Friends of Tibet Foundation for the Wellbeing

ďI Never Knew About His Holiness, While in TibetĒ
Excerpts from a conversation Friends of Tibet Campaigner Eswar Anandan had with Dr Lhundup Dorjee of Men-Tsee-Khang during the 50th Wellbeing Camp at CSPA, Alappuzha, Kerala from May 4-6, 2016.

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My Life in Tibet
My Village, Dingri Salha, is located near to Mount Everest. Itís a two-day journey by horse to Mount Everest. Our life was simple and we were farmers with vast lands spending time farming and taking care of our animals — sheeps, goats, horses, cows and definitely yaks. Our life was a combination of Nomadic and Farmerís life.

At that time our village was not yet invaded by the Chinese troops. The area where my school was located, there we could find Chinese people and army. Our food was basically Tsampa. Barter System prevailed during those times. There was no exchange of currencies. The village life was traditional Tibetan way of living.

Our village can be compared to the Ladakh region of India. There were no trees, hardly one can find one. We used to experience all seasons in a very timely manner. It was very peaceful, no destruction or disturbance and no mining activities.

We used to have vast lands, our village was located in a valley surrounded by mountains. During spring, the weather was hot and primarily our people spent time in the farms, harvesting, watering. During winters, we did not have much work. People running business, attended their business, but not many were businessmen. Others stayed at home working on woollens, making cots.

Our generation knew nothing about the Chinese invasion of Tibet, our parents knew about it, but they were afraid to talk about it. There was no electricity at that time, and cow dung was the primary cooking fuel. There was no artificiality in our life, we used purely natural things.

School Days in Tibet
I started going to school when I was 6 years old. There was no prayer session in my school. All subjects were taught in Tibetan language. When I was in my sixth standard, Chinese armies invaded, and since then all subjects we had to study in Chinese language, except for the Tibetan Language.

We used to have four classes in the morning and two classes in the afternoon. When I was a child I was not able to differentiate between left and right shoes. I remember my father coming in horseback to help me put my clothes and shoes. My house was very close to my school. As a kid I used to urinate a lot (smiles).

We did not have tap or any other running water source at home. We had to draw water from a well for daily use. Our teachers were Tibetan and students too were Tibetan. We never knew about His Holiness in School. Even when I was in my 9th or 10th Grade, we never knew about His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Life After Chinese Invasion
Once the Chinese armies invaded, things changed. People (Chinese) started coming in. Chinese businessmen were all over.

The first change was language. All texts were converted to Chinese. Tibetan history or politics was not there but Chinese politics and history. They were trying to make Tibetans forget about Tibet. There was no more traditional way of living, it was more Chinese influenced; even Tibetan Buddhism was slowly being converted to Chinese.

Barter System started giving way to Cash based Business. Alcohol shops started opening. Earlier Tibetans only drank barley wine — Chang, primarily to get energy. But the Chinese opened alcohol and smoking joints and it was made available at a cheaper price. People started becoming addicted.

People did not have any work to do. They were forced to construct roads. Every family was forced to send at least two members to do roadwork. If they refused, they were punished. The work was primarily construction of roads, build water tunnels, electricity grid; even I used to go for road construction when I was in my 9th Grade.

Once when I was returning home, I was eating something in a car, I fell from the car and for five minutes I did not know anything. When I opened my eyes, I felt pain and was in a room. There was no hospital or treatment available. I had to stay at home for days. There were no Tibetan doctors or any hospital in our village. We had to go to the far off city to reach a hospital.

My Journey Towards Exile
My brothers used to study in India. They left for India in 1985 and had come in 1995 during vacation. They were put behind bars for 15 days. The authorities wanted to know about His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile. But they pretended that they knew nothing about the Tibetan government and were learning in Indian schools.

When I was in my 9th Grade, in Chinese school, I was trying to go for work. I learnt English and took a job as a waiter in a Hotel. But my job was taken over by some other people under Chinese influence, and I had to stay at home for 5 months without a job.

At that time when my brothers came for vacation, they showed me nice pictures and I thought India must be a very beautiful and happy place to live. They offered to take us to India. My parents did not want the girls in the family to leave, since they wanted someone to take care of them during their old age.

We walked for 2 months, with the help of yaks, through the Himalayan mountains. There were traders who used to transport goods from Tibet to Nepal. We came with them. I was around 16 years then, the year 1997.

Once I reached India, the weather was extremely hot and I did not know any Indian language. Another issue was getting used to the local food. I did not have any pocket money. So I stayed back at school during holidays.

Deciding to be a Medical Practitioner
During my 11th Grade, we had to take either of the two streams, thatís when I decided, I wanted to study medicine. I went to different places in India but the fee system was very high, and I took the entrance test to study Traditional Tibetan Medicine in Men-Tsee-Khang, Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute of HH the Dalai Lama. I secured the 3rd rank but I was not able to join. Because when my 12th Grade results came, I had failed in Physics examination! (Smiles). The next year after clearing my Physics Exam, I re-took the entrance and this time I secured the 1st rank!

How Different is Life in Exile
The major difference is freedom of expression, basic fundamental freedom, and freedom of religion, to study our language. We are refugees but we have the freedom to practise our culture, religion and express ourselves. We feel very free.

At the moment, in my village the culture is a mixed culture. What used to be Tibetan is diminished. There is no more traditional Tibetan cuisine; itís mainly rice, beer, lots of cigarette.

The Government has taken over my share of land. There is a strict limitation on the animals one can rear; the Chinese kill animals. Farming is no more an activity. The Chinese have taken over our land and if a member of the family has gone on exile, that memberís share of land is taken over. The people are forced to be road construction coolies and construct houses, they pay money.

I am still in touch with my family through phone calls. But our conversations are limited; itís just exchange of pleasantries. We are restricted from talking politics. Now usage of the WeChat App is widespread. But what we type is watched. People get arrested, the family and neighbours are pressurised.

Do I Wish That I Stayed Back in Tibet?
No, I am lucky that I was able to come to India. I came to know about my country and its history after coming to India. I was able to study and become a Medical Practitioner and now I know my lifeís mission. But I definitely want to go back to Tibet.

I wish my people should also come to India. To know more about Tibet, study, and then go back. Back in Tibet, in my native, even now, people do not know about the past history or do not have a source to know. Itís our duty and responsibility to know our history, preserve our culture and go back to Tibet.

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