Born in 1936 to Tibetan parents, Norphel hails essay from Skarra village, 2.5 kms away from Leh in Ladakh. All 100 families of his village have traditionally been subsistence farmers, cultivating wheat, barley, mustard and peas. As a child, he tended cows and yaks, while his father tilled the hard and crusty soil. Tucked away in the Himalayas between Pakistan and China, Ladakh is a sweeping expanse of land – rich in history, stark in beauty, colourful in culture and awe-inspiring in its Buddhist heritage.
But misery clouded this Shangri La. Ladakh’s greatest ghostwriting enemy is neither its remoteness nor its winter chill, but it’s aridity. It’s a treacherous case of scarcity amidst abundance. Melting snows generate millions of gallons of water. But as it flows into the mountain streams too late in the year, most of the water goes waste. Understandably, nothing grows in Ladakh in winter as it’s too cold. Cultivation is limited to the extremely short season of spring and summer warmth. Spring arrives in April but by the time the great Himalayan glaciers melt to fill the mountain streams, it is June.