Deep in our sleep we hear chants “free Tibet”, “we want justice” ,”50 years of injustice”, suddenly we wake up and realize that the voices are not in our dreams, but in front of our window. We watch a demonstration passing by: about 200 people, most of them red-robed Buddhist monks, many Tibetan flags, some tourists and a loudspeaker repeating the same pleas.
[flickr height=”300″ width=”400″]http://www.flickr.com/photos/35413670@N07/3974116251/[/flickr]
We are in Dharamsala, a backpacker town close to the Himalaya range, but more importantly the seat of the Tibetan government in exile for the last 50 years.
It is the 1st of October, today China is celebrating 60 years of the People’s Republic. Shortly after the foundation of the communist China Tibet was invaded. Dalai Lama flew to India over the Himalayas 50 years ago and ever since Dharamsala has welcomed many Tibetan refugees who followed their secular and spiritual leader into exile.
We talk to one of the young Hindu police guards in charge of the security of Dalai Lama’s residence. We ask him about conflicts between the Indian population and the majority of Tibetans in this town. There aren’t any. He proudly shows us a cow that belongs to his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and informs us about the busy travel schedule (Taiwan, Germany, London) and the next days that Dalai Lama will spend here, at home in Dharamsala.
Dharamsala doesn’t seem India, the Tibetan culture is everywhere: many Buddhist monks, old Tibetan ladies,temples, Tibetan cuisine, traditional dances, handicraft, language courses, charities, etc. The Chinese destroyed 90% of the cultural heritage in Tibet, here the Tibetans are working hard to conserve their traditions.
We eat at a small family-run restaurant and order the tibetan speciality: momos (yummie dumplings).
After dinner the 6 year old son of the family approaches us shyly, he wants to show us his reading skills. He carries a book “Introduction to Tibet” and shows us Tibet, his ancestor’s home, and India, his home, on the map.
We wonder if the boy and his family will ever be able to go back home and experience the life and culture of the other (the real?) Tibet.