This is a story of unusual grit and passion. A story of a young man, Tsewang Dorje, who chose to stay in his village after completing his graduation. With only a primary school in his village, located near the world-famous Pangong Tso (Lake), Dorje had to literally earn his education. Development still hadn’t reached the village and the villagers are either farmers or working in Army Camps as porters. It was a tough choice between a decent earning at Leh (the nearest town located at hours journey from the village) or working for the development of his village as a volunteer. Till he was 17 years old, Dorje had just heard of a computer from his relatives, who were staying in the bigger towns.
After completing his primary education in his village, Dorje became one of the few students from his village who actually left home to pursue his higher education dreams. His passion to pursue higher studies was backed with a drive to change the fate of his village and his own community.
Once educated, the youth of the villages, usually opts for government jobs and desire to live a much comfortable life. Dorje, after earning his master’s in commerce was faced the same dilemma. “I used to think about my village all the time. We didn’t have a decent school or hospital. We didn’t have a road to our village for many years. My friends worked as cooks or guides in the tourist camps during the tourist season. The agriculture methods practiced in the village were also old and resulted in a low yield. The only option the youth of the villagers had, was to shift to Leh”- says Dorje.
But as they say,” where there is a will, there is always a way”. The young man, who was spending the winter month with his family and still exploring his future, met the Mountain Homestays team when their village Maan was being electrified in March 2018. Actively involved in village activities, Dorje showed keen interest in the electrification project and joined hands with the engineers to solve the energy poverty problem of his village. The dream of helping his own community and bring about development was now becoming a reality. He saw the opportunity and he immediately grabbed it with both hands.
After his village was electrified, Dorje was appointed as a village coordinator by mountain homestays for his work and dedication towards the development of his village, facilitating the maintenance of the solar micro-grids installed during the project. Post electrification, Mountain Homestays started working on the idea of setting up homestays at Maan. The objective was to counter the migration of the indigenous communities by providing a medium to earn at a local level. Communicating in both English and Hindi, Dorje proved to be an effective link between the tourists and the community. Fortune favors the brave. Dorje’s tremendous ownership towards the project opened us more doors for the village, when the project of Astro-Tourism, linking astronomy to the homestays, kicked off Maan village. A group of Astronomers flew to Ladakh to train 40 villagers on Astronomy. Dorje and his team of four women from his village were part of the training program. His village Maan became India’s first Astro-village. The team started conducting a star-gazing session with a 10” state of the art telescope that was set up at his village on which he and his team was trained. In 2019, hundreds of tourists who passed his village, stopped by, to be part of the unique Himalayan night sky stargazing sessions. Dorje even got an opportunity to represent the Astro-stay to Union Tourism Minister of India – Mr. Prahlad Singh Patel at an event in Delhi.
“The astronomy training turned out to be a life-changing event for my village. I felt happy and proud while explaining the planets and the secrets of the universe to the tourists. Tourists told me that even they didn’t know so much about the Dark skies”, Dorje says with a smile.
Having recently learnt ice hockey, Dorje represents the spirit of the young Ladakh. A youth that wants to contribute to the growth story of his village but also inspire his generation to follow in his footsteps. A testimony of a youth, who is concerned not only about the local issues, but also wants to focus on a solution rather than the problem.