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From Delhi to Tibet and back

entertainment Updated: Nov 10, 2010 01:31 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
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With the year 2010 being the 51st year of the exile of Tibetans in India, and the 75th year of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, we met a young Tibetan woman in Amar Colony. Born in India, she had travelled to Tibet, currently occupied by China. She narrated her story even as she did not wish to be named.

“Like many fellow Tibetans in Delhi, I too want independence from China. I know many young people who regularly sneak into India. But I was crazy. I’m one of those very few who did the reverse migration. After working for eight years in a travel company in Delhi, I managed to get a 1-year visa for Tibet.

It was a long journey: two nights, three days in a bus from Delhi to Kathmandu; two more days and then Lhasa. My Lhasa. Blue sky. Cold, thin air. Yak meat momos. Monasteries. Potala palace. But no portraits of the Dalai Lama. Nowhere. Not even in homes. Chinese don’t allow that.

In India, a fresh arrival from back home is called a kaccha, because we imagine her to be innocent who has to be taught Hindi and trained to live here. So, I was shock-ed when Lhasa folks called me (me!) kaccha. Being from India, I was deemed innocent who had to be taught Chinese and trained to live there.

But they were right. I was a foreigner in my homeland. I didn’t know Chinese and it was everywhere. In restaurants, menus were in Chinese and I would ask stewards what was what. I would pass by the city’s only theater that screened Hollywood films, dubbed only in Chinese. It was difficult to make out things. I was lost.

And yet, home is home. Lhasa was like a large version of Majnu ka Teela. There were Tibetans all around and I was just an anonymous face in the crowd. People too, were gentler than in Delhi. Especially the boys. Delhi men are too… I don’t know… Hindi films do something to them.

Lhasa’s young people, however, don’t have a bright future. In Delhi, we work in call centers, hair salons and restaurants and have fun only in weekends. But there each day was a weekend. I hardly saw youngsters working routine jobs. They danced all night long in discos and days were wasted away in boozing (beer being very cheap). Sometimes, I feel Tibetans on both sides of the Himalayas are kacchas. Will we ever ripen?”