By Sagar Sethi
Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Fleeing from those clutches and surviving the snow-filled Himalayan passes, around ninety four thousand Tibetan refugees, as per a CTA survey, 2009, have made it safely to India. Have they managed to carry their culture along with themselves? If so, will the Tibetans be able to preserve it? Let’s peer into the lives of these people to find some answers.
Passang journeyed through high mountains and clear lakes to reach Nepal. She travelled through forests and hid in bunkers only so that she could escape the Chinese snipers. When she completed this seven month nightmarish journey to India she was only eleven; frantic but eager to meet the leader of her people. This sixty seven year old Tibetan refugee still misses her home as she says ‘kamse kam tees log hain humare parivar mein, hum ab tak nahi dekha’ (I have at least thirty members of my family in Tibet that I have not seen yet).
She relates the life of her family in Tibet as, ‘Majboori hai, khush toh nahi hai par dikhawa karna padta hai’ (It’s a compulsion, they are not happy but have to pretend so). She vehemently blames the Chinese red brigade for Tibet’s misery – ‘…muh se mitha baat karta hai, piche se chhuri maarta hai’ (China uses sweet words, only to back stab later).
Passang knows she will never see her family in Tibet but hopes for light at the end of the tunnel. Not for her own sake, but rather for the future generations of Tibetan refugees in India.
At sixteen years of age Chonga felt the need to meet his guru, the Dalai Lama. So he escaped Tibet in search for a home, the feeling not the place. He says, ‘jab tak guruji ka saath hai, tab tak koi phikr nahi hai’ (As long as Dalai Lama is present, there is no reason to worry). This thirty nine year old Tibetan refugee left his motherland, twenty three years ago. ‘Do mahine, din mein chupna tha aur raat mein chalte the,’ (For two months, he hid during the day and walked during nights) is how he describes his journey.
As per Chonga’s account, life in Tibet is being run solely by the Chinese government. Anything even close to Buddhism, prayer or practice, has been outlawed in Tibet. Even more, all his phone calls to family are under the Chinese government’s surveillance who are waiting for him to make one wrong move.
The irony of his life is that he is a refugee in India, while Tibet no longer feels like home. This man misses his home as he says, ‘ab tak akela hoon kyunki azaadi ke baad hum ghar jayega, phir hi shaadi karega’ (I am still single because after Tibet attains freedom, I will go home and then only will I marry).
Three year old Lhamtso came to India with her maa and baba. She has no memory of Tibet and yet her stay in India feels like home, out of compulsion. She spent fifty years of her life in Manali before settling down in Majnu ka Tila, Delhi. She lives in a nice house and her kids are both working. Lhamtso has spent her entire life as a Tibetan refugee. So she doesn’t know if she wants to go back home.
‘Dekha nahi hai toh kaise pata hoga?’ (Haven’t seen my home, so how will I know if I want to go back?), is what she asked. Does this mean that the Tibetan culture is fading with every passing generation? In the next section then, we are going to unravel the stories of those Tibetans born in India, and haven’t ever been to Tibet.