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A Ladakhi lifestyle makes you ‘Atmanirbhar’ or self sufficient and independent in the true sense. Most locals from Ladakh do more than 2 -3 jobs. During tourist season they make most of their income by organizing tours, being guides and taxi drivers. They do their farming side by side. Whether they have a small vegetable patch or a large field outside the city of Leh, all locals grow their own food. Barley, wheat, radish, carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, potatoes, tomatoes etc. are some of the crops that are grown. Villages close to the border witness an excellent crop of apricots, walnuts and grapes amongst fruits that thrive in the weather here.
People grow enough to sustain themselves and the rest is sold in the markets nearby. They prepare well in advance for the winters by storing grains, barley and cattle fodder. Every local will also own some cattle, be it a couple of Dzos, Yaks or an entire herd of Pashmina goats in the villages. Meat, milk, butter and woolens can be sourced locally within each home.
Built from mud and stones, the traditional Ladakhi house will have windows and ethnic roofs that are designed from Poplar wood, one of the most common coniferous trees found in this region. The houses are 1 -2 storied with courtyards within them occasionally. In this way the family can sleep in the rooms during the bitter cold winters, and sleep in the open spaces during summers. The back of the house will usually be home to some cattle. Each house has a hand pump and a ‘nala’ or canal that has been cut into the field to allow natural spring water into the premises of the house. Some houses have all the modern amenities of a sink, bathrooms and washing machines however, they are hardly used, as the locals prefer doing all their washing in the little canals.
Ladakhi’s also follow an unwritten policy of ‘basic and bare minimum’ that is practiced religiously in their daily lives. Every object can be put into use, recycled, repositioned into something else. In villages the field fences could be used as a clothesline. Young plants are protected from hungry cattle by placing tin cans around them. A tree can be converted into make – do shelves, that can hold objects of daily use. Cow dung is dried and converted into fuel over which they cook most meals, which sources have confirmed to be more delicious.
Solar powered lamps, solar heaters and head mounted lights are extremely useful as the power supply is not very dependable, coming only for a few hours in the entire day. They also come handy during the cold winter months when it gets dark sooner and water freezes up.
Due to the vastness of the region schools, jobs and small cities remain scattered, making transportation expensive and difficult over the treacherous landscapes. Traveling depends a lot on goodwill, patience and luck. Trust, is present in abundance as people give lifts to strangers all the time. They don’t build high walls around homes, not all homes are locked - safety has prevailed amidst this region of peace loving and friendly people.
Education is encouraged in this region, woman share an equal status quo in society where not only do they do a job, but they also manage a home.
There seem to be a sufficient number of government schools in the region along with some privately funded schools. They have only the most basic things needed to set up a school; wooden desks, carpets and a wooden ceiling to keep away the chill, with a blackboard painted onto the wall itself; are what make up the classroom.