Leh (Ladakh): Tsering Dorjai, a shepherdess in Gya village who spends 11 months a year with her flock in the Ladakh mountains, believes that organic life of daily struggles and adventures can be a rewarding life and one should not “let the world decide your definition of satisfaction.”
Ladakh has remained an obsession for travellers across the world. Tsering believes that organic life of daily struggles and adventures, but joyous and present, can too be a rewarding life. Let not the world decide your definition of satisfaction, the woman says with pride.
Tsering walks her flock of 300 sheep and pashmina goats on the high Himalayan plateaus. For this, she has to spend 11 months a year at an altitude of 4,500 to 6,000 metres, in temperatures ranging from -35°C to 35° C, with just her flock for company. Besides weathering the harsh conditions, she also faces the constant threat of wolves and snow leopards, waiting for an opportunity to attack the herd.
A film was made on her life by her younger brother Stanzin Dorjai.
Inspired by her life, Tsering’s younger brother, Stanzin Dorjai, who is a filmmaker, decided to tell her story. He and his team followed Tsering for one year to capture her demanding way of life. The resultant documentary, The Shepherdess of the Glaciers, directed by Stanzin and Christiane Mordelet, won them the best director award at the Mountain International Film Festival, 2016, held in Autrans, France.
For the next two years, the film swept the board at many international and national film festivals and was screened to set an example for enterprising women.
Tsering’s father passed away when she was 27, and she was burdened with the responsibility of the flock. She lives in her house in the village for only one or two months in a year and doesn’t intend to retire from her job even at 54.
Tsering has turned down marriage proposals having dedicated herself to the mountain life. There is no loneliness in the mountains, in nature and its seasonal cycles – every day is a new adventure, she claims. The radio is her only connection with civilization. She might not be conventionally educated but her mind is a treasure chest.
She knows techniques to battle through glaciers without modern equipment, knows the healing herbs (Ladakh is a goldmine), and can tell the weather by the direction of the wind. Tsering is a doctor, veterinarian, botanist, weather forecaster, tour guide, and keeper of the folklore and Himalayan traditions – a multifaceted personality.
Tsering’s other brother Urgain Phuntsog is an organic farmer. He cultivates mustard, potatoes, peas, mushrooms, and barley. He is known in the village as “Mitti Ka Aadmi” having successfully practised the integrated farming system approach at a height of 14,000 feet where it is hard for humans even to breathe. (ANI)