For most of us a cloudburst only means a sudden shower, but on 6 August 2010, in an area called Ladakh, when two inches of rain fell in sixty seconds, it was a disaster, but out of the disaster, a simple movement began. People walked and picked up trash, but the walk wasn’t a stroll in the park. “Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey” is a documentary about that walk. This documentary is not scheduled to play at the Pasadena Playhouse, but it worth seeking out.
Directed and edited by Wendy J.N. Lee and narrated by actor/activist Daryl Hannah, the documentary shows us first the effects of the 2010 Ladakh floods. Ladakh is located in the northernmost Indian state o Jammu and Kashmir. Because the Himalaya mountain range prevents the monsoon rains from reaching the area, Ladakh is a high altitude cold desert. The area is predominately Buddhist.
The rainfall was so hard and heavy, it caused bruising on the faces of the people and even broke skin. Flash floods, debris flows and mudslides resulted. Cars and buses were carried away for as far a mile. Over 200 people died, six of whom where foreign tourists.
Buddhist spiritual leader Gyalwang Drukpa Jigme Pema Wangchen (Gyalwang Drukpa is the title of the Drukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism) tells the people to walk as part of his Live to Love campaign. Pad Yatra has nothing to do with food like Pad Thai. In Sanskrit, Pad Yatra means spiritual foot journey and is part of the Tibetan tradition of the region. The documentary follows the 700 people who take this Eco Pad Yatra, a 440-foot journey, picking up plastic trash along the way to save what they call the third pole because Ladakh is part of a glacial region that is melting as a result of global warming.
Lee’s sister, Carrie, an American lawyer who thought she was physically fit, adds personal anecdotes about the toughness of the schedule as run by the Buddhist nuns. These aren’t your kindly nuns singing in the mountains, but women who train in martial arts. As part of the special group, so designated because they couldn’t keep up with the others, Carrie woke up earlier to start out first, had shorter lunches and once was so weak, she had to ride a horse.
So show that the journey wasn’t for just anyone, Tibetan monk Ngawang Sodpa turned his solar-powered camera on the bleached white bones of people who had fallen along the path on their own journey. Along this Eco Pad Yatra, people were insured, they became ill, they sometimes didn’t have enough food because there was unseasonable snow. Yet they survived and brought out almost half a tone of plastic litter.
This walking pilgrimage has inspired others and become something of an annual event. In 2011, an Eco Pad Yatra went through Mumbai, India to collect 2,000 pounds of trash. In December 2012 (ending in January 2013), the trek was made through Sri Lanka.
In time, if you check the official movie website, you can register for the 2014 Pad Yatra. In this respect, the documentary “Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey,” isn’t just a record of one journey, it is a call for others to make more eco odysseys. Couldn’t we all do something as simple as walk to help save the world?
“Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey” is currently playing at the Laemmle Music Hall 3 and ends its run on 21 November 2013.