The second in our Planet Local-India series, the following article is adapted from a Morning Talk by Sonam Angchuk, founder of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL). It was delivered by Angchuk to students from different parts of Ladakh who participated in a Winter Camp this past December. Angchuk will be participating in our upcoming Economics of Happiness conference in Bangalore, India.
Dear young friends, this morning let’s talk about how lucky or unlucky we are to be born and living in Ladakh and its villages. When I travel to the beautiful Ladakhi villages in Changthang, Nubra and Zanskar regions, I meet young friends who are wonderful people but who lack self-esteem and self-confidence, and say things like… “Oh! We are poor and backward people from this remote village, the real stars live in Leh and Kargil city. Our parents are just farmers, our houses are like old ruins, and our schools are poor and small… Oh! the real stars live in Leh and Kargil and their parents are big shots in government and business, their houses are big and new, their schools are fancy private schools. Their life is really cool, I wish I lived there.”
And when travel to Leh or Kargil this is what I hear from young people there… “Oh! we are from this poor small town, the real stars live in cities like Srinagar and Jammu. Our parents are just small-time government employees and petty business people, our houses are nothing compared to theirs, our schools are just small town schools… Oh! the real stars live in Srinagar and Jammu, and their parents are big shots in the whole state and their schools are famous private schools we can only dream of. Their lives are really cool; I wish I was one of them.”
And when I travel to Srinagar or Jammu the youth there tell me… “Oh! poor us, we are from this ‘B’ grade city, the real stars live in metros like Delhi and Mumbai. Our parents are just officers in the state service, our houses are old-fashioned and ugly, our schools are unknown nationally. The real stars live in metros like Delhi and Mumbai. Oh! those dazzling cities! The parents there are truly big shots in government and business, their house are like mansions, their schools and colleges are… oh my god! Oh! How I wish I lived there.”
And when I travel to Delhi or Mumbai this is what I hear from young people there…. “Oh! We are from this messy Third World city, the real stars live in London and New York. Our parents are just poor bosses of a poor country, our houses are big but in bad taste and our schools suck. Oh! Yes, the real stars live in London and New York. Their parents are super rich, their houses are the ultimate, and their schools are the ultimate. Oh! I would kill or rob to get there.”
But when I travel to London or New York this is what the young people there tell me… “Oh! We are from this decadent city where civilization is falling apart, families are breaking down, people are lonely and totally disconnected from nature. Our parents may be super rich but they are super stressed and often depressed. Our houses may look big but it’s very lonely inside; our schools may be big but they are mechanical and factory-like. I feel like a misfit and I’m totally lost here… But I’ve read in books and heard from travelers that out there in the mountains of the Himalayas there are people who still live in healthy communities, who live in harmony with nature. Forget schools, I hear that in those places the whole community is involved in educating and bringing up each child. I hear that people respect the elders, care for the aged and love the young ones. Now that’s what I look up to. Oh! how I wish to travel there and learn from these great people.”
So, my friends, maybe we lose something important when we always strive to have “more”. Maybe there are things more valuable than big houses, cars, and the latest fashions. Maybe we Ladakhis in our villages aren’t so bad off after all.