Old Woman off to build roads in Jispa

I chatted up an old lady sitting by the side of the road outside my hotel in the early morning hours in Jispa, a town in Himachal Pradesh on the way to Ladakh. She was busy knitting, with as calm and happy an expression as one could have in the beautiful setting of this town.

She was waiting to go to work – on a road building project of the Government. Probably a part of rural employment guarantee program introduced by the Congress led coalition in power in New Delhi at the time. One wondered how much of a contribution her ageing body would make. But she did make for a fine conversationalist, telling me a thing or two about life in Jispa.

While some villagers get to work as daily wage labour, like the old lady herself, the main occupation was agriculture in the summer months. The principal crop in Jispa is potatoes, sold mostly in the mandi or wholesale market, and peas which are sold locally. In the extremely harsh winters, when temperatures fall many degrees below zero, locals keep themselves busy knitting apparel and weaving carpets – but only for their own use, not to sell.

Surprisingly, all the children in the area go to school according to her. And teachers come too. She may not have been exaggerating. From the activity I saw in the school, it seemed to be running very efficiently. Mind you, this is a big deal in India where teachers are often absent leading to students staying away, aggravating the illiteracy problem even further. The school operates from 10 in the morning till four in the afternoon. And maintains its schedules in the winters too except when excessive snow makes movement impossible.

She was fine with having her photos taken. Before cheerfully going off with six young lady companions to build the road travellers like me drive on.



  1. hello namesty abhi ji………….nice pic……….muje pahchana aap ki pangjispa khandan ki sontu.aap ka photo dekh ka bahot achcha laga………..luv u see u in july

  2. HirnJain Sirrn"Surprisingly, all the children in the area go to school according to her. And teachers come too. She may not have been exaggerating! "rnYou are vary true ,the basic education here are vary good unlike other part of the remote part country .rnTo add it,this small may have population of 300-500. There are people in all walk of life.Either be it military, civil services .They have all excelled in thier respective field. rnEither be it 1947,62 or 71 war people of this place have major contribution.rnOn the back of horses the military supplies were been carried.rnBut, sadly the government has given notice to empty the village for upcoming hydroproject.rnWe have a saying, to lift big stone you need the help of small stone.rnToday we are enjoying the freedom becuase of the contribution of many small village like this.rnchhewang.

  3. Hi Chhewang,

    Thanks for writing to us. Is it true that Jispa is being uprooted? That would be very sad. It is such a beautiful village. And the people are so wonderful there. I will definitely check out news about this hydro project.

  4. Dear Ajay,rnThat’s the problem with our private entities undertakings these projects in hills. They are not self-regulated like our counter parts in developed countries and play their CSR cards just for the namesake. And our mainstream media is hardly interested in all this. Some sporadic protests are going on against these hydro projects but they hardly falls our Govt’s ears.

  5. Oh my God! I know this lady… and probably last time I saw her is back in 1987 when we left the village permanently .. again I visited in 2000 when my beloved uncle passed away…rnI would like to thank the Photographer who had taken such a wonderful pictures.. my eyes just filled in with tears to see Jispa again..rnrnThese days I am very busy .. but Jispa and it surroundings haunts me always….rnIt is very sad soon village would be under the water.. …

  6. I am humbled seeing the picture of this old Lady from Jispa, I had visited Ladakh in Aug 2009 and I am fortunate enough that life is giving me a chance to drive down again to the playground of Himalayas. I admire people of Ladakh who fight all adversities yet always have sense tranquility in their eyes. Thank you for sharing this blog with us Ajay, it brought back the same warmth that I felt in Aug of 2009 to my heart.


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