Ladakh, Capitalism reaches the Top of the World

Ladakh  Capitalism reaches the Top of the World

Over the past couple of weeks I have shown two films looking at the Changpa nomads of Ladakh, and how they are being affected by changes brought about by contact with the modern world (Stone Pastures of Ladakh & Changpa of Ladakh).

One of the changes that occurred was migration, as the nomads left their traditional life, and have moved to the capital Leh, where they can secure an income for themselves and their family, and the film today looks at the effect the market economy, and especially the tourist economy has had on people in Leh, how it affects their culture, and their communities.

The answer, as we might expect, is something of a mixed bag: tourism has not had only a negative impact on the people. According to the witnesses here when other Indians first entered they treated Ladakhis with contempt, but most of the foreign tourists are actually interested in Ladakhi culture and religion, which has given them back some confidence in themselves.

The influx of money and the market economy has had a significant, and ambiguous effect on peoples’ lives: they have more money, but less connection with each other; they have better facilities, but problems like pollution are accumulating.

The film doesn’t take sides, but tries to let the people speak for themselves. Of course, most do not want to go back to subsistence-type living in a harsh environment, but they also have to find a way to preserve their traditions in a living culture. These are the sorts of problems traditional societies are facing everywhere under the impact of development and globalization.


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