TAR Ladakh’s Isolated Village

Anzara Anjum
Alluring landscape, pristine rivers running  down the village, serene nature and heart-warming people, is the first attraction of the     village. Though the accessibility to the village is difficult, yet it is the most intriguing part of  the journey. One has to hike through towering mountains to get to the village.
It is a two hour’s drive from Leh town to Nurla village situated on the Indus River 84 kms away from Leh and nearer to the Leh-Srinagar Highway. Walking is the only way to get access to TAR village from Kargil-Leh highway, after crossing the wooden bridge across the Indus River at Nurla.  The total duration of the walk is almost 3 hours i.e. going and coming. You start walking, from an altitude of 3000m, from Nurla and then gradually work your way uphill. You will pass through the abandoned “Doksa” (temporary shelter at the farmland) which belongs to the people of Nurla. Here one can appreciate the ingenious method of irrigation all along the trail. After walking for an hour or so, you will reach the lower village of Tar. The beautiful setting of the village with its poplar and willow trees, trails laid with wild roses and apricot trees, along with some ruined steps is calming and almost spiritual. You will be greeted by a small spring where the villagers stop for a drink of chilled water while commuting in and out of the village. You will enter into a narrow gorge with spectacular shiny granite formations. After crossing a small bridge over the brook and walking for 20 minutes uphill, you will enter the main village of TAR. The village has some 13 families and approx. 80 individuals. Most of the villagers are agro- pastoralists and make a living out of it.  Only few are allied to Government jobs with the tourism industry. During the short summer months and early autumn, a few travellers come and stay with the families to experience the traditional Ladakhi lifestyle and way of life.
“The village is a contrast from most of the villages of Ladakh, a village with no road connectivity and no electricity. However, it has minimised the influence of modernity and maintained cultural and traditional ethnicity”, says 60 year old Tashi Namgyal.
One of the elders from the village, Tsewang Namgyal laments, “The politicians show up only during elections. They always make promises to build a road and provide electricity to the village but once the elections are over no one shows up till the next elections. It is very sad that we face so many problems without road connectivity and electricity in the village”.
Stanzin Chorol, a housewife says, “Just imagine how costly it is for us to live here. An LPG cylinder will cost us an additional amount of Rs. 600 to 700 to get to the village because there is no road connectivity after Nurla village and we are forced to pay the additional amounts. Had there been a road we wouldn’t have had so much of a problem”.
“If there is a serious health problem, either the patient has to be carried on the back or on an animal to the nearest village – which is quite a distance away – for treatment. And in many cases it proves to be fatal to the life of the patient,” says Dorjay another resident of TAR village.
“I hate boarding school, but my little sister and I have to stay in a boarding school because our village doesn’t have schools. We were happy when we were staying with our parents during our early school days” says 15 year old Angmo.
Another lady from the village Ms. Konchok Palmo says, “The area has the potential to be developed as a destination for isolation or cultural tourism.  But there is no intervention from any concerned stakeholders.  And the villagers are made to believe that due to terrain and altitude the road cannot be constructed. The village has no road connectivity, so there is less influence of the outer world and is isolated; therefore it is best for isolation tourism. It can be developed further as an eco-village, as the village is self-sustaining”. The rugged and steep mountains encompassing the village hold magnificent wildlife like the Asiatic Ibex (similar to wild goat) which is the preferred prey of the snow leopard. Besides this, the area also has Ladakh Urial (smallest of the wild sheep also known as red sheep), Tibetan wolf, wild dog, red fox, etc. in the village. The village has many attractions for cultural tourists, like the natural rock relics of gods and goddesses, which are highly revered by locals. Traditional methods of agriculture and livestock rearing are still practiced, which in itself is something to cherish.
On talking to some women in the village they were absolutely fine with the life they have. They think that road connectivity will spoil the tradition and the culture and they love trekking for hours to get to the road, but it is the youngsters who are reluctant to trek.
Ms Doma Lamo a woman in her late 50’s whilst tending to her livestock commented, “We love the life here, it is perfect, with no pollution and food adultery, but you can really be in a fix if there is an emergency. That is the time when we really feel disconnected from the rest of the world. It is very sad that we don’t have a doctor in the village. We only have a medical centre with a pharmacist. The expecting women are the ones who face the biggest problem”. Will road connectivity encroach on the simplistic lives of the villagers of Tar or will it be a boon for them?  This is certainly a million dollar question.           (Charkha Features)


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