The story of the Fourth Idiot

There were three idiots in the film, and I was the fourth. But they didn’t take me in the film... In fact the script of the film couldn’t accommodate us - a few like me who belonged to the category of the Fourth Idiot.

One of the biggest worries for parents is the upbringing of a child, especially a son- when he is out to meet the world. Many a times, this is when parental preaching would put even the most zealous preachers to shame – making the Maddonas scream, “Papa don’t preach”.

The age of adolescence is more revolting than the Bin-Ladens, and the damage to the institution called family would far surpass that caused to the twin towers. This is the time, when the father generally takes up the role of George Bush and mother becomes the peacemaker.

It is in this backdrop, that I look back and wonder why our relationship did not call for “mediations, interventions, hot pursuits” or even the regular dose of advice. In my relationship with my father, I cannot remember receiving the fatherly medicine- though, I must confess, I was not an abnormally soft or un-revolting young man. I was like most other kids of my age then. I too went through those phases, when I felt that the society and the system were absolutely wrong and only a revolution could set them right.

Everything that was told needed to be outright rejected or accepted only after stamping objections. So what stopped the hell from raining fire? “Baba” as I call my father, despite being from the armed forces, has never been a Hitler, who would crush any uprising. But then he hasn’t been a Gautam Buddha either. He has always been a normal man.

But then there was something in him that set him apart... I remember the only advice he gave me was a simple one line -“Anyone can do what he likes; but very few people can like what they do – You should do that”. This was the mantra that made Baba different. A barber’s shop he said would be an excellent enterprise, if I liked. And I almost did that, though with a small difference. I started with people’s lawns instead of hair. As a profession, I started practicing landscaping and soon also started taking people out into the jungles.

As a Pugmarker, I made them walk in rains, waterfalls and puddles and befriended them with animals, birds and butterflies. And I have thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this non-formal job. Being paid for it has made it even more rewarding. Today, I am thankful to Baba, in not enforcing a formal career on me. However, only a few of us are lucky enough to fall in this category of the Fourth Idiot... people who were inspired to follow their heart’s calling.

Little wonder, we did not make it into the film... In the process of upbringing me, one most important contribution that Baba has made is that of developing a wide range of hobbies. Today, I have an excellent collection of stamps, coins and artefacts and love to explore wilderness. These passions have managed to keep me away from frustrations and more important drugs, smoke and alcohol.

Now is my turn and at Pugmarks, I continue to inspire people to pursue their hobbies and passions in wildlife and adventure and develop them into careers. This, I am sure will make many more satisfied human beings - instead of just "well off" lost souls...

Comments on the 4th Idiot

“Very nice Ani...heartfelt and sincere...and I know your journey very well, right from the days when you were a volunteer at WWF and we met on a day alternately drenched in rain and sunshine on the trek to Torna and spent most of the journey sharing truly horrible PJs! I still remember a particularly revolting one that you shared..'preserve nature....pickle a squirrel'! I remember the trip to Bhimashankar..the caretaker that looked like an ageing uncle, seeing a 'blue moron' butterfly and the trek to Gupta Bheema. I also remember the trip to one of your landscaping site..i don't remember where was it..but it had an amphitheater overlooking the river and we sat on the steps and talked about life, love and other assorted disasters. I also remember the pristine white paradise flycatcher we saw at the Sinhagad fort base, and the ice-cream we had at the Gol market in Pashan on our way back...after getting drenched in the late monsoon showers! I don't know if you remember any of this, but I do. Very vividly, because these are very happy memories of a different time...
It has been an eventful journey Ani, both for you as well as me, and while we are not in touch as much as I would like us to be, you still remain one of my closest friends, and I can't wait to entrust my kids to you on one of your treks, so they too can take the path less travelled.”

Hi Anirudh,
--Just to say i agree completely. Thanks for sharing and great DAD.

That is a nice one really.
It is only a few who follow their calling.
Most of them only fall in line, a line drawn by someone who himself had fallen in line.
The world is conducted by those who did not fall in line. All research & discoveries have been done by such people only and others have benefited from it. Creative people never fell in line because they just can't and that is why they create what they do. It is they who always made a difference to the mankind. The world owes it to them.
Do you think we would have had the National Geographic but for these creative people? Columbus was not forced to launch on to the voyage and live through it all. There are many such things that have brought our world to us....
Cheers to all those who went ahead following their calling and made the world.
Best regards,

yes boss, all of us have idiot within :)
& i am happy for the 1 in me !
sanjay deshpande

Well here’s a candid reply for a truth mail. The only reason for my Geology and even for my continuing work with Pugmarks is you. It’s funny how people can influence your life without even trying. Dandeli with you was the last best camp I had and I will never lose the way I saw things then. Thank you.

We don't need a film to appriciate our inspirations, our achievements and our values. Your Baba sounds like an amazing man and I am one of the lucky few to have my dad and Sudhakar Sir to fall in that catagory too...
Anirudh you are very special and I am lucky to have met you, known you and call you my friend.
Inspire and be inspired.

that fourth idiot write-up was very nice ! i am one of the lucky ones too, who's parents didnt insist on a particular career pursuit, but guided me when i was losing direction (as you may remember from 1994, when i wanted to go to mudumalai). Fortunately they let me do whatever i wanted, and now i feel so good about myself and my past. i love what i do, and i do what i love!
cheers to more parents like ours,

Excellent personal reflection Anirudh. You truly have been a path breaker, a fourth idiot - and enjoy what you do as always. continue the good work.
we will be visiting pune in June, so hopefully will see you.

that ws wow sir.. ek number.. i loved it!!
hatts of too baba.. :) gr8 advice n wud surely try applying it on my life as well
love u sir.. !!
love ur baba as well :)
tk care
harshada potdar

Interesting. I am very happy that I also come under the category of idiots as I have taken a sabbatical from academics and doing things in which I am interested. Actually my father is also an idiot. When I was 3 years old, my parents started thinking about my schooling. Appa (my father) was not interested in formal teaching, a lot of homework and heavy syllabus as he thought these types of schools dont let the childe to be free and grow as they want. He was inspired by 'Totto Chan' a book on informal school education written by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi. And he started a new school with different principles like experiential learning, theater in education etc. this is our school's website. As a part of activities in our school Mr. Gangadhar Kallur (Honorary Wildlife Warden, Dharwad Distt.) conducts treks for the children in our school. He is an expert trekker, explores forests alone and goes for trekking alone for as long as a month. He taught me rappelling, rock climbing, map-reading etc. Please see our school's website and give your comments.

Kudos to you sir. Certainly, if it were not for your vision and your infectious enthusiasm, I think a lot of kids in Pune wouldn't have touched a baby jellyfish in Beyt Dwarka, or climbed a Himalayan peak, or caught a glimpse of our fast-disappearing beautiful big cats. I'm really glad that there was an organisation like Pugmarks, that gave us a platform to interact (read : have some boisterous fun, learn, eat, travel, explore together) with like-minded people. We made some great friends, but importantly, I think all of us took some values back, and those remain to this day. Plus many of us, when we joined the volunteer force at Pugmarks were at an impressionable age, and were awkward and shy and Pugmarks really pushed us to come into our own. I'm really happy that my parents gave me the freedom and chance to volunteer at Pugmarks and I hope many other parents give their kids this chance too. I still come from a family that enjoys the wilderness, but for many of the kids who come to Pugmarks, this is their first exploration of Nature, and because Pugmarks makes the learning so much fun, they keep coming back. All of us (I hope) have an instrinsic love of nature, but many of us are not aware of it, and I think Pugmarks really brought about that awakening and deepened it for so many of us.
The time I spent at Pugmarks was incredibly fun and has left an indelible impression upon me. Thank you so much for your encouragement and for the opportunities. Best wishes from me and my family for all your endeavours.
Sanyukta Kothari



One week in September 1994, twenty-five 11-year-olds were learning all about the magic of Nature on a farm on the outskirts of Pune. They learnt all about drongos and pond herons, lichens and ferns, saw-scaled vipers and racer snakes.

Then one hot afternoon, a jolly green giant appeared.
Jolly, covered in green camouflage and really big.
And he told his wide-eyed audience all about water and air and plants and all things important......

One fine day in 2000, a small advertisement appeared in the TOI Pune taking a bunch of people to a famous wildlife sanctuary in Northern India. One of those twenty five children read that advertisement. And the rest is history……

He’s a botanist and a landscape artist, strictly speaking. But Anirudh Chaoji is so much more. To so many thousands of people. A walk in the woods with him brings alive a dimension to the world around that you’d never guess! Trees are transformed into identity bearers, while birds become exotic works of art!

If I ever win an award for contribution to environmental law, in my Oscar-acceptance-style speech, the one man to be accredited with 95% of my career choices will be him.
Ani, here’s to you
- Suhasini Rao