DHARAMSHALA, India, 15 January 2015
Every time I visit McLeod Ganj and see the Tibetans living here, I am a little more shattered than the last visit. How would it feel to stay away from your home, not by choice but by force? I hate staying away from home. I go for vacations but then I know I’ll get back home sooner or later. Why such callousness, brutality, and cold-heartedness?
I had read about such things in stories, but when I realised that reality wasn’t any different, I was appalled. Thousands of Tibetans, including children, travelled on foot braving frostbite, harsh winter, starvation, and the tyranny of China through the night from Tibet to reach Dharamshala. They wanted to break free from the tyranny, they wanted to breathe and live — and they had to go into exile. What did they do to deserve this? All they wanted was to grow old in the houses they built with love and deep-felt aspirations. All they wanted was security for their kids. Is it too much to ask for? Don’t we all want that? Isn’t it our right? No one has the right to dictate what others should believe in.
It is heartbreaking to hear them pour out their feelings and experiences. How painful must it be to leave your home town and the surroundings that echo with your childhood laughter? There are times when I sit back in reverie thinking if humanity is just a word placed in the dictionary. I remember listening to the story of Dorje, whose family was shifted from one refugee camp to another. How they waited in long queues for government-supplied lentils and rice. How thankful they were when an Indian soldier offered them his brilliant red-coloured sweater. He lost his baby brother just a few months after delivery due to lack of treatment. I feel ashamed to be existing with the people who have such small hearts, but an abundance of cruelty and dominance.
It’s a free world. Let each other bloom and blossom the way they want to. Let them rise, let them fall, and then help them rise again like a phoenix. That’s how lessons are learnt, bonds are created, and love is spread. All we can hear now is a faint echo of their laughter due to the ruckus.
Tibetans have managed to sustain themselves by venturing into various business opportunities. Where a number of them have opened up garment shops and cafes, others are practising their skills as reiki masters, massage therapists, or physiotherapy experts. Though it is hard, it is extremely hard, it is still essential to gather yourself together after a traumatizing experience. The Tibetans are living examples of this, and it is highly commendable.
There are a number of Tibetans who expressed their passion for their home like Thupten Ngodup who burnt himself to death in protest at age 60. Then there are others who are living on and trying in many other ways, yes the Tibetans are trying to keep up their spirits even in the sadness of their ongoing protests.
There is something about Buddhism which is intensely thought-provoking. Whenever I come to this hill town, I just want to immerse myself in this consuming religion. There is so much peace and purity latched onto it. No matter how distressed you are, Buddhism is inevitably going to lead you out of it. The divineness of Buddhism has assuredly helped its people heal faster and better.
I believe Tibetans owe their positivity to their trust in the Dalai Lama and his enlightening personality. It is His Holiness’ uncompromising attitude regarding violence which has kept the Tibetans away from picking up arms. Amidst a store of disappointments, the supreme authority helps his followers practise patience. He has ever since remained committed to his philosophy of adopting peaceful means. This is simply incredible. This is something we all need to follow for all the times to come. As a new year ushers in, let us start it on a positive note. Don’t let your experience get the best of you by tying weights to your ankles. Release your fear and hurt. God has plans for you which are greater than you could have imagined. You are a strong people, you need to remain strong and together. I am with you, the world is with you.
About the author
Eeha J Singh is a freelance journalist based in Dharamshala.