In a series of special features, Tibet Post journalist Colleen McKown reports from India's largest Tibetan settlement, Mundgod, in the southern state of Karnataka.
Mundgod, India: Tenzin Choney (26), lives in Mundgod with her husband Tenzin Choyang (45), her uncle Kyap Tsering (95), and her two-year-old daughter Tenzin Dawoe. The Tibet Post talked with her in her home about her family life, views on life in Mundgod and future hopes.
Choney's mother and uncle came to India from Tibet in 1959, and Choney was born in Mundgod. Her mother died in 2002, when she was in tenth class at school. Choney has an older sister who lives in Mussorie.
Choney spent four years in the Indian army, based in Dehra Dun. During her service, she trained in helicopter jumping, rock climbing and yoga. She enjoyed her time in the army but now stays at home to care for her uncle and daughter.
Choney’s uncle Kyap has many health problems, including poor hearing and eyesight. Choney says she can care for him better at home and does not want to put him in one of the settlements' old people's homes.
Choney has no clear future plans. While she thinks there may be better work opportunities outside Mundgod, her uncle has lived here for much of his life and shows no interest in leaving.
"I want to care for my uncle, so I can't go anywhere else for work. I can't go outside now," she said.
Choney's husband is from Bylakuppe, and she says there were more work opportunities when they lived there, but this not currently a possibility for the family.
Choney’s uncle needs treatment for his hearing and eyesight, but the family does not have the money for the operations, which would cost around Rs 10,000. Choney's husband works as a cook for functions at monasteries, parties, and festivals, and he typically earns around Rs 1,000 per month.
Choney said many families in the settlement have financial problems because there isn’t a wide range of opportunities for work in Mundgod. Also, if someone wants to start a business, he or she must have the money to get it off the ground.
"You can have a shop, but you have to have money to buy things to sell," she said. "Also, you can have a restaurant, but you have to have the money to rent the room, to buy the tables, chairs [and other supplies]."
Speaking about the agricultural difficulties this past season in Mundgod, Choney said, "Farmers can't plant this year because of the heavy monsoon. There was too much rain. In the past, all people in Tibetan settlements could work in the fields."
Choney said many of the new generation want to move out of Mundgod to places with more opportunities. Many are also interested in going abroad for this reason.
"If one person can go, they can make money and send it to care for their relatives," she said. She has noticed that those families in Mundgod who have a relative abroad are in a much better financial situation than those who do not.
Choney said she would like to go somewhere like America, but doesn’t know if it’s a possibility. If she got the opportunity to work abroad, she thinks she would try to work as a cleaner in a restaurant or in childcare.
When asked about Central Tibetan Admintistration (CTA) involvement in the lives of families in Mundgod, she said every four months the CTA gives Rs 2,000 for the care of her uncle.
In the past, she continued, CTA representatives have come to her home to "visit the family and find out the situation, but these days they don't come."
Choney has relatives in Tibet, to whom her family send presents. "One day I hope to go to Tibet and visit them," she said.