‘Little Tibet’ in Kohima

Vibi Yhokha Kohima | November 19

Every day after school, 13-year-old Tenzin Tseten attends another class at the Tibetan community hall at Phoolbari in Kohima with 19 other Tibetan children where she learns the Tibetan language and script. The special class was initiated in 2008 among the Tibetan community which felt the need to impart Tibetan culture and history to the children growing up in a foreign land. Born and brought up in Kohima, Tseten enjoys Naga food and watching the Kohima night view; she belongs to one of the few remaining Tibetan families in Kohima.

The early Tibetan settlers came to Kohima around the 1970s, when they started earning a livelihood by selling secondhand clothes at Phoolbari. Some years back the Tibetans in Kohima consisted of more than 50 families; today they comprise around twenty families—the sole reason being a decline in business in the last three to four years. The remaining few have more than business to stay back in the hills of Kohima for. “I like the climate here that’s why even if business is not good, we are still settling,” says 58-year-old Sumchhung who came to Nagaland in 1997. He came to know of Nagaland from a friend who was once settled here. In May 1997, he visited Nagaland and on finding out the pleasant climate, he went back to his village in South India and told his wife all about it—that is how they came to settle in Kohima.

37-year-old Tenzin came to Kohima in 1997 with her husband. Tenzin got her Physiotherapy degree from Chennai. Ask her why she left the profession, she says, “Since we’re refugees, jobs do not come so easily to us. Our older generation is hardly educated and so is the same among our generation. It is our kids who are able to pursue such privileges.” Left with no other way, engaging in business becomes the only resort. Although they are allotted land to cultivate crops by the Indian government, Tenzin says that the next generation will hardly have land to cultivate.

“We (Tibetans and Nagas) are the same. We belong to the same race, it’s just that our language and dharm is different,” says 62-year-old Penba who has lived in Nagaland for 41 years. Nagas and Tibetans are like brothers, he asserts, which is one of the main reasons why he continues to live in Kohima. Perhaps one of the oldest Tibetan settlers in Kohima, he arrived in Nagaland in 1972 where he first lived in Dimapur.

They started by selling secondhand clothes and later upgraded to selling first hand goods. Penba belongs to a generation which walked all the way from Tibet to India during the 1960s with his family. He was around 9 years old during the exodus. His parents died within 2 years of arriving in Nepal. From Nepal, Penba arrived in Himachal Pradesh where he stayed for some years and moved to Chattisgarh. “Although the Indian government gave us land, the soil there was not cultivable, so we had to ultimately get into business,” adds Penba.

Whether settled in Nagaland, Karnataka or Dharamsala, Tibetan refugees consider their current place of stay temporary despite all the provisions given by the Government of India, be it land or citizenship. Much like the Naga struggle for independence, the Tibetans too have been fighting for their homeland against forceful Chinese occupation of it. Alongside, the Chinese force their culture on the Tibetans. Their stance on non-violence amidst violence, and their effort to preserve their culture are values that Nagas need to learn from the Tibetans. With the hope that one day they will return to Tibet as the rightful owners of their land, they consider their present settlement temporary. But even the temporary cannot go on forever. In the words of Sumchhung, “What started as temporary has almost reached fifty years.”

 

I know what happened to you

I don’t know you

But i know what happened to you

They raped you, didn’t they?

But you were made to keep silent

Not by your rapists

But by your owners

Because they put themselves first instead of you

 

They sent you to a wine shop, didn’t they?

How so convenient for them

To send you at night

Your rich lazy owners

One of them was a man

He’s not man enough

To buy his own liquor

Instead sending a young girl out

in the city, the rape capital

 

You crossed the park

That park, i know very well

That beautiful park where kids play during the day

And men gets drunk at night.

Ironical, isn’t it?

A park where laughter and innocence echoes at day

But darkness, lust and drunkenness creeps sneakily at night

 

You were innocent, Girl, you are.

You weren’t out looking for trouble

You went out to buy liquor

Not medicine or food

For you stupid owners

But that damned liquor

 

They saw you, didn’t they?

They’d seen you on other nights too

When your owners will send you out at night

Because they felt like drinking

 

They took you to the park

They raped you one by one

Four or five men, i heard

You didn’t even have a cellphone

And you had to walk all the way home

 

They called the President of that Union

That coward who refused to take the matter

That president who was elected for such times

 

And then they called home

Can you imagine the insensitivity?

They requested to close the case because it will be too troublesome

Police case and huge protests

But more so because they wanted to save their faces

 

You had sleepless nights

You had nightmares,  right?

You woke up crying from your sleep

They haunted you for months

I don’t know what happened after that

 

But i will never be able to cross that beautiful park again

Not because i am scared

But because it will remind me of you

and how helpless life can be

It will remind me of your rapists and your owners

who walks freely without a guilt

 

Because it will remind me that

Inspite of all the protests, Bills and Acts

It is still not safe for us

 

Because it will remind me

Of that wretched reality that

Darkness, money, power, status

triumphs over truth and justice

Daughter of patriarchy

I grew up in an egalitarian family. Apo (my father) loved gardening more than Azo (my mother). He was passionate about baking and still managed to be very manly. Azo was more of the working lady. Azo is so unromantic whereas Apo was the one who would do special things on birthdays and anniversaries. Azo woke up late while Apo will be real early. However that did not spare me from the annoying clutches of the patriarchy in my society.

I remember how sissy and i dreaded those “Thenumia sii…”  (A woman is) lectures from those annoying aunts and uncles who knew better about what a woman is and how she should behave . Girls should learn how to take care of the household. It is a shame for a girl to be spending her time in leisure, a shame for her house to be dirty, a shame if she does not know how to cook or make tea (when it was completely okay for the boys not to know). Girls are supposed to serve tea and food for the men, wash their plates, fill their glass of water. And boys were not suppose to touch needles, it almost sounded like a taboo when one of my brothers would get curious and ask if he can learn how to stitch. Oh, and it is very improper for a girl to roam in the evening, when boys were encouraged to visit their friends anytime of the day. It was okay for them to come late, after all they are boys!!

I love my village Kigwema. Almost every weekend, we visit Kigwema. One day, i wish to settle down in my village, i love the rural life- i dread the urban jungle. But i know deep down, that it might remain a dream. Because inspite of all my love for my land, i know that it is not mine. My motherland still remains my father’s land.

My society is a little more overjoyed when a son is born (though thankfully we do not kill our girls). It is a blessing for a son to be born in a family- someone to continue the bloodline, they always say, as if the daughter does not possess any blood of the clan. We spoil our sons. We pamper them too much. We keep aside the larger chunk of meat for the men.

Today, we have alcoholic sons, husbands, fathers. Why don’t we have alcoholic wives, mothers, daughters? Is alcohol patriarchal? i wonder.

And then we have the women who are the main perpetrators of patriarchy. And we also have henpecked husbands who fall victim to patriarchy.

I hope it is high time for them to know that the daughter is no lesser than the son. The daughter writes, the daughter cooks. The daughter keeps the house clean and at the same time keep the family. The daughter of patriarchy is not stupid nor weak. She knows what it is like growing up in an unequal society, she knows that she might never see an equal society in her lifetime. She knows yet she endures.

“Fathers, be good to your daughters,

Daughters will love like you do

Girls become lovers who turn into mothers

So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”

-Daughters, John Mayer

A Legendary’s doodles

Doodles are often meaningless, but when it comes to a legendary’s, it is something!!

The Forum Art Gallery in collaboration with Indian Institute of Cartoonists is exhibiting ninety five rare unpublished doodles of R K Laxman which will continue till the end of February. Here are some of my favourites (though its not good photography).

Obscene treeLife's little ironiesEnlightenmentThe irony of peaceThe one rupee

Written above-"Something nice, good, non-violent and pleasant to look at

Written above-“Something nice, good, non-violent and pleasant to look at”

 

Grammys and all that Jazz

Just when we thought we were done with Gotye’s (yes, the guy who painted his whole body with Dulux) “Somebody that I used to know”, he had to be awarded for the Grammy’s Record of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with Kimbra. (Seriously!One was not enough?)

Grammy Awards is considered to be the most prestigious music awards but with the choice of music they are awarding, I’m sure people (those who love real music) have started to lose their faith in humanity. It is quite clear today that Grammy Awards is mainly about music that is commercially successful rather than critically acclaimed.
Maynard James Keenan from the metal band Tool once said, “I think the Grammys are nothing more than some gigantic promotional machine for the music industry. They cater to a low intellect and they feed the masses. They don’t honor the arts or the artist for what he created. It’s the music business celebrating itself. That’s basically what it’s all about.”

Michael Cragg (The Guardian) in his article “Grammys 2013: 5 things we learned” said that Beyonce just can’t stop winning. “Beyonce is to the Grammys in the modern era what Manchester United are to the Premier League; ie they both tend to win everything with an effortlessness that makes everyone else really bitter.” This woman just keeps on winning every single year ever since she started her career.

The band Fun walked away with two Grammys for the Best New Artists and Song of the Year overshadowing the simple yet true-to-their-roots folk music of The Lumineers. And if you listen to Laecre’s Gravity, (Winner for the Best Gospel Album) it sounded more like a guy who is trying too hard to rap or simply put.

Performances
The opening was Taylor Swift’s “We are never ever getting back together” which went flat throughout the whole performance. Perhaps the best performance was by Justin Timberlake (Suit and Tie) which kept the whole audience grooving and his voice was impeccably fun. Damien Marley, Ziggy Marley, Bruno Mars, Sting and Rihanna’s tribute to Bob Marley was power-packed though one couldn’t help but notice how Rihanna sang like a possessed woman. The Lumineers performance on their “Ho Hey” song was another beautiful performance though many of the audience including stars were not very familiar with their music.

The drum performance by Alicia Keys was not the only thing attraction in her “Girl on fire” performance with Maroon 5, one has to seriously wonder how her dress could barely cover her breast below.

Dress: The highlight of the show
The Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) had sent a memo to the Grammys requesting stars not to bare too much skin in order to avoid wardrobe malfunction. The dress code required them to adequately cover the buttocks and female breasts. They were also warned not to wear “see-through clothing” and “thong type costumes”. However, J-lo came dressed like a Samurai in her leg-baring Anthony Vaccarello dress at the Grammys which was a grave reminder of Angelina Jolie’s faux pas at the Oscars last year. And one wondered whether Kelly Rowland wore any panties in her too visible strategically cut out dress. Janelle Monae was the Magician for the night in her embroidered Moschino suit and Rap artist 2 Chainz was dressed up somewhere in between the Mask of Zorro and a Magician. Oh and you should have seen Singer Florence Welch who arrived straight from Mars in hergreen armour-like Givenchy dress. Much to people’s disappointment, Adele was dressed in a beautiful curtain. And we have no idea what the light-up was all about on the dress which Carrie Underwood wore on-stage which spoilt what would have been a dazzling gown. I have no words for Wiz Khalifa and his heavily pregnant girlfriend Amber Rose.

Thankfully Taylor Swift (the girl who earns millions for writing songs about every single guy she meets) just won one award with Civil Wars for “Safe and Sound” and Chris Brown is still a douchebag!!

A Tibet story in Kollegal

Photo0356

Abu Tenzin is a well-known farmer in Dhondenling

Situated on a hillock, the Dhondenling Tibetan settlement is a distinct world all by itself. Cute little monks in their red Kashaya robes race up the hill and colourful prayer flags are hung in symmetrical lines on trees as the Dzogchen Monastery rises majestically on the Eastern side.

The settlement was established in 1974 to provide refuge to Tibetans who had left Tibet during the Sino-Tibet war. And today it consists of 23 villages with a population of around 6000. It has its own Tibetan school, a clinic, allopathic hospital, a monastic body of 200 monks and two monasteries.

Abu Tenzin is a farmer, born and brought up in Dhondenling. He speaks fluent Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and English. When his parents first came to the settlement, it was just a forest which looked impossible for human settlement. However, the early settlers with the help of Myrada(a Non Governmental Organisation that supports micro-credit initiatives and sustainable development) cleared the jungle and started building houses. It was a huge effort for the Tibetans not just to turn the jungle into a home but also to adjust to climatic conditions from extreme cold to hot climate. Abu says, “Our greatest fear when we first settled here were elephants. Elephants still come but I’m not scared of them now because I have made friendship with them. At night I stay in the farm because we will be in huge trouble if they eat up or destroy our crops. We take rounds every night to check on them.”

Growing up, Abu did not have an easy life. He says, “When I was in class 5 I left school because we had a lot of problems. We were too poor that I couldn’t even afford to buy new pants. If there was a hole in pants I would put patches on my torn pants. I am 37 years now but 15 years ago we were really poor and had faced a lot of difficulties. We had our house but we survived just for today, we didn’t have enough for tomorrow. “

The Tibetan community is a highly integrated one whose main aim is to create an equal level of living standards among its people. Abu says, “For us if anyone has problems, we help them. We have our own office where we help anyone who has health problems or money problems and are not able to afford it. The thing with us Tibetans is that we don’t want to move forward alone. We want to be in an equal level.”

Compared to other villages, Dhondenling is highly developed with good roads, proper sanitation and education. Once their kids passed out of 10 or 12class, they send them to metro cities like Bangalore or Chennai for further studies. The active involvement of the community is one main reason for the development of the settlement. Abu Tenzin says, “See, you know how the government works these days. We are alloted Rs 1 lakh for road construction in a year however we get only Rs 25,000 and now we don’t know where the Rs 75,000 has disappeared. The road was constructed a year ago and now it is all gone. We are planning to construct the roads, because we are fed up of asking the government. We gather four or five boys and let them go in Tibetan households to gather donations. Also when our relatives come from abroad, we ask for donations. That way we are starting to construct the roads.” They have now enough money to construct a 4-5 km road.

Another interesting factor among Tibetans is that they have a tendency of sending at least one member of the family abroad. Abu has three sisters who are settled in New York, Canada and Switzerland. He says, “They come once in two years. We try to send atleast one person abroad, because we want a better life for them, become someone in life and move forward.”

Farming maize is the main occupation of the Tibetans here. They also grow potatoes, ragi, and vegetables. They farm according to the rainfall and also employ local labourers. There are 3000 acres of land in Dhondenling where each family is allotted land according to the number of members. Abu says, “There are five people in our family so we get five acres and if a person dies the acre allotted to him will also be taken away which is registered in the office and given to someone else in need.”

He also adds, “In earlier times, we got five quintals for each acre but now we get 200 quintals out of 6 acres. There has been a lot of differences and development over the years. In those times we had to work really hard but now we have really come ahead.”

And then there are the ones who go for business for almost three months. He says, “It’s time for them to come. They usually travel the whole of India during the winter months to sell woollen sweaters. Our season for cultivation is about to start and they will be back by January 15. In February, we have the New Year festival but we wouldn’t be celebrating this year. We didn’t celebrate last year also because in Tibet so many people are losing their lives. “

Abu asked us whether we were interested in sports. He said excitedly that one of their boys, Karma Tsewang, recently got selected in the Indian football team. Before, he played for Viva Kerala until he got selected in Pune F C. as a mid fielder.  He remarked, “Now he is going to be a Star!”

On being asked about deprivation in local villages outside Dhondenling and what he feels about it, Abu noted that they have worked really hard to improve their setttlement. He says, “Living in a modern world, we try to improve ourselves and I think we have fared much better than the others here because we try to learn new things, we think new things. It depends on our thinking and doing things differently.”

When asked about the future Abu said, “I want to do so many things. I have worked as a taxi driver before. Today I am a farmer. Not getting myself educated has been my biggest regret. If I had education I would have accomplished so many things but now this is hindering me from doing the things I want to.”

Abu also wants to go to Tibet one day. Eventhough he was born and brought up in India, he says his heart is in Tibet. “I have been living in this extreme heat ever since i was born but i have never gotten used to it. I want to feel the extreme cold in Tibet. It’s in my blood.”

Dalai Lama has visited Dhondenling around four times. Abu believes that if Dalai Lama comes every year, the settlement will develop a lot better

“Our hopes are alive as long as the Dalai Lama is alive,”  says Abu.

The Phenomenon of Ambedkar

“The future of India will not be in semi-nakedness, it will be in suits and boots”, said Professor Kancha Ilaiah of Osmania University, Hyderabad while delivering a lecture on the topic “Dalit-Bahujan discourse” at the Asian College of Journalism.
Professor Ilaiah focused on the phenomenon of B R Ambedkar and what this character is doing to the country and how it is very crucial to understand the phenomenon of Ambedkar. Professor Ilaiah also emphasised on how the world needs to move on and change on the basis of equality in the social, political and economic realm- which is also the core basis of Ambedkar’s phenomenon.
Ambedkar’s phenomenon has often been overlooked. He was criticized as being an agent of the Britishers. In 1953, when he drafted a bill for equal property rights for the Indian girl child and women, it was refused. For Ambedkar, unless women are treated equally on par with men, India cannot claim to be a democratic nation. India’s obsession with Gandhi has somehow overshadowed the contributions of Ambedkar to the nation. Professor Ilaiah is critical of the fact that though the nation talks of following Gandhi’s ideals, the way they live is not. For example, Gandhi’s simplicity is much praised and one of his visible simplicity aspects is his semi-nakedness of wearing nothing but a loincloth. During the freedom struggles, his simplicity was made a nationalist point especially at the Round Table conference, they asserted their right to attend the conference with loinclothes on. However, today each Indian send their schoolkid in shirts and shoes instead of loincloth. This, for Professor Ilaiah is hypocrisy-talking Gandhi but living Ambedkar.

Religion, for Ambedkar, was the main source of politics so he emphasized on bringing equality by abolishing caste. Another important factor that has often been overlooked again is Ambedkar’s contribution to the drafting of the Indian constitution. Explaining the controversial Ambedkar cartoon, Professor Ilaiah talked of how Ambedkar managed to draft the Constitution of the world’s biggest democracy in three years despite of all the criticisms by the nation of its slow process. America’s constitution took five years to complete though it was a really small one, however India’s constitution was completed in three years which should be appreciated.

 

A leader who gives spirituality, social equality, economic equality for the most oppressed people of the world is understood by the world, says Professor Ilaiah, and Ambedkar is one with such qualities therefore he cannot be underestimated.

Kathakali at Kalakshetra

The singer croons an ornate melody as the drum beats and the percussion follows up. The Kathakali artists are enacting the play of the Rishi Narada’s visit to King Nala. As King Nala expresses his awe at the appearance of Narada, the audience too is in awe of the Kathakali artist’s movements. The rhythmic steps of the artist’s movement is in complete sync with his facial expression, the movements of his hands, the drum beats, the song and music in the background. Welcome to the world of Kathakali- the beautiful art from the backwaters of Kerala.
Kalakshetra Foundation is a training and performance institute committed to artistic excellence. The Foundation organised an event starting from September 5 which will continue till September 15 comprising of lectures and different art form of dances. On September 11, the Kathakali play on Nalacharitam Onnam Divasam (Part-I) was held and performed by Kalamandalam Balasubramanian.

The special guests at the event were, Karan Singh, descendant of Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, Member of Rajya Sabha and Gopal Krishna Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and former Governor of West Bengal.