Tibetans in Ahmedabad (An Article by Pascal Chazot)

Ahmedabad Mirror article by Pascal Chazot:
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Recently, when I had to go to Paris, I went searching for some woolens in Ahmedabad. Purchasing a sweater in France was equivalent to a month’s grocery here at home. I was adamant to buy whatever I needed here. The wife dragged me all over C.G. road where some of the prices came as close as the ones on Champs-Elysees. I then dragged the wife to the Tibetan market where I not only bought woolies for myself, but for the whole family.

Apart from the Tibetan market and the odd momo restaurant, the Tibetan presence is scant in Ahmedabad. The ongoing Tibetan festival brings to us a whiff of a bygone era. It brings the perfume of a culture that though trampled under military boots, emanates yet stronger essence. The Tibetans are a deeply spiritual and gentle people. It could not have been very difficult for China to walk over them. Ironically called the People’s Liberation Army, it claimed Tibet, the rooftop of the world in 1949. Where Tibetans once roamed free under blue skies, they are now in prisons in their own country. Despite the cultural genocide, the human rights abuses, the torture on frail innocent Buddhist monks, the Tibetans continue a non-violent struggle. The ongoing visit of Dalai Lama in the land of Gandhi has thus a special and profound meaning.

We need to preserve Tibet for the world for several reasons. We need Tibet because its centuries old culture is part of our civilization of the world. We need Tibet because they have much to offer the world in terms of visual art (Thangka paintings, bronze statues…), religion (Buddhism), medicine (holistic herbal cures), literature (Buddhist tales and myths), architecture, dance, music and most of all because despite their own sufferings, they continue to practice compassion. We also need to preserve the natural landscape of Tibet. One reads of China’s project of building a road to the Mt Everest. One hopes that the world will take strong steps to prevent what would be a major environmental disaster. It will destroy not just the natural beauty but the flora and fauna which in turn will have serious consequences for the world ecology.

The Tibetans also have the most unique political system in the world, wherein their political head is also the spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama, like other Tulku, is chosen after a complex and very interesting series of tests. It is a system that has worked all these centuries. Somehow, China seems frightened of the strength of this small community. So much so that in 1995, it kidnapped from his home the 11th Panchen Lama when he was just 6 years old making him probably the youngest political prisoner of the world. Till today, his whereabouts are not known.
China itself is a country of a prized civilization. Chinese Arts, culture and philosophy contributed greatly to the world. How can it justify the snuffing out of another culture? As China holds the 2008 Olympics, many people all over the world are finding ways of registering their protest regarding the invasion of Tibet. It is time that China understood that its continued stance will lead to more and more world citizens supporting the Tibetan cause.

I deeply believe that the scattered exiled Tibetans have led to a greater interest in Tibetan culture and philosophy. There are now monasteries in remote regions in my country in France where the French learn about meditation. India has been gracious to host the exiled Tibetans and allow them to practice their religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, I hope that the Tibetan presence in Ahmedabad goes beyond the Tibetan market. We need to help preserve Tibet for all our children.