One of the reasons I love working in Hanu is that it is such a phenomenally beautiful valley. It has some of the best pastures I have ever seen. And hence some of the fattest, happiest cows, yaks, sheep, goats and kids who get to drink milk (both kinds).
Farming in Ladakh is becoming an endangered occupation. Most people dream of a government job, of life in Leh where there’s electricity and shopping! And parents send their children to school – a private school if at all affordable. So the children leave the village and don’t gain the skills needed to become the next generation of farmers.
How ironic that the worst rain damage hit the area of Ladakh where people are still reliant on farming. Traditions are changing, but are intact and village life is alive with the sounds of kids playing, animals demanding attention and people working together.
“About half the barley is rotting. We will use that for fodder,” meme says. We go over to his house and start looking through barley and peas. All year the family has worked – and it has been work this year. Spring never really came. Which means the high mountain snows don’t melt and irrigation water is a challenge. Then August was the hottest August ever. People really worked to make sure crops had enough water as they matured. Just as they finished harvesting, the rains started.
Meme rolls a handful of pea stalks in his hands and holds out the peas covered in mold for me to see. “Photo?” he asks. One hundred photos I have. I’m not going to take another photo.
(The rains returned yesterday.)