(This lecture was given by Sreedeep Bhattacharya on April 10, 2018, at the Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, JMI. Sreedeep Bhattacharya is currently a fellow, C-PACT, Shiv Nadar University, New Delhi.)
One imagines traveling to break the monotony and the promise to come back to the workplace with a fresher mindset. The gist of a place is the feel and the experience of that place, but with the rise of media and its role in our life, we tend to see a place through pictures. A clip of a movie or a picture on Instagram/Facebook might have more influence on our decision to travel to a place than the ethics of the area. Along with this, pictures have also played a major role in boosting the tourism of many places which was earlier unknown to us on maps. One cannot deny that it has proven profitable to the local people of the area and in generating revenue, but tourism also had disastrous ecological consequences. This effect of pictures on tourism or one can say visual pollution, creates new identities and unleash a set of new relationships. Visual commodities influence a larger imagination of the space, a space to aspire, and this process of space served as a visual commodity, it also leads to time-space compression.
Information can without a doubt overcome all boundaries. It also creates a change in the society: a processed image which earlier would take months to process and reach an audience can now reach thousands through few clicks and a good internet connection. This also creates a need for instant attention. Earlier space and information was a completely different issue and concept studied separately, now an image becomes inseparable from a space. For example, photography practice had become inseparable from tourism. An image becomes the proof of your travel. These issues open possibilities of the image-space relationship, interaction and interdependence and mergers, and congruence in the context of the tourist boon. An image is in a position to impact the larger imagination of the space. This scopic regimes and visual paradigm have created identity maker, memory keeper, evidence provider and most importantly aspiration builder of the space.
The change in the economy of the country, or the fact that middle class has more disposal of money to spend on things like traveling which was earlier considered a luxury afforded by rich. The anticipation, fantasy, and escape constructed through gaze created an increase in traveling, for the visitors rather than the population.
When one focus on the consumerist trajectory of Ladakh, the change is drastic and dramatic. In 2010 the annual tourism in Ladakh, which was earlier confined to three to four months was 778800, and in 2011 it doubled to 148588, in 2016 the number of months increased to five months and the number to 2.5 Lakhs. Ladakh army is also playing a central role in integrating the most secluded area to the rest of the country. The deterrents of mass communication are transport constraints and extreme climatic conditions. This has resulted in the loss of the originality and created staged authenticity, and also the constant need for better service. This has resulted in losing the concept of Ladakh being not a destination but a journey.
Compiled by Apoorva Choudhary