life, and gave me free “air-conditioning”.

My eyes next fell on my toothbrush. Looked like it needs to be changed, but surely I could use it for a few more weeks. Come mealtime, I burp at the table. So what? It means I enjoy the meals. And when I finish, I do, sometimes, lick my plate clean. Why should I waste any food, especially if it is delicious? Just reducing waste, mate!

Since quitting my job in childish rebellion, after spending 20 years in the corporate world, I have followed the 3S philosophy–no shave, no shoes, no suits. I refuse to shave daily. My mother tells me I look like a terrorist, but Osama is no more, so I should be okay. Moreover, not shaving daily helps reduce my consumption of water. And talking about footwear, sandals or slippers are infinitely more comfortable than shoes, don’t you think? As for the “no suits” philosophy, it means that I refuse to attend workshops and forums that require me to wear formals. It means I prefer shorts over trousers. I don’t really care what I look like, so why should you? Ain’t I allowed a few quirky habits?


I own a car, but often walk, even in the searing heat of the midday sun. I turn down lifts from neighbours, saying I prefer to walk (So what if they think I am snooty). From my viewpoint, it is just a way of reducing my carbon footprint. When I do drive, especially on Dehradun’s roads, I often drift downhill, saving fuel in the process. Dirty looks from other drivers are studiously ignored. I am not in a hurry to get anywhere, so drift I will.

My son went to school in a public bus. Couldn’t we drop him in our car? Sure we could, but the bus was safe, convenient and had a lower carbon footprint. He did not mind, so why should you? Some of my junglee traits seem to have rubbed off on my son. Now in college, he too wants to be a junglee and pursue ecology and wildlife conservation. Junior junglee-in-the-making, to my mother’s horror.

I don’t do a regular job; I do what I like–writing, photography, visiting the wilds. Does this make me a junglee? Look, it’s my life and I will live the way I want to. And if some of my quirky habits help to make Earth a greener place, all the better.

Seriously speaking

My view is that a mass awakening among ordinary citizens is the only way to protect nature and save our forests (and hence our water resources) in the long term. It is not only about mega dams, mines and industries. It is about us and our personal choices in our everyday lives. Are you listening?

Sanjay Sondhi is an engineer-turned-naturalist and can be contacted at

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