An Appeal to Travel Bloggers to contemplate to contribute through Individual Social Responsibility to Save the Himalayas and its cultural Traditional Heritage.
Geographical contexts and human responses to them provide content to travel bloggers. When geographical contexts become imbalanced, the rest of the frame of references becomes skewed.
For travel bloggers engaged with the Himalayas, the variety is seen in natural surroundings and the manner in which human communities have acknowledged is revealed in cultural traditions, beliefs, lifestyles, and values. Travel bloggers are also engaged with those entities who provide infrastructural facilities. However, more than ever, today the Himalayan region is vulnerable and the foremost reason is climate change. Like I often say “no water, no Ganges, no Kumbh,” the same applies to the Himalayas – Those who engage with the Himalayas need to think to give back. This short article offers a point to think – Can Travel bloggers develop a quotient of Individual Social Responsibility to conserve the intrinsic value of the subject they write on? As an example I offer a Case Study in Ladakh:
My travels in Ladakh started in 1981 at a time when tourism was limited to visiting Leh city, Thiksey, and Hemis. There was just one Air India Flight on every Wednesday with an hour stop for breakfast in Chandigarh. It was after the breakfast that the final call was declared whether or not the flight will go to Leh. On three Wednesdays one went to Chandigarh, had breakfast and returned to Delhi for Lunch, finally on the 4th Wednesday, lunch was in an army camp in Leh.
There were no hotels only rudimentary homestays. Running water was rare, the army supplied electricity through the diesel brought up. Lights went off at 9 pm, and on Sunday it was a holiday for electricity.
Much has changed. I have been returning time and again to Ladakh to study, travel and participate in different activities. On one occasion I learned about a distinct initiative where trekkers as travelers explored to give back to the Himalayas, an initiative which has grown enormously over the years.
An adventurous Australian Garry Weare pulled by the magnetic allure of the Cold Desert began trekking the Himalayas. Garry introduced several Australians to trekking in the Himalayas, however, my story is limited to Ladakh. He brought annually groups of trekkers. The groups traveled in the deep interiors. They were enchanted by the Natural beauty of Ladakh and were touched by the hospitality, simplicity, and warmth extended by local communities. Most trekkers led by Garry wanted a way to give back to nature and to the people, and that is how began the mission of the Australian Himalayan Foundation. The Foundation runs a number of programs in different locations in the Himalayas especially in Ladakh, and Nepal covering issues of health, education, and conservation of wildlife among others.
Zanskar: The case study which I present is that of Zanskar and the success of the work by the Australian Himalayan Foundation. I know of one issue and that concerns maternity and infant health. The Zanskar region, which even today requires almost two and half days to reach, the trekkers found out that the maternity death rate is as high as 1:3 (one in every 3 women died in children birth). Systematically it was understood that most traditional health healers were men and although there was the support of the army it was not enough. In a methodical manner, the trekkers linked up with Servants of Society a small NGO comprising of dedicated professional Ladakhis who became the executing partners. The Servants of Society, in turn, created a network with concerned stakeholders comprising of Amchis (traditional Tibetan doctors), Onpos (astrologers), Lahmu (Oracles).
Today after more than a decade there are now Women Amchis (Tibetan doctors) who even have trained in the civil hospital in the Gynecological Modern Medicine ward in Leh as much as in the adjoining Civil Tibetan Medicine Hospital. The death rate of women and children has fallen drastically in the Zanskar region.
When I met Garry, he had convened a review and forward plan with stakeholders linked to the Zanskar program. Inspired it compelled me to ask travel bloggers to contemplate and perhaps as trekkers contribute through Individual Social Responsibility to Save the Himalayas and its cultural Traditional Heritage.
Navina Jafa – Diaries of Glimpses of My Travels
Some Personal Snippets in Zanskar:
The above picture is that of the Karsha Monastery housing the largest number of Monks.
THE SNOW LEOPARD – SHAN –
An important part of the culture is reverence to the Snow Leopard. Once in 1995, a snow leopard slept on the rug in the main room in the home of Norbu my taxi driver. It was already 3 days I was there. The entire community gathered to worship the ‘Lord’. Some Wildlife personnel along with the army shot through a half-opened window. The aim was to induce the animal to sleep and even more deeply for longer hours. It seemed by the entire village had gathered by this time. Long poles with Buddhist flags were prepared, the heavy animal hoisted up and a procession with monks chanting proceeded to leave the Shan. I did not have a phone with a camera. But the photograph above of the Snow leopard is taken in the beautiful Sikkim Zoo.