Tibetan settlement in delhi,majnu ka tilla
Majnu Ka Tilla
The Tibetan camp, within walking distance of Delhi University, is a unique Tibetan refugee creation. It is completely self-sustaining. It came into existence through hard work and an obstinate refusal to be daunted and overwhelmed by the grinding poverty within the camp and in the surrounding areas. Dharamsala is considered the heart of the Tibet world. But it is Majnu Ka Tilla that constitutes the commercial centre of the exile community. It is the hub of Tibetan commerce and spreads its limited prosperity along its many spokes to other Tibetan communities in all four directions of the subcontinent and beyond.
A definite new idea of the place in mind. First observation is how transformed the place is and how astounding the transformation is. The transformation is not limited to the swanking new buildings that have sprung up. The real transformation is one of change of the attitude of the people. Whereas in the old days Majnu Ka Tilla gave an air of resigned weariness, Majnu Ka Tilla today is a beehive of industry, energy and enterprise, all laced by an attitude which says, I can improve my lot.
Although hotels and restaurants are the main service industry of the Tibetan camp, there are other services also offered. Travel agencies offer tours throughout the Himalayas and even as far afield as Tibet. Curio shops and trinket hawkers rely on a non-Tibetan clientele. Majnu Ka Tilla numerous cyber cafes allow its inhabitants and visitors to communicate across the globe. There are gold and silver smiths, busy hammering away and churning out gold and silver ornaments and beauty parlors to match the customer’s tone of skin, or style of hairdo, with these expensive ornaments. There is a cargo service offering to ferry goods across the globe. Pavement hawkers hawk CDs of Tibetan pop songs from Tibet and within the exile community. Bookshops within shouting distance of one another specialize on books on the Dharma, teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other great lamas, Tibetan culture and medicine. Most of these books are in English. These bookshops also sell books and scriptural texts in Tibetan. Which means that the teachings of the Buddha are an actively pursued vocation in this truly globalised camp by increasing numbers of travelers and visitors from a Majnu-Ka-Tilla-ised world.
Majnu Ka Tilla is the first port of call for all Tibetans. In the early days, the only non-Tibetan presence in Majnu Ka Tilla was the Delhi University students, relishing the novelty of wolfing down momos and digging into their noodles with chopsticks. Now it seems to be the first port of call for most foreigners, going to Dharamsala to receive teachings or coming down from Dharamsala after the teachings. Because of this the crowd in Majnu Ka Tilla is global. You come across groups of excited Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Taiwanese.Whereas, Americans and Europeans, in different shades and sizes, prefer to walk the crowded by lanes in pairs or alone. Notice Western individualism and Asian groupism at work. Or, should this be interpreted as Western unilateralism and Asian cooperation?
All this gives Majnu Ka Tilla the ambience of a new Silk Road oasis town. The original Silk Road was once the world’s greatest thoroughfare, along which travelled much of the ideas and commerce that have shaped the West and Asia. Majnu Ka Tilla gives the same cosmopolitan air of commercial activities accompanied by rigorous spiritual pursuits. In keeping with its new big city image, a variety of languages work here: Tibetan, Hindi, English and Nepalese. But when there are teachings in Dharamsala, many tongues wag on the streets and pass through the refugee camp: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Italian, French and German. There are restaurants that have their menu translated into Chinese.
As a mark of how good things are going in Majnu Ka Tilla, the place is graced by a fairly big parking lot. Globalization has taken a free-ride into the refugee camp and a variety of expensive brands advertised globally sit self-importantly on the lot.
Majnu Ka Tilla is certainly going up-scale. As a mark of its new repute, the place is bestowed three new names, two officially and one informally. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has named the place Samyeling, and the chief minister of Delhi, Shiela Dixit, recently gave the place the name of Aruna Nagar. The MTV generation of Tibetan exiles refers to the place as MT.
The inhabitants of Majnu Ka Tilla take all this attention very seriously. By six in the morning, they are up and running and humming. They water the footpaths, sweep them with certainly brooms but also with a conscientiousness and civic sense that would make the mayor (if there is one) of Singapore very proud.
Other neighbour, Punjabi Basti, across the Road. A wide iron bridge high above the Road connects the two neighborhoods. Punjabi Basti has expanded and smells of money. Gone were the groveling hutments. The same spirit of enterprise animates the place. Majnu Ka Tilla, in the true spirit of globalization, has outsourced many of its important services and commerce to Punjabi Basti, including the printing and sale of prayer flags, khatas and smaller, cheaper and laminated thangkas to its neighbor. The cloth and garments shops are full of Tibetan customers. Despite the talk, hanging heavy like the heat of the city, of the danger of avian flu, the chicken shops do a brisk business. Majnu Ka Tilla and Punjabi Basti, two neighbors, once shared the same degree of poverty. Now they are linked by the same kind of uncertain prosperity.