New Frontiers

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March 19, 2018

We are shooting a film in one of the greatest deserts of the world – the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. This vast desert covers much of the southern part of the country with extreme variations of temperature. The temperature here fluctuates between -40°C on the down side and over 40°C in the summer months. The extreme temperatures are just a quarter of the problem compared to the razor-sharp winds that flow intermittently blowing sands that give you the painful sensation of being cut with thousands of sharp blades on every exposed part of your body. The dust storms, the whirlwinds and the shifting sand dunes are an everyday phenomena.

We Ladakhis lament living in the harshest climate in world. Let me tell you, Ladakh is in the tropics compared to the harsh living conditions that I experienced during my shootings here in the Gobi Desert. These are the wonders of nature for which you can’t do much.

But what’s admirable is the people – the Mongolians, who are the inhabitants of this region. Within the extreme inhospitable conditions as I have described, the Mongolians have not only learned to adapt but also to live a vibrant life  full of pride and high self-respect. They don't complain or feel miserable due to their environment but rather feel very proud, and this is reflected in every aspect of their life.

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Every Gheer, which is a tent where native Mongolian families still live, is a cultural monument in itself. This ordinary-looking dome-shaped structure made out of felt is a wonderful piece of geometric art with elements of science. The outside temperature may be under -40°C but inside it is in the comfortable zones of 20°C with which even an ordinary Mongolian can live like a King with all the paraphernalia of a palace.

The details of the artwork on the wooden support structure of the Gheer tent are comparable to the elaborate paintings in the monasteries back in Ladakh. The other artifacts that you see inside almost all the Gheer are masterpieces that are not just beautiful decorative objects, but also practical objects that the Mongolian family uses on a daily basis.

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The extreme temperature and the harshest living conditions also have their counterparts in the form of extreme hospitality and the gentlest nature of the Mongolians. One can say that every Mongolian is a born hunter, but on the other side one can never fail to see how compassionate they are by heart – maybe Buddhism has a hand in this factor. Hunting is a way of life in a place where agriculture is not possible. We must all learn from the hospitable, gentle and friendly nature of the Mongolians.

Before I get carried away describing the Gobi and admiring the people living in such a beautiful place, I have to tell you that a documentary is being made on some of the most wonderful people that I came across in Mongolia……