ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Being Ladakhi, Being Indian

Identity Formation, Culture and Community

The nature of Ladakhi identity has been a subject of much discussion for some decades now, particularly in the context of assertions of nationalism, regional autonomy and religious identity in the region. Using ethnographic material, this article focuses on identity formation amongst migrant youth whose “Ladakhiness” is both interrogated and reinforced in large cities like Delhi. In Ladakh itself, anxieties about loss of culture and community have intensified even as the nature of Ladakhi identity is asserted in specific cultural terms.

We think like Indians but look different. There [in Delhi] they always see us as different. But when we come to Ladakh, our thinking, tastes are more like Indians . When we come back in the summer, people [in Leh] look at us differently too.1

Namgyal made this comment as we sat sipping coffee at one of the many Tibetan restaurants on the main road in Leh. At a table next to us were half-a-dozen young men and women, all dressed like Namgyal in branded jeans and T-shirts or tops, with expensive sneakers and sunglasses. They were quite at ease with each other and loudly discussed the latest Hollywood film that had just been released in Delhi, and popular songs by Shakira, in a mixture of Hindi and English. They represent the new, young cosmopolitan Ladakhi, no different from the upper middle-class youth one encounters in metropolitan cities like Delhi.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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