Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ladakh at cross-roads....


Not very long ago it took weary caravans about three weeks to move from Srinagar to Leh, which was at the cross-roads of many feeder routes of the ancient ' Silk Route'.
Caravans and traders from Tibet, Kullu, Amritsar and Yarkand would meet here and trade in carpets, textiles, tea and poppy among other things…

In Nubra valley, near Hunder one comes across Bactrian double humped camels who along with ponies were supposed to be the mainstay of caravans in these rugged terrains...a 'skeleton trail' route that would take one over many high altitude passes on the way from Amritsar in Punjab to Yarkand in Central Asia, also crossing the mighty Karakorams in between…

Today one reaches Leh in two days by road from Srinagar with just over night stay in Kargil. The road now designated a national highway was constructed in the Sixties…

The other road to Leh via Manali constructed even later, in Eighties also crosses three mighty ranges of Pir-Panjal, Great Himalayas and Zanskar on the way to Leh and is open barely for four months in summer…It also takes two days from Manali with over night stay in between…

These two main roads to Leh from the south of Himalayas were constructed on roughly the same ancient routes that criss-crossed from here…..
These have “strategic military importance”, they say. No wonder when one goes to Ladakh via road one is bound to run into large convoys of Army moving both ways carrying fuel, rations and logistics…

Thanks to this ‘easy’ road connectivity coupled with less- than- one- hour- flights, the Ladakh of today is teeming with tourists in season and non residents easily seem to outnumber the residents any summer day.


“Once a tightly held secret among the bearded pioneers of the Himalayas Hippie trail…” as Alexander Zaitchik wrote, it may have now become just a fashionable tag!


No doubt Ladakh works its mystic Shangri La charm over many, and they come in droves to this ‘spiritual-landscape trail’ but along with tourists have come a number of challenges for the simple Ladakhis.


With tourists and trade, they have been familiar for centuries but it seems its new avatar may be like no other of the earlier….!


Ms Helena Norberg-Hodge, Director of the Ladakh Project is a witness to the rapid changes in the culture and society of the native Ladakhis as they prepare to meet this new ‘development’…

“Ladakh had been isolated for centuries and then was suddenly thrown open to development including tourism. This development has brought many changes to the previously peaceful, prosperous and largely self-reliant culture of Ladakh. Junk food, plastic consumer goods, pollution, and toxics including DDT and asbestos have come to the region as part of this process. Just as dramatic as these environmental impacts have been the psychological effects of Western-style education, television and advertising, all of which glamorize an urban consumer life-style, giving the impression that life in the West is one of limitless wealth and leisure. The influx of tourists has added to the impression that life in the West is infinitely better than in Ladakh. Tourists will often spend the same amount in a day that a whole family in a Ladakhi village might spend in a year. As a consequence, Ladakhi, particularly the young people, feel that their lifestyle seems poor and backward. Tourists, in turn, often unwittingly reinforce these feelings and insecurities. Having no way of knowing the degree to which Ladakhis have traditionally been self-reliant, they are often horrified to hear of daily wages as low as five dollars, or of an absence of electricity. Generally, neither tourists nor Ladakhis reflect on the fact that money plays a completely different role in the West, where it’s needed for basic survival.”

Another related article:- The March of the Monoculture

Photo Credit For Double- humped camel:- mr_o

8 comments:

Pawanjeet Singh said...

ਪਿਆਰੇ ਰਾਜੇਸ਼,
Silk Route ਵਾਲੀ ਫੋਟੋ ਬਹੁਤ ਖ਼ੂਬਸੂਰਤ ਤੇ ਭਾਵਪੂਰਨ ਹੈ। ਜੋ ਵਧੀਆ ਗੱਲ ਇਸ ਵਾਰ ਹੈ ਉਹ ਹੈ ਫੋਟੋ ਨਾਲ ਪੂਰਾ ਵੇਰਵਾ ਦੇ ਕੇ ਹੋਰ ਲਿੰਕਾਂ ਸਮੇਤ ਡੀਟੇਲ ਦੇਣਾ।
ਤੇਰਾ ਸ਼ੁਭਚਿੰਤਕ,
ਪਵਨਜੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ

Aditi said...

Very neat pics on flickr, did the slide show a number of times over and over. Been wanting to do these part of the world for a long time now.

a cursory look at your blog definitely points to the fact that i need to be reading this very very carefully.

Great!! to have come across your pages

Rajesh said...

Thanks..Dear Pawanjit and Aditi...
Pawanjit: welcome to the blogosphere..I didn't know that one could comment in Punjabi also...I intend to provide more detail henceforth...
Aditi: Thanks for coming by...Ladakh is irresistible...I also enjoyed visiting your blog pages...

Khaira said...

I absolutely love your pictures! I look forward to reading your blog and I'm glad I came across it.

mridula said...

Hmm, I love travelling and I wonder do I need to feel guilty everytime I go somewhere! I absolutely adore Ladakh though I have been there only once.

Anil P said...

This is one place I must visit.

Rajesh said...

Thanks Friends for comments...
Khaira : I found your posts very interesting too especially the one about Pingalwara at Amritsar...
Mridula :Why should one feel guilty doing what one loves...?Follow your instincts on this one!
Anil P : Happy to have come across your travel blog...

Rahul said...

Hey Rajesh,

I have seen your pics on flickr. n those are amazing.
I am planning for Ladhakh trip too. So wanted some guidance from you. After watching your Silk Route pics i am planning to visit it.
It will be nice if you could help us.

Regards,
Rahul