Last Updated on June 5, 2020 by asoulwindow
This blog is about the #MyGration Story of a shepherd I met near Zoji La Pass in Ladakh. It is a part of a series which I run on my blog. You can follow the hashtag #MyGrationSW series on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter too. (Links below). To read other migration stories on my blog, pls see the tab MyGration Story.
TYRE PUNCTURE AND HITCHHIKING!
Just as we crossed the famous Zoji La Pass during our 12 day long epic road trip across Ladakh, one of the tyres of a car in our convoy got punctured. I hitchhiked my way on a truck to arrive near the Zoji La War memorial where other friends were getting the tyre repaired. As we got it fixed in one of the army outposts, I used the time to explore the places near the camp.
AN OCEAN OF SHEEP- TRAFFIC JAM IN THE HILLS!
As I was strolling aimlessly, I was amazed to see an ocean of sheep cascading from the hill. A shepherd single handedly herded the huge flock of sheep in to a designated resting place for the sheep near the Zoji La pass. He was returning after another tiring day of taking his sheep to feed on the open grasslands. Within minutes I and my co traveler Johann were engulfed in a sea of sheep.
THE #MYGRATION STORY OF A NOMAD SHEPHERD!
I was tempted to know his story. Somehow managing to get myself out of the parade of the sheep, I approached him. Upon my request, he readily agreed to talk to me even as his sheep made their way to their resting camp on their own.
The name of the light eyed shepherd was Mushtaq Ahmed Chopan. Hailing from Sumbal Bala village (district Ganderbal), he spends much of his time till October in high altitude mountains. November onwards he shifts to lower altitude along with his sheep and other family members.
AN ARTS GRADUATE WHO HAD NO CHOICE THAN TO BE A SHEPHERD
It was not his choice to become a shepherd. He told me that he is an Arts graduate and unemployement pushed him to become a shepherd. His mother and sister still live in Sumbal Bala while he leads a nomadic life along with his father, uncles and cousin brothers. From June to October he lives in tents near Zoji La pass.
EVERY ONE WANTS A PIECE OF SHEEP!
The sheep adapted to cold and high altitudes spend the night in the open fields. The sheep are strong animals who withstand cold and rain with aplomb. They are of course guarded by the pet dogs. The sheep face threat from wild bears and leopards. Even army men demand sheep for their meat.
The herd often passes through snow covered hills in search of greener pastures. Though many of the sheep in the flock is owned by his family, some of his sheep are owned by the Government. He takes care of them on a paid basis. Mushtaq’s eyes light up when he tells me with a smile, “Despite their large numbers I know how to identify the sheep!”
This blog is the part of my series on the 12 days long road trip through Ladakh in Incredible India on invitation by Scout My Trip and OYO Rooms It takes fun company to make Highest Blogger Meet at Khandungla top happen!
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23 thoughts on “MYGRATION STORY OF A SHEPHERD NEAR ZOJI LA PASS, LADAKH. INCREDIBLE INDIA!”
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This is what a road trip is all about! I remember on the same trip how a police constable we were giving a lift to helped out in repairing our vehicle. Came from nowhere helped and once dropped him at his destination, vanished. Sometimes fact is truly stranger than fiction !
Very well said Deepak. Travel teaches you that there are more good Samaritans than we would like to believe. I remember that police constable.
This is such an inspiring story. Its a shame he couldn’t pursue his dream but he’s making the best of his situation. I hope your piece and his story is able to spark some movement to help him and others to try and purse their passion.
This is a really wonderful story. I definitely think I would like to live life like he does, sounds so peaceful. Your pictures are stunning by the way, thank you for sharing such a touching story.
This was very interesting to learn about!
I love all the pictures of the shepherds with their sheep! I feel like I only see stuff like this in the movies. So cool!
Wow!! I must say that that life seems peaceful, just him and the sheep, no distractions, no crowds or noise except that of the sheep. What a great story!!
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“Traffic jam of sheep”… lol perfect way to describe it! The area looks absolutely beautiful. As lovely as it is, though, I hope that Mushtaq gets to follow his dreams soon!
I remember you telling me the story of this guy when we got separated during the trip, However, seeing it with your pictures is something else. Well written Abhinav. You cannot but empathize with the shepherd and his tale. Could not have brought it out any better than you have.
That is sad an arts graduate becoming a shepherd. You have made good use of your travel and halt time.
Loved seeing the pics a lot.
You made good use of the time when the tyre was punctured at the army checkpoint in Ladakh. A lot of people would have complained and got frustrated. You managed to make unique photos and meet interesting people. The life of a shepherd sounds a tough one, and he didn’t really have another life choice!
So nice to finally read about this shepherd we met on that trip. Sometimes life stories like these, give us a deeper sense of empathy and understanding of life itself. While we sometimes take our lives for granted there are some who have no choice. Yet they live a much happier and fulfilling life. Thanks for sharing this man’s story.
Yes. Johann. Very well said. That’s all that matters. He looked so content with his life. And why not. After all, he gets the best views and fresh air every single day. I am glad that you were with me in this moment. Hope to travel more with you in future. Cheers.
What an incredible story – thanks for sharing! I had no idea you could get wild bears and leopards in Ladakh until reading this! I love that the shepherd assured you that he could identify each of his sheep from one another! A pity about the employment market in the world today – I too am an arts graduate who struggled to get work and eventually retrained.
I love that little boy’s attitude in posing. So damn cool!
Interesting interview. Though its a bit disheartening, its nice to know that he managed self-employment rather than to stay unemployed!
This kind of encounter and story is why I love traveling so much and I wish I had meet Mushtaq and his sheeps in person. It must have been a great deal watching the hundreds of sheeps all together in harmony with their shepherds and the dogs.
Wow, it would be such a cool experience to meet someone who has so much history and lives a life that is so different – yet similar – to mine. The trek from the upper mountain sounds like a big one, thank goodness for the dogs to help out! I didn’t know that army men would steal sheep for meat, that’s an interesting bit of information!
What a great story! It’s such a shame he had to turn to shepherding because he couldn’t find a job. I’m sure the work is hard but hopefully also rewarding.
The memory and identification of animals of these people is amazing……… even the sheeps know who their master is…….
True. A different world altogether. Something absent in urban spaces.