Photo feature

Photos: The sights and sounds of Delhi’s Mini Tibet

‘Sometimes I feel my heart is in Tibet, but body is in India.’

Many Indians have walked the narrow lanes of Majnu-ka-Tilla, a Tibetan settlement on the banks of River Yamuna in Delhi, and fallen in love with it. And for good reasons.

A group of photography enthusiasts called the Delhi Photo Expedition, we scouted around the settlement for good frames last month. We too were distracted by the inviting sight and smell of spicy meat curries. We gave in to the temptation, but only after achieving our mission, which was to scratch beneath the surface and discover the soul of “Mini Tibet”, as Majnu-ka-Tilla is often known.

Large prayer wheels are often a delight for tourists, who may or may not understand what it means to spin them. Image: Vishal Arora
Large prayer wheels are often a delight for tourists, who may or may not understand what it means to spin them. Image: Vishal Arora

While that description matches the area’s visibly distinct cultural manifestations, what drew the attention of our cameras was the local people – the old, the young and the children – and the posters that helped us peep into their lives.

Numerous Tibetan youth in exile are involved in various campaigns for genuine autonomy in Tibet, or the freedom of Tibet from Chinese rule. Their struggle remains one of the very few non-violent conflicts in the world. Image: Meagan Kay Clark
Numerous Tibetan youth in exile are involved in various campaigns for genuine autonomy in Tibet, or the freedom of Tibet from Chinese rule. Their struggle remains one of the very few non-violent conflicts in the world. Image: Meagan Kay Clark

Showing us around was Miss Tibet 2015, Pema Choedon, a PhD student at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University. Though not a resident of Majnu-ka-Tilla, Choedon displayed the same trait that characterises the entire Tibetan community there, and elsewhere in the country – a deep and persistent sense of longing for their homeland.

Tibetans says the Chinese government is destroying their culture in Tibet, in an attempt to assimilate the Tibetan population. Image: Amelia Andrews
Tibetans says the Chinese government is destroying their culture in Tibet, in an attempt to assimilate the Tibetan population. Image: Amelia Andrews

“Sometimes I feel my heart is in Tibet but body is in India,” Choedon said.

'Free Tibet', is the name of a campaign, and a popular phrase among supporters of the Tibetan struggle against China. It is also used by those who support the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way, which seeks to resolve the conflict through dialogue, and calls for a higher level of autonomy. Image: Sanjukta Basu
'Free Tibet', is the name of a campaign, and a popular phrase among supporters of the Tibetan struggle against China. It is also used by those who support the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way, which seeks to resolve the conflict through dialogue, and calls for a higher level of autonomy. Image: Sanjukta Basu

But she has never visited Tibet. She was born in Sikkim. “Deep down inside me, I know I’m a refugee without a country,” Choedon said, explaining the strange feeling.

Majnu-ka-Tilla was initially a refugee camp, after the arrival of thousands of Tibetans in 1959. Within a year, the Indian government allotted land to the refugees, and they have lived here ever since. Image: Rajeev Frederick
Majnu-ka-Tilla was initially a refugee camp, after the arrival of thousands of Tibetans in 1959. Within a year, the Indian government allotted land to the refugees, and they have lived here ever since. Image: Rajeev Frederick

“When I was in the Philippines last year for an international beauty pageant, I longed to come back to India, though I knew I am just a refugee.”

Almost all Tibetan youth appear to be religious, at least culturally, and adhere to the traditions of their homeland. Image: Sanjukta Basu
Almost all Tibetan youth appear to be religious, at least culturally, and adhere to the traditions of their homeland. Image: Sanjukta Basu

More than 150,000 Tibetans live in India, hundreds of miles away from their homeland. Many of them fled Tibet along with the 14th Dalai Lama after the failed 1959 uprising against the Chinese regime.

Tibet’s culture, which is deeply rooted in Mahayana Buddhism, is closely linked to the Tibetans’ sense of nationhood. Image: Meagan Clark
Tibet’s culture, which is deeply rooted in Mahayana Buddhism, is closely linked to the Tibetans’ sense of nationhood. Image: Meagan Clark

What Choedon verbalised was visible on the faces and gestures of the Tibetans who live in Majnu-ka-Tilla. We could not miss their quiet confidence and sense of pride in being rooted in their culture either.

While the Dalai Lama’s representatives have held talks with the Chinese government on the Tibet conflict in the past, there have been no official meetings in the recent past. At least 145 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet and China since February 2009. Image: Saraswati Sundas
While the Dalai Lama’s representatives have held talks with the Chinese government on the Tibet conflict in the past, there have been no official meetings in the recent past. At least 145 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet and China since February 2009. Image: Saraswati Sundas
Tibetan Buddhists believe they can help spread spiritual blessings and well-being by setting in motion prayer wheels, which contain copies of mantras and sacred texts. Image: Meagan Clark
Tibetan Buddhists believe they can help spread spiritual blessings and well-being by setting in motion prayer wheels, which contain copies of mantras and sacred texts. Image: Meagan Clark
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Get ready for an 80-hour shopping marathon

Here are some tips that’ll help you take the lead.

Starting 16th July at 4:00pm, Flipkart will be hosting its Big Shopping Days sale over 3 days (till 19th July). This mega online shopping event is just what a sale should be, promising not just the best discounts but also buying options such as no cost EMIs, buyback guarantee and product exchanges. A shopping festival this big, packed with deals that you can’t get yourself to refuse, can get overwhelming. So don’t worry, we’re here to tell you why Big Shopping Days is the only sale you need, with these helpful hints and highlights.

Samsung Galaxy On Nxt (64 GB)

A host of entertainment options, latest security features and a 13 MP rear camera that has mastered light come packed in sleek metal unibody. The sale offers an almost 40% discount on the price. Moreover, there is a buyback guarantee which is part of the deal.

Original price: Rs. 17,900

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Samsung 32 inches HD Ready LED TV

Another blockbuster deal in the sale catalogue is this audio and visual delight. Apart from a discount of 41%, the deal promises no-cost EMIs up to 12 months.

Original price: Rs. 28,890

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 10,900

Intel Core I3 equipped laptops

These laptops will make a thoughtful college send-off gift or any gift for that matter. Since the festive season is around the corner, you might want to make use of this sale to bring your A-game to family festivities.

Original price: Rs. 25,590

Big Shopping Days price: Rs. 21,900

Fashion

If you’ve been planning a mid-year wardrobe refresh, Flipkart’s got you covered. The Big Shopping Days offer 50% to 80% discount on men’s clothing. You can pick from a host of top brands including Adidas and Wrangler.

With more sale hours, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days sale ensures we can spend more time perusing and purchasing these deals. Apart from the above-mentioned products, you can expect up to 80% discount across categories including mobiles, appliances, electronics, fashion, beauty, home and furniture.

Features like blockbuster deals that are refreshed every 8 hours along with a price crash, rush hour deals from 4-6 PM on the starting day and first-time product discounts makes this a shopping experience that will have you exclaiming “Sale ho to aisi! (warna na ho)”

Set your reminders and mark your calendar, Flipkart’s Big Shopping Days starts 16th July, 4 PM and end on 19th July. To participate in 80 hours of shopping madness, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Flipkart and not by the Scroll editorial team.