The little Lhasa, due to it's immense Tibetan population is a highly sacred yet the apt-for-tourist suburb in Himachal Pradesh. With it's history with the British Viceroys and the Second Anglo war, Mcleod is highly recognised as the summer capital. Although highly populated with diverse ethnicities, the place is filled with culture and spirituality. From the morning Buddhist hymns to the evening crowds, Mcleodganj portrays a sense of attachment for each individual that steps foot in it.
The Namgyal Monastery, also known as the main temple overlooks the mountain ranges of Dhauladhar and is the proud home of his holiness: Dalai Lama.
Along with the high spirituality and peacefulness, the little Lhasa is filled with organisations working for the welfare and wellbeing of the Tibetan refugees residing there. Decamped with his holiness, many Tibetans came to this suburb in order to escape from the inhuman conditions in Tibet after the Chinese annexation. Even after around 63 years, Tibetan refugees have not been able to free themselves from the Chinese rule and many of them living in India have close ones stranded in those conditions.
Fortunately, organisations in Mcleod are working towards providing Tibetan refugees with basic needs such as shelter, food and education which can enable them to earn a living and help release the stranded Tibetans under the Chinese rule. Unluckily, they do not have basic mediums to reach and help their fellow citizens as many of them do not have a passport or even a birth certificate. As a result, they find it very difficult to settle in apartments or houses and do not get jobs easily. Thus, in order to empathise and assist the Tibetans, many organisations in Mcleodganj have been set up and work towards helping the Tibetans achieve their goals.
One of the organisations I worked with was LIT (Learning and Ideas for Tibet) and Tibet World that held classes such as English, Computer sciences, Yoga, etc for Tibetans which would then enable them to pursue further education. These organisations provide Tibetans with free education as volunteers are welcome to participate in different activities and events. In this way, there is a constant creation of a global culture where people from different walks of life with different lifestyles sit together and share experiences, socialising through learning.
I have always been a people’s person and Mcleodganj was nothing less than bliss. I was informed about the conditions in Tibet and about the Tibetan settlements in Mcleodganj but until I had my first session with the Tibetans, I was living in constant uncertainty about their personal experiences and what they believed in. I was filled with pre-conceived notions about the people and the place; I assumed that I was going to teach kids aged 8-10 and when I was informed that I was going to deal with adults, I was extremely nervous. I supposed they would not accept me as one of the volunteers and my first independent adventure in the mountains might be full of conflict and friction. Nevertheless, I was surprised by their approach to life, their commitment towards what they pursue and how they strive to overcome each obstacle that comes their way. Unfortunately, I was not able to espy his holiness, yet my journey to the summer capital was full of learning. There was a clear connection between me and the exurb; the mere smile on each one’s faces when you cross paths gives out a very positive vibe. For once, I was a teacher who was younger to her students. I taught english conversation where we would split up into different groups, each with at least one volunteer, and would have a topic to discuss about. At the end of the sessions, each group would either share new vocabulary or would share their experiences.
As a result, I would always get to speak to a different group during my entire volunteering endeavour.
This not only opened up my mind towards different events that happen around the world or increased my experience with people but it also changed my perception of refugees. I am now more empathetic rather than sympathetic towards people as I attempt to see myself in their shoes.
The society is constantly evolving and there is a new global culture that has emerged over the years. People are now more open towards different ethnicities and cultures as they either adopt certain values and aspects from various cultures or incorporate all cultures as their own. Both ways, people have become more mindful and aware of their surrounding and many attempt to make a change in the existing systems that are not accepted by them as they find them unjust and unfair.
Here are a few Tibetan refugee families and their stories of struggle and survival.
Thus, in accordance to the conditions in Tibet after the Chinese annexation, the citizens of Tibet are living a life of constant uncertainty where they are unable to make a change in their lifestyle and feel helpless. Similarly, there are Tibetans residing in India who live with the same uncertainty of the wellbeing and conditions of their loved ones stranded in Tibet.
As a result, Mcleodganj has developed into a hub that supports Tibetan refugees and attempts to make their goals achievable.
However, that is not sufficient. It is for each citizen of this country and each member of society to empathise with Tibetan refugees by doing their share of duties to help them achieve their goals.
I felt that it was an obligation to volunteer with Tibetans for the sake of recognition. However, once I took the first step, I changed my outlook towards it which makes me want to go back to Mcleodganj where my soul can be at peace with what I do.
Hence, I propose that anyone who is interested and wants to visit Mcleodganj and it's beauty, irrespective of their want and motivation for volunteer work is most welcome to tag along with me during my next journey to the summer capital.
It is because we all find places where our soul connects, this is mine; can be yours.
Dhriti is a DLRC Sr. HighSchooler and loves politics,travelling and enabling compassion. She looks to explore creative ways of communication and it healing us.