The postcard girl

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The face of Ladakh tourism? Yangchin Lamo, overcomes a speech impair to appear in music videos as well, reports Zubair A Dar

¸ Yangchin Lamo

She is the poster girl of Ladakh tourism. Her photographs – in an Aryan dress with a flower studded headgear – are available on every second shop in Leh.

At 22, Yangchin Lamo has already become an ambassador, though the speech impaired girl has very little idea of the role she plays to woo tourists to Ladakh.

She appears with other women of her community in the yearly festivals organised to prolong the tourist season in Ladakh. Her dance and beauty attract most of the flash lights when tourists throng the streets to capture the dances of different communities in Ladakh.

While Lamo enjoys the act, she is unmindful of her popularity among the tourists. “It is fun participating in the festival,” she tells her cousin, Tsering Dolkar, who translates her sign language.

Lamo can not speak, but she can write, and communicates by writing. Her father Tashi Namgiyal who is an executive engineer in Roads and Buildings Department says that she learned writing during her three years of schooling at a mission school in Leh.

“I took her for admission to a school for such (hearing and speech impaired) children in Delhi. But then I realised that she might not be safe there,” says Namgiyal. “So I dropped the idea and approached the principal of the mission school in year 2000 for admitting Lamo there.”

While most schools are reluctant to admit students with special needs, Namgiyal says that the principal was accommodative. “Lamo studied there for three years. She did not pass any exams. But she learnt writing,” he says.

Originally from Dha village of Batalik area in Ladakh, Lamo has grown up with her family in Leh where her father has been posted for a long time. It was during her stay at the town that she noticed dancers from their community participating in the Festival.

“She began insisting that she would take part in the event,” says Namgiyal. “So we allowed her to take part in 2007 and 2008.”

But the participation was not easy. “At the end of the 2008 event, she fainted. The dress and headgear was too heavy for her,” Namgiyal says.

Though Lamo decided not to participate again, her pictures had already begun to consume space on magazine pages. Soon postcards starting selling her pictures as memorials of life in Ladakh. But no one asked her, or even informed her.

“No body asked me at the time of taking photos. No one asked me should my photos be sold in market,” says Lamo. “I know my photos are made and sold all across Ladakh.”

Lamo’s only royalty from the tourism campaign is a photo in a large frame sent to her by some admirer.

In her small world, however, these things matter least. She is looking forward to other engagements in life. She works as a casual worker in the PMGSY (Prime Minister’s Gram Sadak Yojna) implemented by the Public Works Department.

But that is not where her heart lies.

Lamo last year started acting in Ladakhi music albums. “About love and friendship,” she writes on a notebook in response to a question about the story of music album she acted in. “It is called Semsyang. The heroes are Punchok and Inaam,” she adds.

The acting stint too came with its share of challenges. Namgiyal says that Lamo had managed to find her roles on her own. “When she wanted to drive, I supported her and took her to the driving institute. For participation in festival and other things she found interesting, we did whatever was required. But for acting in music videos, we extended no help,” he says.

So Lamo approached the producers of Zee Music Centre Leh and sought a role in music videos they produced. Lamo got one and has since then been a regular feature in their productions.

Lamo had to ensure that her lip movement syncs with the voice of the playback singers. Lamo says, she overcame the challenge through practice. “She can perform with her lips to match the voice,” says Dolkar. “She practises her movements after reading them on paper and listening to the songs.”

Despite her speech impair, Lamo has taken the best of every opportunity that came her way. Eldest among the three daughters in the family – she has two elder brothers who are married – Lamo is now looking forward to get married.

“Dec 2009,” she writes as the probable date of her marriage. “Stanzin,” she spells out the name of her prospective groom. Lamo says that Stanzin is from her community – Garkhon village in Batalik area – and studies in “class 13” at Jammu.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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