Lhachi - my Tibetan friend
I met this lovely Tibetan girl called Lhachi. Her parents are taking care of the Guru Rinpoche statue at Tso Pema, India. Since two weeks I am here and the first days I used to go there almost each day to make prostrations, meditate or do butter lamp offerings. When I was doing the latter Lhachi accompanied me and since I always care the “Tibet will be free” bag she asked me if she may take some pictures of me. We started to talk and I liked her immediately, because she has a very open, polite, calm and friendly manner.
Almost each day I went up to the temple to see her and eventually she would teach me a little bit of Tibetan and I would teach her a little bit of Spanish. But we became friends, so teaching and learning became secondary. Through her I was - or still am - invited to drink chai with her and her parents, sometimes her brother, who is a Kempo in one of the monasteries, sometimes other relatives or monks are there. With them I tried the famous salty butter tea, which for most of the westerns is totally not their taste, and tsampa. A “dish” made of barley, tea or simple water, butter and dried yak cheese. You mix everything that way that it becomes like a ball and you eat it just bit by bit. I must confess that I liked both and they wondered how it comes. So we laugh when I say that in another life I was Tibetan myself.
They are such a sweet and friendly, generous family (above all generous with smiles, laughing and chai), with such and amazingly good vibe that I consider myself very fortunate to have them met. They make me feel at home and this is a precious gift.
Since Lhachi leaves tomorrow to Delhi, because she studies there, I went up to see her and it resulted in the longest visit which was practically from 10 until 19 o’clock. First we talked about all the difficulties her uncle, the Rinpoche who built the temple, and her family have to affront with local Indians and government, who are envious because of the success of the big and impressively beautiful temple and Guru Rinpoche statue. Then we switched to the topic of the Mexican movement “Yo Soy #132” where her uncle joined us and resulted in all taking photos of me with the movement’s sign, and them showing respect and solidarity with the movement. Afterwords they invited me for lunch and Lhachi and I kept sitting for hours in the dining room talking about her life, her parents life and how they came to India as Tibetan refugees.
In eastern Tibet they used to be nomads, having horses, cattle and sheeps. Considering the difficult situation for themselves and her elder daughter they took the decision to send her together with her uncle, a Lama, to flee via Nepal to India.
When I listened to her story it felt like being absorbed by a movie, full of suspense, emotions, fears and victories.
From their home she, being like six years old, and her uncle took an open jeep like bus to Lhasa, having a huge amount of luggage like clothes, milk, tsampa, meat, pans and so on. The street was hardly to consider like this but more a way pressed naturally by the passing by of cars and horses. Only one vehicle has space at the time and even this single vehicle was in danger of falling down the abysm. In their journey it happened once, almost twice. The first time the driver could ask everybody to get off the bus before he started the engine again, causing that the bus fell down. Everyone was screaming, the drivers son, the women and Lhachi was hiding her face behind her hands to avoid seeing this scene. Three loops and the bus stopped. Few people ran down immediately to help the driver, who, by the way, open the drivers door and came out like nothing. He said that he was holding as strong as he could to the wheel, making it almost hard to believe, that precisely this saved him.
After three days they managed to get the bus fixed and pulled it back to the street.
Before reaching Lhasa again the conditions were bad. It was raining, the street - which was not - full of mud and the bus was already slipping into the precipice. Two monks managed to jump out of it before falling down themselves and again the driver shouted that everybody should get off the bus. Lhachi’s uncle put her down the floor where she got stuck almost until the hips into mud and she was not able to walk at all. The men helped to secure the bus with trees so it wouldn’t fall down and decided to keep driving the next day by daylight. Full of mud she slept in her nice and warm quilt only to realise the next morning that now there is nothing left clean anymore.
From Lhasa the group was guided by a tall and thin Tibetan to the Himalayas to cross them nearby Mount Everest towards the Nepalese boarder. Once they left the tibetan plateau behind and one step before starting the several day long, non professional trekking through the snow peaks, they had to leave all the heavy baggage and they made a mountain of pans, food, clothes, etc. just in the middle of nowhere, leaving behind everything they possessed.
Being afraid of the Chinese soldiers who are trained to catch Tibetan refugees and bring them back to put them in jail and in many cases to torture them there, they walked by night only and slept during the day hiding in caves.
For that little six year old girl it was such a tedious journey through snow, rocks and icy wind, that even if she and her uncle had the appropriate shoes and clothing it was too much for her. The guide was so fast and she hardly couldn’t follow his steps, so that her uncle had to carry her. Tired and full of fear she prayed so much that the Chinese guys would catch them and just send them back home where mommy and daddy were. But they reached some lakes, indicating that they are about to reach the boarder and the group also walked by daylight.
Once in Nepal they sold their clothes and shoes made for snow to buy from that money a sheep. The owner killed the animal and Lhachi was happy on the one hand to have some solid food again, and crying because sheeps remembered her in that moment (and the future years of infancy) of her home and parents.
The whole group was arrested and put in jail from morning to evening until a blonde, western women came to pay for their fees and took them to the refugees camp. Once they got their refugee certificate they were able to go to India.
Another Tibetan told me that the Chinese government doesn’t expire so easily a passport to a Tibetan because they fear that then all the Tibetans would abandon “China” legally and spread the word about the human rights violations committed against the Tibetans. And I would like to ask all those people who think, that after the Chinese invasion everything changed for good in Tibet and all the Tibetans are living in better conditions, why then they aren’t given a passport? Isn’t that your right as a citizen of whatever country to get an official ID? And if everything is that good, then why do they need to flee?
The United Nations established that each and every single person has the right of an identity, and even if they don’t have a passport at least they get this refugee certificate which with they are allowed to travel and to ask for exile in other countries.
Once in India Lhachi’s uncle brought her to the Tibetan Children Village (TCV) which is kind of a boarding school for Tibetan kids who came under the same conditions to India. Sometimes with only one relative, but sometimes completely alone. Not even knowing where their parents are and for sure not being able to meet their parents ever again.
Lhachi judged them as heartless, wondering how parents could send their kids without anyone taking care of them, without telling them where to go and where to reach their parents.
But I think more of how desperate they must have been, under which terrible conditions they must live, to send them far away. Isn’t it possible that the fear of being caught by the Chinese authorities, if their children tried to get back or were caught as well or simply told the wrong person from where they come, would have led the parents to that unbearable action?
I really don’t dare to judge in any way, it’s just far beyond my understanding and capability.
Tibetans who flee first and then go back to Tibet are always caught, put in jail and often enough tortured, but for sure always interrogated. Sometimes they spent months in jail and when released they are spied, making communication to friends and relatives outside Tibet almost impossible and highly dangerous for both sides.
Since the Chinese soldiers became much more violent and not seldom shoot at refugees while attempting to cross the Himalayas in hope for a better future and life conditions, less children are sent to India. During the five years of being at the TCV, Lhachi tells me, they were about five to six thousand children. Now they are hardly seven hundred and from them also a lot of Indian kids
Now seriously, who believes that Lhachi’s story is only one of few???
I better leave the answer to you.