Essay by Experimenter Lili:
DISCLAIMER. Most of the people I asked were Indian men, just because in the local community this was the group that spoke the most English and most shop owners fit this description.
India is one of the most heavily populated countries in the world. With 1.324 billion people in the country, there is bound to be diversity within the previously stated number. Before traveling here, it is easy to succumb to the third world country (image. Stereotypes) that is propagated in mainstream media. Unfortunately the only images of India that are published in media are bloated, poor children, dirty streets, and overall chaos. While some stereotypes often do have some truth, there is danger in only seeing one side of the full picture. Upon visiting India, one might learn that different identifiers shape ones experience of living in India. A women’s experience is completely different from that of a man, living in south India is different from north India, a refugee’s experience is different from someone who has claimed India as their home for generations. So what does India mean to these different types of people specifically for Tibetan refugees and native Indians?
During our home stay we stayed with the Tibetan family.
After interviewing different people within the local community I was able to see how privilege plays a major role in ones experience living in India.
Most Tibetan refugees from tand he McLeod GANj community claimed that, India, though it felt like home, was still a temporary situation. A place they could seek political asylum, until they are able to return the “motherland” as many called it, Tibet, which is currently illegally occupied by the Chinese government.
One 45 year oldTibetan monk, Yeshi, shared that despite his refugee status he felt welcome in India as he traveled here from Tibet in 1989 for religious freedom. The freedom to practice Buddishm, where in the occupied Tibet only Chinese culture, language and traditions were taught. Though many Tibetans agreed that India offered a certain freedom, stolen from them in Tibet, there are still limitations to that freedom being “foreginers.” Many specified a feeling that Indian land is simply borrowed land, but felt helpless as they couldn’t return to their tru home one Tibetan monk joked “funny Tibetan need visa to go to Tibet”.
Furthermore, According to Tibetan woman Tseyang( early 20’s) and Tashi (mid 50’s) “the [Indian] land is not mine…[Tibet] is my land.” Both, being born in India are eligible for Indian citizenship, but yet don’t apply because of a fear of “loosing their identity.” Instead these Tibetan foreigners have a special identification which requires a yearly renewal. In fact ones right to live in India, among other rights*, depends if they own a Registration certificate(Rc), which from 1959 up until the early 1980’s was granted to all Tibetan refugees. Now there are stricter regulations that limit ones ability to have a and RC. For example, one must be born or have lived in India for 20 plus years, Tibetan orphans need teacher recommendations to apply, for some a high school graduation is required. **
As one can assume this experience is not that same for an India person. Many of the interviewed Indian people spoke of the vast beauty of the land, their own “mother country,” proudly claiming that they were Kashmir or from Agra and etc. Indian shop owner, Hamid (23) detailed that he enjoyed the freedom of being able to travel to so many differnt countries with an “India license,” a freedom only allotted to citizens. Many of the men spoke on how women and men are equal with the same rights. One Kashmir Indian man even said that women only seem to have more rights because they are “shy,” while another claimed that “man can do anything” which makes it easier to be a man.
The one Indian woman, Archna that was interviews claimed that though India is home and she loves it, it is in fact in her experience, very differnt from a man with certain challenges she faced specific to women.
Overall, a simple question: what does India mean to you? Suddenly became a investigation on the role of privilege in India. As Hailey said privilege is being able to choose weather or not one cares within a certain situation. The Tibetan people I interviewed weather they wanted it or not felt a responsibity to carry their culture and traditions, which were being erased in China. The women were forced to think about their role in society and the the privileges that men have while many men were able to claim that gender did not matter.
Final conclusion: inconclusive
* *for example and RC, according to ecoi. Net, is “needed employment, to open a bank account, to obtain a driver’s license and to obtain a travel document”