While I flipped though my travel diary one nostalgic night, I found an extract that I wrote as my ‘volunteer feedback’ a few months back at the LHA Charitable trust in Mcloedganj, India. A summarized experience and a bunch of photographs, these are my lifelong memories of the ‘People of Tibet’ and what I learned from the many other wonderful people I met along my journey…
People have different reasons, to live this opportunity I lived – my reason, was to “experience and learn”. A month within the mysterious Tibetan community opened my eyes to a world that peacefully rests itself in the enigmatic mountains of Dharamshala, only to practice their one sole wish – Buddhism. Thanks to LHA, which might look like a drop in the ocean from far outside, to my surprise hold’s an unparalleled power of global resource which comes from the heartfelt passion of the countless skillful volunteers from different parts of the world, who work together only to be a part of the rising Tibetan cause.
“TWIRLING THE PRAYER WHEEL, A Buddhists tradition in which each time you twirl a prayer wheel it is like chanting the number of mantras contained inside the prayer wheel.”
LIFE OF A MONK – Promise to avoid the ten virtues of Tibetan Buddhism that include killing and harming others, stealing, sexual contact, lying, slandering, saying painful words, talking uselessly, having bad thoughts, being involved in wrong beliefs and alternatively to practice the opposite of each…
KNOW YOURSELF – “Chanting is a way of getting in touch with yourself”.
The simplest meaning of Chanting and Meditation – “TO TAKE A BREAK IN THE MIDDLE OF EVERYTHING.”
Amongst the many interesting people I met, who I found becoming my one global idea of ‘family’, I realized that compassion is the one thing that binds humans around the globe, and that English was the one language that was common to every nation and every religion.
Being an Indian, it has been fascinating for me to realize how my own country has opened its doors to the increasing numbers of Tibetan in exile, and has become their respectable home. The discussions I had in the conversations classes touched my heart as I heard the stories of some crossing the ice cold mountains in search of safety and peace, and many still yearning to go back and visit the lush green grasslands of Tibet as their biggest dream. Getting to know my student, A Buddhist nun who fondly calls me ‘teacher’, I understood the true meaning of many Buddhist rituals and traditions, making me a tiny part of this magnificent religion, and in return I gifted her the skill of becoming fluent in a language that for her will remain important in the future as well.
“MY STORY IS PEACEFUL NOW. The Tibetian conditions in Tibet are not that good. I first came to India in 1998, with a group of 70 people, when we found a guide who lead us to India. There were Buddhist monks, nuns, businessmen, women and children, who all walked across the Himalayas for 47 days. We only wanted to live, but the journey was so difficult and cold. Some days we didn’t have food, and if we saw a house, they gave us wheat and potato. Sometimes we didn’t have water, and we used to suck onto the ice for water.
The rivers we crossed were deep and cold, and sometimes our clothes used to get wet, and later all frozen in ice. We slept on ice. But none of us died. Finally we reached Nepal Tibetian Refugee Center. We only wanted to practice our religion, and live a fearless peaceful life. India let us do all that and I am happy now.”
I LOVE UMAY LAAM – “I LOVE THE MIDDLE WAY” – I guess when you support your cause not with a fight, but in unique happy ways, the whole journey seems to be a lot more happier. So I found a pretty smart Monk sporting the cause in the pretty funky nail art style! Could not help myself but go ‘click’…
Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” Approach For Resolving the Issue of Tibet – The Tibetan people do not accept the present status of Tibet under the People’s Republic of China. At the same time, they do not seek independence for Tibet, which is a historical fact. The the Middle-Way Approach, a non-partisan and moderate position that safeguards the vital interests of all concerned parties-for Tibetans: the protection and preservation of their culture, religion and national identity; for the Chinese: the security and territorial integrity of the motherland; and for neighbors and other third parties: peaceful borders and international relations.
Did you make all these by hand?
– Yes. My husband and I make #Tibetian #Kantha#Paintings for a living. He taught me how to do make them after marriage.
How long does it take to make one painting?
– The smaller ones, a week, and the bigger ones it can take upto months.
How much do you sell it for?
– Monsoons are bad for us. Tourist don’t come and buy much. Good business its around Rs. 300 to Rs. 500 for a small one.
That’s it? For a weeks hard work?
– Yes Really. We cant do much otherwise. There are a very few #Kantha #painters left in the world. We need to carry on our skill.
“I am from Germany, and I fell in love with a Tibetan.
When I got married to him and shifted to Dharamshala, I wanted to make Dolls, for the Tibetan kids in exile.
I wanted them to have something to play with, which brings them happiness just like all the other kids around! That’s how I decided to create ‘DOLLS FOR TIBET’…”
“Hello – Tashi Dlelek! – Tashi Delek!
Can I click you? – ya – ya! Let me smile for you.
Tujiche! – Dhanyavaad!”
Sometimes all an old lonely local needs is a happy talkative traveler to listen to her story…
“I have two kids. One girl, one boy. I have lived in Dehradun for 20 years, and for the past 25 years I am here in Mcloedganj. My son lives far away, but he has three kids and his wife, are all here with me. Even my daughter is with me. But I am old now. Almost 90”.
Today I look back at how less I knew, and what came along were thirty days of knowing more and more. To me India, my homeland, is much prettier now, as the traveler’s I met made me look at its beauty through their eyes. Wandering less like a tourist, now I know that people visit Varanasi and Rishikesh in search spirituality and intense culture; our architecture is one of the most mesmerizing pieces of art that the world can imagine; we are more developed than what the international media reports; and I only hope that Delhi could be a better experience for all who visit in times to come.
My experience as a volunteer, started with my attempt to leave behind the life I had, to shake things up, meet new people and create new stories, and ends with the thought that ‘if only’ more people could do what a bunch of us just did!
– From the Editor’s Diary