National Geographic : 1963 May
Drovers and Beasts Leave Leh's Bazaar Street Farmers trudge in to trade barley and yak butter for the salt, sugar, and kerosene of Moslem merchants. Men wear thick felt trou sers under coarse woolen coats girdled with leather sashes. Knitted boots have turned-up toes. Boy at right leads a dzo, a cow-yak hybrid. A rare snowfall flecks the plaza where Ladakhis once played polo; now they compete on a proper field. Even so, Ladakh has always been poor. Its sole industry is agriculture, but only one acre in ten can be farmed. The main crop is a loose-grained barley called grim-an unintentional comment on the land. The harvests barely suffice to feed all the villagers and the lam as. Without the tradi tional income from sup plying the caravans, the country has become even poorer. To build up Ladakh's economy, the Indian Gov ernment has launched an urgent program. Its suc cess is the personal con cern of an aggressive Sikh, Mr. H. S. Butalia, Deputy Commissioner of Ladakh assigned by India's Ministry of Ex ternal Affairs. The bearded Mr. Butalia in vited me for breakfast and talked of his prob lems as he warmed our plates over a stove in his bedroom. "Our soil needs fertilizer," he said. "We have less than three inches of precipitation a year, so we must irrigate. For a start, we hope to make money feeding the Indian Army sta tioned here. We can grow excellent vegeta bles. But our villages are scattered and we need roads." The Deputy Commissioner's enthusiasm touched on many phases of Ladakhi life. 674 "Our schools offer free books and tuition," he said, "and we plan free room and board for children of nomads. Fair-price shops are being set up for salt, sugar, and kerosene. "People said trees wouldn't grow here, but already we have 3,300 acres of new poplars and willows. Now we must find some kind of grass that will grow here. Next year we hope to have electricity in Leh." Cold Audience Warms to Films I had heard there was a movie shown the previous night in a village nearby. Did La dakh have many theaters?