Mountains

On servile shepherds of the mountains…

Shepherds, like cowboys, are a romanticized lot, maybe it stems from the fact that it remains one of the oldest subsistence activities of the civilized homo sapien, something that has stood the test of time and remain unscathed, come war or peace… it is quite baffling that an occupation so resilient has been looked down upon for millennia… the perception of a farmer remains that of an assiduous disposition, toiling the earth to create and produce, while the shepherd is a lowly wayfarer, exploiting the fruits of the earth for his own herd… maybe the transient nature of the activity creates the illusion of exploitation, but one does sympathize with the herder for this misconception…

Shepherds of Western Himalaya, Kashmir, India

But shepherds are celebrated too, in the same cultures that ironically discredit them… they are wise and benevolent, their perseverance reflected in the compassion with which they treat their livestock… the Christian lord is but a good shepherd guiding people away from all those sins and their consequent dangers…

Shepherds of Western Himalaya, Kashmir, India

In the mountains, shepherds are the one of the last bastions of adventure and exploration, while men may traverse the impossible crags and desolate icy massifs decked in all that jewellery of the outdoors, shepherds are a throwback to the age on nonchalance… there is a necessity to their sojourns across harsh landscapes but they do it with such a casual aplomb that the modern day adventurer with his immaculate plans and attire almost looks like a parody…

Shepherds of Western Himalaya, Himachal Pradesh, India

True, the latter scales heights that the former wouldn’t even dare, but then there are no elaborate appendages to the shepherds’ accomplishments, or ambitions for that matter… their passage through the mountains is carved out of a slow, rigorous studies of elements, a traditional knowledge system built over hundreds of years that borders on minimalism… from weather to wildlife, there is no dearth of everyday challenges, or less demanding occupations, but like mountaineers, shepherds seem driven by that unknown pull where one craves for isolation and danger as a means of self-enrichment…

Shepherds of Western Himalaya, Kashmir, India

These shepherds seem under a spell, give them the faintest of chances and they will forsake all worldly possessions for the cold solitude of the highlands, watching the turns of the weather and supervising calving amidst their livestock, leaving sick animals to wither away and breathing elegies in a sigh over the antics of the ursine or feline… for a shepherd is stoic yet sentimental, authoritative in silence, humbled and then adopted by the elements…

Himachal Pradesh, India

Musings on Himalayan shepherds…

Author: Parth Joshi

Allured by the outdoors, the author is made up in parts of that quintessential lost soul wreathing under the pangs of biophilia in a desk job, a wannabe elegist mostly ending up in dungeons of poetasters and an optimist waiting for the senility of the modern world to fade away while sampling shoots and leaves. In saner times, he has a keen interest in areas pertaining to tourism, history, agriculture and climate change, especially with respect to historical interpretations, emerging technologies and future livelihoods. An avid trekker, runner, cyclist, birder and photographer, he is more often than not found gloating over anything hinterland, on foot or over computer monitors, and fantasizing solutions that can foster inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods for communities at the grassroots.

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