Demul village performance sponsored by Nicky
A huge thank you to Nicky, who has very generously sponsored our performance in Demul Village.
Demul is a village tucked between high mountains. The story goes that a resident of a nearby village lost his Demo (Female Yak). He began searching for it in the pastures. He later found the Demo grazing in a place with really long grass. So the soil seemed fertile. Soon, he along with few other villagers moved to this new land and made it their home. They called it Demul, after the female yak who found the place.
Demul is the largest of the villages we are performing in, with a population of 279, arranged in 50 or so households. It is also one of the most remote in the Spiti Valley. At 4320m above sea level, the air is thin and life is tough.
Image © lifeinspiti.com
When we get to Demul it will be pea harvest time. Everyone, kids included, will be hard at work all day in the fields, bringing in the harvest, their only cash crop. Fingers crossed for this summer - there hasn't been much snow over winter and there are fears for drought a second year running in this cold desert.
Villagers in Demul, like many other villages, grow potatoes, barley and peas. For everything else they have to travel to Kaza, even for something as basic as salt. And those commodities in Kaza have come over the mountains. It’s hard to imagine what life was like before cars and buses were around to make these journeys shorter.
We will be performing for families at the end of the working day.
Image © lifeinspiti.com
Demul has approached the growing tourist industry with a very socialist plan!
Unlike other villages of Spiti, the hospitality in this village is controlled. It works like a taxi union. You cannot choose where to stay.
On arrival, you are met by a village elder, who makes sure every homestay in the village gets its turn to host the tourists. The elders allots them turn by turn, and rules are clear.
This ensures everyone in the village prospers equally.
What do you think of this model? On one hand it’s wonderful that the money from tourism is shared equally. On the other hand, homestays are not rewarded for being better than anyone at what they do, so there’s no incentive to have the best food or the cleanest toilet!
With no mobile phone signal, and no internet connectivity, this family lives in the house with the only phone in the village! Its a satellite phone and you can pay the family a few rupees a minute to connect with the outside world.
© Himanshu Khagta / www.khagta.com
There is a small school in Demul, with 17 children in the primary (ages 5-10) and 6 in the secondary (ages 10-16).
Other children in the village are educated at one of the larger schools on the valley floor (in Kaza or Tabo), staying as boarders because its just too far to travel daily.
Image © www.protibet.cz
What a hard choice families have to make - choosing a better quality education, and the hope that brings for the future, goes hand-in-hand with the pain of living apart from your children (and of course, losing their contribution to the household).