I have just finished reading Gerda Pauler’s new book Dolpo people and landscapes and it’s taken me right back to Dolpo. Gerda gets under the skin of the Dolpo-pa. She takes the reader by the hand through the dramatic Dolpo landscape, she wanders amongst its houses and temples and talks to its people.
There isn’t much text but there are lots of images and each one paints more than a thousand words. It is through the images, pages of smiling people, that we really get to experience what it is like to travel through Dolpo.
Chapters cover every aspect of Dolpo life. Life for girls and women, life at school, the culture of the Dolpo-pa, neighbours to Tibet but distinctive, religion in Dolpo, the seasons and life during the year in a Dolpo village, medicine and traditional health care, wildlife and conservation, trade and commodities, tourism and the film industry.
Although often perceived as remote and at the very edge of one of the smallest countries in the world, Gerda reveals the character and bounce of Dolpo. In spite of the dramatic landscape, the harsh environment, in the shadow of political indifference and exploited by the world, the indomitable character of the Dolpo-pa comes through. Their philosophy as a people that we need to tread lightly on the earth and their preoccupation with ice cream reflects everyday conservations, refracting from the big philosophical questions of our time to the wonder of the new.
Gerda uses quotes throughout the book and we gain through them the feeling that this is a book written by the Dolpo-pa. An authentic voice comes through:
…. life in Dolpo is hard and it is difficult to make ends meet, but I prefer it this way. The only thing I would have liked to take with me from the capital – a comfortable house with running water and heating. (Dondul)
My greatest wish is to become an amchi (doctor) like my father. In other times, the knowledge was passed onto an amchi’s son only, but my father and a group of other practitioners wanted this system to be changed. Now, everybody can join the training; also girls. (Tsering Sangmo)
….. it was tourism and not our own government that gave us schools, health posts and wind power. I am convinced that, in the long run, we will benefit from foreigners visiting Dolpo. (Tenzing Namdol)
If you want to understand a people, their landscape and their way of living in a remote and beautiful part of the world, read this. And take your inspiration to visit or support one of the projects that is building a future for Dolpo and its people:
www.drokpa.org who work with the Himalayan Amchi Association
Gerda’s book is available here: http://www.gerdapauler.info/books