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The Norman A. Geske Cinema Showcase presents Director Stanzin Dorjai-Gya, who will appear for a Q+A with the audience following the opening night screening of his film THE SHEPHERDESS OF THE GLACIERS at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 28.
My name is Stanzin Dorjai-Gya and I was born in a small village in Ladakh, a region in India’s High Himalayas. For the first 14 years of my life, I was a shepherd boy. I would spend 15 days in school, and the next 15 days I would spend with my sheep and goats in the mountains. They were not only my primary responsibility; they were also my friends and playmates.
Ladakh is an unimaginably remote land, insulated from the rest of the world. It is both beautiful and harsh. Ladakhis have learned how to survive in the shadows of these mountains for centuries, sustaining themselves on what little the earth is able to provide in such extreme conditions—as high as 5,000 meters. Our way of life has rarely been documented; it can only be learned through experience.
My sister, Tsering, is the last shepherdess in my family. Her way of life is impossible to imagine in today’s world filled with gadgets and globalization. For this reason, I wanted to document her story, which holds infinite lessons, particularly for those who want to understand the importance of being self-sustaining.
It was not until I began traveling outside of Ladakh that I could appreciate the value of my culture, particularly in a world where on the outside, it seemed that a simple way of life had little meaning. However, I now see my people through different eyes. My perspective has changed. My sister is much more than just a shepherdess, she is living example of a life based on independence and inter-dependence.
How many people could survive as she does?
The world is always moving forward, but as we get bigger, Tsering’s small world somehow grows bigger in importance as well, showing us what one human is capable of with such limited resources, sustaining not only herself but her entire flock—passing through the seasons of the year, the seasons of life, and all of this with only a radio as her only token of technology.
She does not rely on the television to give her a weather forecast, she knows how to read the land and the skies. She does not balance her bank account at the end of the month, she is always saving and spending exactly what she needs—no more, no less. But most of all, she has a depth of compassion that is as boundless as the mountains that surround her, and though she is my sister and our lives have taken two very different paths, she will always be my greatest teacher.
In making this film, it is my hope that I can not only share some of the lessons she has taught me, but also the wisdom of my fellow Ladakhis, who, though they are increasingly influenced by globalization, they will always live in their remote land, living both independently and interdependently.