(2/3) The “up down up down.” In Johar, this is the colloquial term for seasonal migration.
Trodden through the ages by traders and transhumant shepherds, stone trails wend their way perilously towards the alpine, cobbled in promises of commerce and rare medicinal plants and greener pastures. Below, carved with dynamite and manual labor, the scars of new roads show a different way through the mountains.
Here, for many remote villages, there is still only walking. Bringing goods to market. Visiting a daughter, married across the valley. Going to school. At four in the morning in the middle of a snowstorm with a baby on the way, there is only walking... or staying put.
For many residents, roads bring dreams of better healthcare, better opportunities... dreams of stemming the outmigration which leaves empty villages and barren fields and lonely elders.
At the same time, I am far from the only one unsettled by the constant blasting, wondering what this will mean for life in Johar, human and otherwise. Landslides. Displacement... Swaths of forests and villages destroyed. Even access is a double edged sword.
Thus far, the contractors hired by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have waged a slow, uphill battle against the whims of the seasons and the unforgiving terrain. They project that it may take another decade for the road to reach Milam.
Seen from across the valley, with winter descending, it is a marvel they try at all. But inexorably day by day, stone by stone, the world is getting a little smaller. It will no longer only be walking... for better and worse.
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