2 LEARNING FROM LADAKH Helena Norberg-Hodge Learning from Ludakh is the subtitle of Helena Norberg-Hodge's book Ancient Futures. She feels that...
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23 THE POST-DEVELOPMENT READER of households that help each other out at the time of birth, marriage and death. The goup consists of between four and twelve households, sometimes from difierent villages. Generally they share the same household god, who is believed to protect the families from harm and disease. At NewYear, ofl'erings are made to the god at a small shrine on the roof of each house. The paspun is most active at the time of a funeral. Afier death, the body is kept in the family house until the day of cremation (usually a week or so later), but the family does not need to touch it. The paspun members have the responsibility to wash and prepare the body; from the moment of death until the body has been totally consumed by fire, it is they who arrange most of the work so that the relatives are spared unnecessary distress. A monk comes to read from the Bards Nodal, the Tibetan Book qf the Dead, for the period before the fizneral. The consciousness of the dead person is told of experiences in the afterlife and urged not to be afi'aid of demons, but to turn instead toward the pure white light, the 'clear light of the void'. On the day of the cremation, hundreds of people gather at the house, bringing the customary gifts of bread and barley flour. The relatives of the deceased, in particular the women, sit in the kitchen smiling the mourning Chant over and over between tears: "Tussi lame, tum" lama ...'('Like falling autumn leaves, the leaves of time'). Neighbours and friends file past, express— ing sympathy: 'Tserka matha' ('Don't be sad'). The sounds of the monks' music and chanting fill the house. ' The first fiineral I attended was in the village of Stok, when a friend's grandfather died. Just after midday we were served a meal. The paspun members were in a sense acting as hosts.When they were not stirring the giant thirty—gallon pors of butter tea, we could see them dashing around with plates of food in their hands, making sure everyone was served. In the early afternoon, while the women stayed behind at the house. the monks led the funeral procession to the cremation site. Wearing brightly coloured brocade and till headdresses with thick black fringes hanging down met their eyes, they emerged. from the chapel with a great flurry of drums and shawms. They walked slowly through the fields toward the edge of the village. Behind them came the pespun: four men carrying the body on a litter, with the others bringing wood for the fire. After them' followed a long line of male firiends and relatives.As the monks performed the 'burning of oninga' beside the small clay oven, the paspun alone remained with them, tending the fire. The paspun, just like the chats-o, brings a sense of belonging to an intimate group that remains together for life, united by a common purpose. In traditional Ladakhi society, people have special linlo not only with their own family and inunediate neighbours, but with households scattered throughout the entire region as well. Again, human scale allows for flexibility. If, for instance, a paspun member happens to be in the middle of the harvest or some other crucial work when a funeral is to take place, no unbending rule says that he must drop his work and go. If he cannot be there, he may talk with other HELENA NORBERG-HODGE 29 paspun members and make arrangements for someone else to take his place. Much firming work is shared, either by the whole community or by smaller subgroups like the charm. During the harvest, for instance, farmers help one another to gather their crops. This works well since fields ripen at difi'erent times even in the same village. With everyone working together, the harvest can be gathered in quickly as soon as it is ripe. 323, as shared work of this sort is called, often incorporates more than one village, and the reasons in it are not always purely economic. Some farmers will stagger the harvest, even when two fields are ripe at the same we, just so they can work together. You almost never see people harvesting alone; instead, you find groups of men, women and children all together in the fields — always with constant laughter and song. Rams (literally, 'goat turn') is the comrlwnal shepherding of animals. It is not necessary for someone from each household to go up to the mountains with the animals every single day; instead one or two people take all the sheep and goats fiom several households and leave everyone else flee to do other work. Private property is also shared. The small stone houses up at the phu (grazing land), though owned by one household, will be used by many, usually in exchange for some work, or milk or cheese. In the same my, the water mills used for grinding grain are available to everyone. If you do not own one yourself, you can make arrangements to use someone else's; and only in late autumn, when water is very scarce and everyone is trying to grind as much grain as possible for Winter. might you compensate the owner with some of the ground flour. At the busiest times of the agricultural year, farm tools and draft animals are shared. Especially at the time of sowing — when the earth is finally ready afier the long winter and farmers must work hard to prepare the fields — families pool their resources to enable everything to be done as quickly as possible. Again this practice is sufficiently formalized to have a name, Ihangsde, but within this formal structure, too, a high degree of fleadbility is possible. Once E ms in the village of Sakti at sowing time. Two households had an arrangement whereby they shared animals, plough and labour for the few days before sowing could start. Their neighbour, Sonam Tsering, who was not a part of the group, ms ploughing his own fields when one of his size (a hybrid between the local cow and a yak) sat down and refused to work any Eonger. I thought at first that it was just being stubborn, but Tsering told me that the animal was ill and that he feared it was seriousjust as we were sitting at the edge of the field wondering what to do, the farmer floor next door came by and without a moment's hesitation offered his own help as well as the help of the others in his Ihmgsde group. That evening, after they had finished their own work, they all came over to Tsering's fields with their 1120. As always, they sang as they worked, and long after dark, when I could no longer see them, I could still hear their song.

THE POST-DEVELOPMENT READER 27 26 HELENA NORBERG-HODGE Once two villagers, Namgyal and Chospel, came to the house with a problem. Namgyal started telling us what had happened: 'My horse, Rompo, Popular Traditions of Frugality got loose this morning. I had tied her to a big stone while I went in to talk Popular traditions of frugality were not ideologies, they were living practices. to Norbu about his broken plough. I don't know how she got loose, but They were the way the ordinary women and men carried out their daily lives somehow she did.' 'I saw her from my rooftop', Chospel continued. 'She was and taught their children to follow them. That all this should have been dis- munching away at my barley; she had already chewed off a whole corner of carded overnight was a grievous loss, and grievously we are paying for it. To the field. I threw a stone to scare her off, but then I saw her fall; I must have want to re-evaluate and revalue these traditions has nothing to do with a hurt her.' desire to return, to inflict a life of penny-pinching misery and privation upon Throwing stones, often with a yak-hair sling, is the way in which Ladakhis the people. It is rather to wish to restore a sense of balance against the usually keep their animals under control, and they can throw with astonishing celebration of waste, the sanctification of the superfluous. That we have de- accuracy. I have seen them control whole flocks of sheep nearly half a mile veloped a capacity to see this as normal, even as essential, is an indication of away with a few deftly placed stones. But this time, Chospel's aim had been immeasurable losses; loss of judgement and discrimination among them. off, and he had hit the horse just below the knee, injuring her leg. Who Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook, Revolt Against Change: should compensate whom? And for how much? Although the horse's injury Towards a Conserving Radicalism, Vintage, London, 1993, p. 78. was more serious than the loss of the barley, Namgyal was guilty of an offence that could not be overlooked. To protect their crops, Ladakhis have agreed on strict rules about stray animals, and each village has someone, called a lorapa, specially appointed to catch them and collect a fine from the and networks of which they are a part, seeing the effects of their actions and owner. After much discussion, the three men decided that no compensation thus feeling a sense of responsibility. And because their actions are more was necessary either way. As Paljor told Namgyal: 'Hurting Rompo's leg was visible to others, they are more easily held accountable. an accident, and you were careless in letting her go loose.' Economic and political interactions are almost always face to face; buyer Before coming to Ladakh, I had always thought that the best judges were and seller have a personal connection, a connection that discourages careless- the ones who were in no way connected with the individuals they were ness or deceit. As a result, corruption or abuse of power is very rare. Smaller judging; maintaining this neutrality and distance, it seemed, was the only scale also limits the amount of power vested in one individual. What a differ- way of administering real justice. Perhaps it is, when you are talking about a ence between the president of a nation-state and the goba in a Ladakhi village: society on the scale of our own. But, having lived in Ladakh for many years, one has power over several millions of people whom he will never meet and I have had to change my mind. Though no system of justice can be perfect, who will never have the opportunity to speak to him; the other coordinates none is more effective than one that is based on small, close-knit communi- the affairs of a few hundred people whom he knows intimately, and who ties and that allows people to settle their problems at a grassroots level, by interact with him on a daily basis. discussion among themselves. I have learned that when the people settling In the traditional Ladakhi village, people have much control over their disputes are intimately acquainted with the parties involved, their judgement own lives. To a very great extent they make their own decisions rather than is not prejudiced; on the contrary, this very closeness helps them to make being at the mercy of faraway, inflexible bureaucracies and fluctuating markets. fairer and sounder decisions. Not only do smaller units allow for a more The human scale allows for spontaneous decision-making and action based human form of justice, they also help prevent the sort of conflict that is so on the needs of the particular context. There is no need for rigid legislation: much a part of larger communities. instead, each situation brings forth a new response. In fact, the more time I spent in Ladakh, the more I came to realize the Ladakhis have been fortunate enough to inherit a society in which the importance of scale. At first, I sought to explain the Ladakhis' laughter and good of the individual is not in conflict with that of the whole community; absence of anger or stress in terms of their values and religion. These did, no one person's gain is not another person's loss. From family and neighbours to doubt, play an important role. But gradually I became aware that the exter- members of other villages and even strangers, Ladakhis are aware that helping nal structures shaping the society, scale in particular, were just as important. others is in their own interest. A high yield for one farmer does not entail a They had a profound effect on the individual and in turn reinforced his or low yield for another. Mutual aid, rather than competition, shapes the her beliefs and values. Since villages are rarely larger than a hundred houses, economy. It is, in other words, a synergistic society. the scale of life is such that people can directly experience their mutual Co-operation is formalized in a number of social institutions. Among the interdependence. They have an overview and can comprehend the structures most important is the paspun. Every family in the village belongs to a group

24 , THE POST-DEVELOPMENT READER have the opprmsive reflect on the individual that one might have imagined. On the contrary, I am now convinced that being a part of a. close-knit community provides a profound sense of security. In traditional Ladalrh, aggression of any sort is exceptionally rare — rare enough to say that it is virtually nonexistent. If you ask a Ladakhi to tell you about the last fight he can remember. you are likely to get mischievous answers like 'I'm always beating up my neighbour. Only yesterday, I tied him to a tree and cut both his ears ofi'.' Should you get a serious answer, you will be told that there has been no fighting in the village in living memory. Even arguments are rare. I have hardly ever seen anything more than mild dis- agreement in the traditional villages — certainly nothing compared with what you find in the West. Do the Ladakhis conceal or repress their feelings? I asked Sonam once, 'Don't you luve arguments? We do in the West all the-time.' He thought for a minute. 'Not in the villages, no 7 well, very, very seldom, anyway' 'How do wu manage it?' I asked. He laughed. 'What a funny question.We just live with each other, that's all.' 'So what happens if two people disagree — say, about the boundaries of their land?' iThey'll talk about it, of course, and discuss it. What would you expect them to do?' I didn't reply. One means of ensuring a lack of Eriction in traditional Iadaklii society is something I call the 'spontaneous intermediary'.As soon as any sort of difl'er— ence arises between two parties, a third party is there to act as arbiter. What— ever the circumstances, whoever is involved, an intermediary always seems to be on hand. It happens automatically; without any prompdng; the interme— diary is not consciously sought and can be anyone who happens to be around; it might be an older sister, or a neighbor, or just a passing stranger. I have seen the process function even with young children. I remember watching a five-year-old settling a. squabble between two of his friends in this way. They listened to him willingly. The feeling that peace is better than conflict is so deeply ingrained that people turn automatically to a third party. This mechanism prevents problems from arising in the first place. The spontaneous intermediary, it seems, is always around in any context that might possibly lead to conflict. If two people are involved in trade, for example, they can be sure that someone will be there to help them strike a deal. This way they avoid the possibility of direct confrontation. In most situations, the parties already know one another. but if someone unknown to the others intervenes, it is not seen as meddling — the help will be welcomed. - One spring I was traveling on a truck from Kargil to Zanskar. Since snow still covered the road, the journey was taking longer than usual, but though it was rough and uncomfortable, I was enjoying the experience. It was fasci— hating observing our driver. He was exceptionally large and burly for a Ladakhi and had become a bit ofa hero in the short time since the road had been built. Everywhere along the way, people knew him. Travelling up and down the road every few weeks, he had become an important personage in HELENA NokaERG-HODGE 15 the eyes of the villagers — sending messages, delivering parcels and carrying passengers. He had brought a sack of rice, for which he wanted some of the famous creamy Zanslcari butter. As he approached an old woman, a large crowd gathered around. Suddenly a young buy no more than twelve years old was taking charge. He was telling this King of the Road how much to expect, what was reasonable. The Whole affair lasted fifteen minutes, the driver and the old woman bartering through the young lad, never directly with each other. It seemed incongruous, this big tough man meckly following the advice of a boy half his size, yet so appropriate. Traditional Ladakhi villages are run democratically; and, with few excep- tions, every family owns its own land. Disparities in wealth are minimal. About 95 per cent of the population belong to what one might call a middle class.The remainder is split more or less evenly between an aristocracy and a lower class. This latter group is made up primarily of Mons, the early settlers of Ladakh, who are usually carpenters and blacksmiths. Their low status is attributed to the fact that extracting metals from the earth is thought to anger the spirits. Differences between than: three classes exist, but they do not give rise to social tension. In contrast to European social boundaries, the classes interact on a day-to-dsy basis. It would not be unusual to see a Mon, for instance, joking with a member of the royal family. Since every farmer is almost completely self-sufi'lcient, and thus largely independent, there is little need for communal decision—making; each house- hold essentially works in own land with its own resources. Many acuvities that would otherwise require the whole village to sit down and draw up plans — like the painting of the village monastery or arrangements for Lasar (New Year) — have been worked out many generations ago and are now done by rotation. Nonetheless, sometimes matters have to be decided on a village level. Larger villages are divided up into rhutsos, or groups of ten houses, each of which has at least one representative on the village council. This body meets periodically throughout the year and is presided over by the goba, or village head. The gain: is usually appointed by rotation. If the whole village Wants to keep him on, he may hold his position for many years, but otherwise after a year or so the job will pass on to another householder. One of the gaba's jobs is to act as adjudicator. Though arguments are unusual, from time to time some difl'erences of opinion arise that need settling. Visiting the gain: is a relaxed occasion, with little formality. Often the parties involved sit in the kitchen and discuss the problem together with the help of a little tea or timing (a kind of beer made fi-om barley). I have spent a lot of time in the house of Paljor, the gain: in die'village ofTongde. Esterung as he helped to settle disputes. Since my research in Tongde focused on child—rearing practices, I would often sit in the kitchen with Faljor's wife,Tsering, who had just had a baby. People would come in from time to dose to talk to Paljor.

2 LEARNING FROM LADAKH Helena Norberg-Hodge Learning from Ludakh is the subtitle of Helena Norberg-Hodge's book Ancient Futures. She feels that Western society has much to learn from the traditional style of life of the Himalayan people of Ladakh, which she first visited in I975. In the first part of the book. under 'Tradition', she describes the agricultural cycle of the society. the relationships between members of the community, their attitudes to health and illness. and their religious beliefs (the Ladakhis are Buddhists).All through she stresses the 'ioie de vivre' that seemed to pervade the whole community. despite its harsh environmental setting and lack of material comforts. It is diiiicuit to excerpt from this book. which illustrates so well the main thesis of our own anthology. We have chosen to reproduce here Chapter 4, 'We Have to Live To- gether', which depim how people in a society at peace with itself and with nature relate to each other, and how tolerance and harmony are held as supreme values. The second part of the book. entitled 'Change' recounts a sad story. It describes how, over the last two decades, external forces have descended on Ladakh like an avalanche. causing massive and rapid disruption of the society, especially in the capital, Leh. The process of change started in the mid-W705. when the Indian Government opened up the region to tourism, and to development — which, of course, means Western-style development Roads, energy. medicine and education have undoubtedly brought some benefits to the Ladakha's — but at what cost! Part Three, 'Looking Ahead'. consists of the most searing indictment of development and h: impact on the Ladakhis.The author contrasts the vernacular Ladakh, where people had no notion of poverty, to the emerging one, where the new economic paradigms have introduced modernized poverty, and where the breakdown of the old community ties and values is causing irreversible damage. Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. is published In the USA in I99l by The Sierra Club (730 Polk Street, San Francisco. CA HID-1v). and In the rest of the world in I992 by Rider Books (Random Century, London). HELENA NDRBERG-HODGE has studied numerous cultures at varying degrees of industrialization: In Bhutan, rural France and Spain, as well as twenty years In Latiakh. She helped found the local Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG). which seeks to adapt change to Ladakh's decentralized community structures without sacrificing cultural values or ecological stability. The author also founded HELENA NORBERG~HDDGE 23 0 International Society for Ecology and Culture (2i Victoria Square, Clifton, rlstol 358 4E5, UK) to promote discussion of the social and environmental mpact of economic development and globalization. 'WE HAVE TO LiVE TOGETHER' Even aman with a hundred horses may need to ask another for a whip. Ladakhi saying by can't you give us a room? We'll pay a reasonable price? Angchuk and Dolma looked down. indicating that they were not going to I, change their minds. 'You talk to Ng'awang', they repeated. 'But we're already renting rooms fi'om him, and it's getting quite noisy: There's no reason why . we should rent yet another one fiom him.' 'You're staying with Ngawang . now, and he might be oEended if we ofier you a room.' 'I'm sure he wouldn't I be so unfair! Please go ahead and give us a mom, won't you?' 'Talk to him first — we have to live together.' I was spending the summer of 1983 with a team of'profecsozs doing scale-ecological research in the village ofTongde in Zanskar.After a mouth or so, some of them. felt the need for an extra. room for quiet study, Since the house where we were saying was full of young and boisterous children, we thought we would ask the neighbours. At first I felt annoyed at Angchuk and Dolma's stubborn refilsal. To me, with my emphasis on individual rights, this seemed so unfair. But their reaction, 'We have to live together', made me think. it seemed that to the Ladaithis the overriding issue ms coexistence. It was more important to keep good relations with you: naighbour than to earn some money Another time, 30mm and his neighbour had asked the carpenter to make some window firamcs; they were both building extensions to their houses. When the carpenter was finished, he brought all the frames to the neigh— bour. A few days later, I went with Sonam to collect them. Some were missing; his neighbour had used more than he had ordered.Th:is was a con- siderable inconvenience to Sonam since he could do no further construction work until the frames were in place, and it was going to take several weeks to have new ones made. Yet he showed no signs of resentment or anger. When I suggested to him. that his neighbour had behaved badly, he simply said, 'Maybe he needed them more urgently than I did.' 'Aren't you going to ask for an explanation?' i asked. Sonam just smiled and shrugged his shoul- ders. 'Chi thorn? ("What's the point?'). 'Anywau we have to live together? A concern not to ofi'end or upset one another is deeply looted in Ladakhi society; people avoid situations that might lead to friction or conflict. When someone transgresses this unwritten law, as in the case of Sonam's neighbour, extreme tolerance is the response. And yet concern for community does not

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