Seven days in a Tibetan village

By Tashi Tsering

sliver tree forest
When Woeser set for Lhasa from Beijing, I went down to south India to see a Tibetan village. I spent a week in Bylakuppe ‘Shechak’— observing the life of the Tibetans in Shechak and listening to the stories of older generation.
Reading Woeser’s tweets of being questioned and interrogated while journeying from Beijing to Lhasa, interestingly I was also traveling under fear from Bangalore to the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe. People in Bylakuppee, Mysore and Bangalore in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were on strike over River Cauvery issue. All the roads to Bylakuppe, Mysore and in the region were banned; one can see nothing but the burning of vehicle wheels while being on way to the Tibetan settlement in Bylakuppe.
Unlike Woeser and other Tibetans in Tibet who were suspected, investigated and interrupted in the trains, and buses while travelling from Beijing to Lhasa, I was specially treated by the Indian police who were deployed on the roads- keeping people away from travelling during the strike.  
“Tibetan sir, Tibetans; going to Bylakuppe,” our taxi driver begged.
Several of times, our taxi was stopped—four times by the police and three times by the protesters on the road. Every time our taxi driver said ‘Tibetan going to Bylakuppe’, they just peeped into our taxi and waved their hands in the air signaling us to go ahead.
Surprisingly the roads from Mysore to Bylakuppe and from one Tibetan camp (village) to another camp in Bylakuppe are so well built and clean. It is much more clean and prettier to walk on the roads than sitting in the corridors of some of the families in the Tibetan village.
Not many of the Tibetans in the village herd cows nowadays, but the cows and farms had once been the main source of income for these Tibetans decades back. Even today, they do own fields but the fields have turned into forests.
“We have started planting silver trees and it is a good business. It will take around fifteen years to grow but it doesn’t need much care like the farms do,” a Tibetan said, adding that these days they prefer to plant than farm.
Nothing has left in the camps, only the old houses, old people and the sliver tree-fields. Almost all of the families in the villages have one or two relatives at abroad either in US or Europe.
Unfortunately or fortunately, with the dollars and Euros from abroad, Tibetans in the camps are leading a soft and lazy life. Almost all the houses got renewed but not many of them have built new houses hoping to return home in Tibet sooner than later. Few of the palace size houses are either residential houses of the Lamas and their students or owned by the relatives of the Lamas and trulkuls.
Houses got renewed, and farms have turned into forests, but the Tibetan scenery is still so strong, and everybody is looking forward to return home.

NOTE— Tashi Tsering is a special correspondent and writer for Tibet Telegraph

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  1. It is good to learn that Tibetan spirit still prevail among Tibetans in Bylakuppe! This is infact we all should work together to preserve no matter where we live in the world.

  2. Sliver tree is a good business. Each tree cost around Rs 3000

  3. I felt as if I travelled with you Tashi la! It is sad to learn that not much is left besides empty houses, old people... but at the same it is a good sign that our people are financially improving. With strong finance in hand, the most advanced religion in heart under His Holiness spirituality, we need to work together to educate our youngsters in all the fields to fight back againt Communist regime!