McLeod Ganj is so different to Amritsar and Delhi! It's so quiet, beautiful and healthy, we couldn't believe we were still in India. Also because of the large presence of Tibetan shops, monks and restaurant, we wondered about the history of this beautiful city. So we started investigating a bit...And we were deeply shocked.
Before 1959, Tibet was a beautiful and peaceful autonomous region in the Himalayas, lead by the spiritual leaders and the Dalai Lama. Then the Chines occupied the area and millions of lives have been lost and 90% of the Tibetan culture has been razed. And the conflicts goes on and causes new deaths day by day. In front of the world!!
Why? You may ask yourself. It is, of course, all about money, natural ressources and power. This is how the Chinese justify the massacre.
The dangerous situation in the Himalayas made thousands of desperate Tibetans search refuge in Mcleod Ganj, India, which is today seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile and the official residence of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama.
We coincidentally met Tamdin Tstetan, a tatoo artist, musician and political activist. He told us his story and we could not believe what a shitplace this world actually was.
Wandering around the streets of Mcleod Ganj, Laura suddenly decided to get another tattoo. Entering the tattoo studio of Tamdin Tstetung, we were surprised first, because it wasn't a studio at all. We were standing in the middle of a living room with guitars everywere and loads of tattoo pictures on the wall. Tamdin entered the room and we immediately started to talk and laugh a lot.
He has long hair, tattoos and wore a T-shirt saying "Free Tibet, save Tibet". When he asked about our age, the conversation suddenly turned serious. He told us he didn't really know his age, because he didn't trust his passport. He then told us his story:
Nearly dead from starvation, after months of desperation and unimaginable horros, Tamdin reached McLeod Ganj. He did the journey (1000 km, across the himalayas!) by foot in wintertimes, because the chinese troops cannot live at altitudes that high. One day the Chinese troops fired on them and half of the group never reapperaed. Later on, some refugees were arrested and sold back to the Chinese border by a corrupt policeman for a few dollars. He even watched a monk drown in a river. From his group of 49 people only 12 survived. He never knew what happened to all the others.
Today, Tamdin has a reputation in India. He is one of the best Tattoo artists on the subcontinent, he is a musician and a talented artist. We listened to his songs and from his smusic, it was abundantly clear that he is still a Tibetan who loves his homeland and hopes for nothing less than its freedom. He will never forget the experience and it drives him in his mission: to make the world aware of the plight of his people trhough his creativity and activism. He fights for his homeland to realize his biggest dream: a free Tibet.
We completely solidarise with the Tibetans and hope for a better future for all of them. Hopefully one day there will be peace again in this wonderful region, embraced and sheltered by the Himalayas.
Beautiful McLeod Ganj
At the Dalai Lamas residency