A recent visit to the remote Zanskar valley was exhilarating but at the same time, threw light on how people in this cold desert live and how it could all change soon.
The regions of Padum and Rangdum in the Zanskar valley in Ladakh are remote and that is putting things very lightly. In winters temperatures drop to -35 degrees Celcius and yet people know how to cope. They have been living with the cold for generations and know how to deal with 4 -5 feet of snow and the bone chilling cold. They survive mainly on barley or sattu and the cattle for food. Harvests of tomatoes are left to dry out in the sun during autumn after which they are used for flavouring the food they cook in winters. Abroad, it has a fancy name and fancier price tag – sundried tomatoes. They wear yak and sheep wool, all knit in their homes though many are now shifting to China-made down feather coats which they say is much easier to maintain and lighter on the body.
What has changed their lives truly is solar energy. Even the remotest of the remote habituated homes and monasteries now have solar power – it might run for a few hours in the night but its enough to make their lives much easier.
What we also saw was the blue coloured, small conical pole dotting all across Ladakh – these were Jio poles, an indicator that optical fibre cables were laid out for a roll out next year. The Ladakhi people are very happy and eagerly awaiting the start of Jio services in the region as currently they rely on the extremely unreliable BSNL services.
Zanskar is changing and next year, it will transform with the coming of Jio and the new road linking this remote region to Dracha in Himachal Pradesh.