Babar Afzal left a high-profile job in a multinational company in the Silicon valley to become a shepherd and work for the preservation of Pashmina goats in Himalayas.
This happened after Babar read the news about 24,000 Pashmina goats dying in Himalayas due to starvation. Quitting his job at the multinational company where he had a monthly salary of $25,000, he chose to follow his heart and settle down as a shepherd.
“My exorbitant salary and the Silicon valley lifestyle put me at the top tier of India’s wealthy elite. But in a classic example of how success without meaning is not rewarding, I gave it all up to dedicate myself to the cause of preserving the Pashmina ecosystem of Himalayas,” says Babar, who hails from Jammu and whose mother is from Anantnag.
“When my journey started in 2009, I could not have had a more ostrich-like outlook to the pathetic circumstances in the Valley. Now, I have realised that climate change is a far more deadly threat than terrorism in J&K,” says Babar who worked as an ethical hacker.
To sensitise people about the real Pashmina, Babar uses his creative art skills to highlight the issues linked to the Pashmina ecosystem of India, globally advocating the top position for Pashmina of J&K.
“I have been travelling and living with Pashmina goat herd nomads, weavers and craftsmen to understand the challenges being faced by them,” says Babar.
Not only Babar is a Pashmina activist of the world, he is also the founder of the global Pashmina goat project (www.pashminagoat.org).
For his incredible work, Babar has been profiled by the TIME magazine in its “The Genius Issue.” Only 10 people were listed by the publication from around the world in the past decade for their brilliant work. With a strong background in mathematics, coding and science, he feels that art remains his final expression.
“My idea is to bring to limelight the original stakeholders of the Pashmina ecosystem which is the foundation of the fashion and luxury industry of the world. This is nothing less than the story of blood diamonds. Pashmina is a $30-billion industry and over 2 million people are employed by it directly or indirectly. It is facing a direct threat from climate change, synthetic fibres and suffering due to low wages,” says Babar, who has received the Shri Rabindranath Tagore Award, Dr BR Ambedkar Award, Rajiv Gandhi Excellence and Bharat Gaurav Awards.
“I am also coming up with a book soon about my journey from being a successful white hat hacker to being a shepherd,” he says. .
“In the book, I share the wisdom of shepherds which I learnt while living and travelling with them. These are lessons which I strongly feel are solutions to our daily problems. It’s a light read and I feel it will be useful for home-makers, students, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, CEOs who need to lead a simple and meaningful life,” says Babar.
“I have designed an application for the nomads which will empower them in the higher reaches of Himalayas to auction their wool when it is ready. They would get mobile alerts of weather, prices, auctions and medical emergencies,” says Babar.