“I am tired of the stereotype attached to Tibetans. There is more to them than just protesting at Jantar Mantar and scaling the walls of the Chinese embassy,” says 27-year-old Nima Chodon.
Instead of lamenting the fact, the NGO worker decided to change the perception. She joined a group called the Global Tibetan Professional’s Network (GTPN).
“It is a network of Tibetan professionals created for exchange of ideas, information and resources within the network as well as helping young Tibetans through mentorship,” says GTPN co-ordinator Lhakpa Tsering (27).
A refreshing concept, the decision to remain non-political clinched the deal for many like Chodon who joined the group. She found it refreshing as the group — one of the very few in the Tibetan community — that didn’t focus on politics.
With two chapters in India (New Delhi and Bangalore) and two in North America, the group is gradually growing.
“At present, we have 179 registered members and 80 professionals are featured on our website. Besides, many more have joined our group on Facebook,” he adds.
Environmental filmmaker Tenzin Khepakh is another GTPN member.
“I am very proud to know that today Tibetans are working in almost every field. This was one of the reasons I joined this group,” says the 29-year-old who works with Riverbanks Studio in Delhi.
Apart from monthly meetings, in which the group discusses the ways and means of helping young Tibetans, GTPN members also participate in school outreach programmes and annual workshops organised by Empowering the Vision, an NGO.
“I studied in a Catholic school and no one there understood who Tibetans were. I got tired of explaining it to people that I am a Tibetan, so I ended up saying I am from Delhi,” says Sonam Donkar (29) who works with Standard Chartered Bank in Gurgaon. So, she joined GTPN.
“Also, after being isolated from my own community for long, I wanted to meet people from my own community who were becoming agents of change,” she says.
Another point of departure for this group is the diversity of people within it — there are also members from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Arunachal Pradesh, apart from Tibetans who are active GTPN members. More importantly, Buddhism remains the common factor.
“I do not understand Tibetan. But irrespective of the language, I know that the group is a great platform to help young people,” said 36-year-old Yangdup Lama from Darjeeling.
Lama runs a bartending school in Delhi and was part of the group that recently met His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Taj Mahal Hotel.
“The Chinese have always called the Tibetans ‘barbarians’. Through this group we present a new and different side of Tibetans — we are not just tsampa-eating people,”
said Sonam Topgyal (41), a Tibetan entrepreneur.