People Out There: Dolma, Ladakhi nomad
While returning back from Pangong Tso my good friend and tempo driver, Lhawang stopped our vehicle near Tso Lak around 25km from our home stay in the village of Tangse.
Lhawang told me he had a special person I should meet. An old nomadic lady named Dolma, who lives in a small tent made out of yak skin and fur. Her husband and she have a herd of yaks.
Dolma who is around 65 years has been shifting between homes from her village in Rumsu Valley and Tso Lak. She moves back to her village in winters and comes to the more commercial side during summers to sell yak milk and butter.
While our travellers were enjoying a glass of milk, I asked Lhawang to be my translator since she only spoke Ladakhi and Tibetan.
Dolma told us, she has been rearing yaks ever since she was a child. Today, she own around 25. These yaks she said, are not just a source of income but are like her children. She has named all of them and her favourite is a brown yak named Yuri who has been with her for 12 years.
When we asked her, if we could have a look at her house. She was apprehensive. She said it was too small for us city people to step into. Lhawang convinced her and she took us in. For the first time I was inside a Ladakhi nomad’s tent.
It was surprisingly warm inside, even though it was cold and windy outside. The tent had a basic setup with a small tandoor (heater), a few mattresses and a cooking stove. Dolma was kind to make us tea prepared out of yak milk.
While chatting I asked how nomad life was. She said over the years, it’s been getting hard, since they live off the land.
Drastic changes in weather conditions are causing the pastures for her yaks to graze to shrink.
When I asked about her children, she smiled saying she has four children.They have married and settled in various Ladakhi towns. Her favourite the youngest joined the monastery in Alchi and comes once a month in summer to meet her.
We concluded our chat with Lhawang asking her to pose for a picture outside her tent, which she happily agreed to and as promised we gave her a hard copy of it.
It was her first ever hard copy picture of herself. Shocking in today’s selfie age.