Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dharamsala and Its Different Colors

With a desire for a new experience and ample time to spare, I came to Dharamsala. Its a small hill station, a little town sprawled across lush green hills and majestic mountains at the back. Many consider It as one of the most popular tourist haunts in Himachal Pradesh (a small state in India).

Apart from its natural beauty and pleasant weather, Dharamsala is known as the seat of His Holiness the Dalai lama, the Tibetan government in exile and most of the organisations working for Tibet are situated here. Its a small town bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Some people have even called it "Little Lhasa",an assortment of all things Tibetan, its culture, religion, people and everything else.

Being an avid critic and a cynic of many of the aspects of life in exile, it was going to be an adventurous experience for me. I came with an open mind, washed away all my prejudiced opinions, decided to approach all that is in Dharamsala with an unbiased and yet critical viewpoint. What followed was an experience that was both sad, heart wrenching and also hopeful and optimistic. You can say it was a mixed experience, with many things learnt and many un-learnt..hahahha.. My expereince is here for anyone who wants to know something about Dharamsala, other than the obvious things one comes to hear about the place. Read on!!!!!

Dharamsala was one place which i viewed with utmost respect and admiration for one thing that it had, and that was His Holiness the Dalai lama.

Surprisingly, it is the one place I also looked with disdain and annoyance when it came to the workings of various bureaucratic institutions and in still being the seat of the older conservative ideology of Tibet.

It was also a place i believed to be the habitat of many afflicted with "The Kudag Syndrome" ( a perceived manner of behaviour much alike the past aristocratic families of Tibet responsible for much of its past and present problems) still holding on to offices of power, and ultimately, to many outsider's disbelief, striving continuously to take Tibetan Society way back to where it was before His Holiness bestowed upon us the gift of democracy.

This place brought me close to many of the realities of Tibetan Society which somehow I was quite out of touch with.

Individuals Change society single-handedly:

Now this might not be agreeable for many and I was never a follower of this idea. But what I saw in Dharamsala myself, surprisingly proved the above theory absolutely and absolutely correct, especially when it came to the dynamics of the Tibetan Society in exile.

One person I knew and probably the whole world knows now is "Lobsang Wangyal". A deceivingly casual, easy going individual, who, in his pink shirts and tight 70s trousers has taken a huge responsibility of stirring up the Tibetan society from passivity to creative action. Other than the well known, "Miss Tibet","Tibetan Olympics" and many more of his initiatives what was noticeable was his fearless committment towards bringing social change in his own ways.

His website

What was hateful and annoying to me, was the attitude with which many of the old school Tibetans still shied away from recognising this one man's contribution in paving the way for a contemporary, modern and aware Tibetan exile society.

Another individual who has taken a lot on his shoulders, and perhaps too much, is Tenzin Tsundue. But it seems nothing is too much for this Tiger of a man.

From the cause of Free Tibet, to contemporaray literary awakening initiatives, to social reforms in varied aspects, this one man army has proven his metal.

There are many who still talk narrow, and comment on the right of an individual to do something for one's own country or society. There are still many who misinterpret intentionally, the motivation of this man to shake Tibetan society. To those I say, SHUT THE *U*K UP.

And again recognition for this man's effort comes much more from outside then from the Inside of the old Tibetan society. Youths I am sure support him with his ideas.

This man could assemble more crowd, which is essential sometimes, then man organisations combined. Now is that bad for Tibetans, not at all.

A lone monk for compassion:

This was something I missed. I heard from a friend of mine that there is a monk who is working for the betterment of the under privileged Indians in Dharamsala. His name is Jamyang or Guruji as many call him. I heard his organisation is helping children of these people go to school, he is helping them with their clothes and many other things. This is the organisation's website

I really wanted to visit this person, who truly follows what His Holiness teaches in terms of Universal Compassion. And not just uses His Holiness name for one's own ends, but didn't get the time to meet him.

Still A Shangrilla For Many:

Sometime back I met a group of students from america, who had come to Dharamsala to study the life in exile, Tibetan culture, religion etc etc.

What followed next was casual gatherings, two parties and some serious talks. Other then what they learn t from us, there were a few things which were actually enlightening to me.

On being asked, what were there expectations about Tibet and Tibetans before they came and what were the surprises you experienced during you whole journey. The answer more or less was more surprises then expectations met.

This clearly brings into picture, how still the majority of the west, how still the hoarding crowds of foreigners behind Free Tibet banners, view Tibet and Tibetans as a pristine product of an untouched civilisation. This is particularly very dangerous for Tibetans. What I believe is needed for all of us Tibetans is to always present a balanced picture of how we Tibetans in exile are.

Taking advantage of the impressions of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on foreign countries, to our own individual benefits is not a good thing for us.

And many people who do this, are still the same people suffering from the old school " Kudag Syndrome".

I told them what I had to tell, what was wrong in our society like any other, and what was still good and unique in being a Tibetan.

Towards the end of my stay in Dharamsala:

This young group of people, many of whom were surprisingly so aware, so conscious of all that was wrong and misleading in Tibetan Socoety was one of the very encouraging experiences of my stay in Dharamsala.

I knew a guy from my school and who was also working in Dharamsala. He has initiated a street cum theatre play titled "I want to be Kalon Tripa" ( which means I want to be the prime minister). It was in its initial stages of scripting while I write this blog, but will probably be on show by the end of this month. A very significant effort, in shaking up the Tibetan youth and making the Tibetan society aware about the importance of the coming 2011 elections.

It was during one of these nights when he had invited me during a planery session for the play. The most essential elements of the dicussion came into light, when we talked about the duties of the tibetan youth in exile life and how it was important that we stir up. What also came out into open was the problems and the technicalities of Tibetan politics that essentially makes it improbable for a popular Tibetan youth to become a member of the parliament and ultimately be involved in actual decision making when it came to passing legislations.

This is mostly resultant of the regional electoral system based on three Tibetan provinces of Tibet. But what i feel is mostly needed, is not only keep the current electoral system but why not let independent candidates representing particular settlements, communities, cities where Tibetan youths are concentrated due to college and work get the chance to stand up in election. This i believe will definitely lead to more newer and well educated faces to come up when it comes to our "Assembly of Tibetan Parliamentary Deputies". Thus leading to more informed legislations taking place and as a result betters policies for the CTA to execute.

Such an effort by a group of young Tibetans in the form of play " I want to be the next Kalon Tripa" that too in Dharamsala, really made my day. Now its the time for those ailing from conservatism and older ideology, to quickly recover from their affliction of "The Kudag Syndrome" and ease the way for Tibetan Youths to come into picture.

I am filled with hope and anticipation for future. I leave Dharamsala with a renewed heart and a motivated self. And when I return, it will be with more tools and weapons of change.

When that time comes, I will be back. :)

( Pictures courtesy of Lobsang Wangyal)