Dharamshala: The morning hasn't yet turned into a hot-stove noon and a stroll down the curving street was like a cup of refreshing basel & mint tea followed by a nib of a crispy lemon bisquit. The doors of Rogpa Shop and Cafe were already open and according to the wafting smell of chocolate the staff was ready to greet the visitors. As I entered, Sangmo, the Manager of the place, was bustling around a small kitchen behind the bar stand, on which freshly baked chocolate cookies were awaiting the early guests. The Rogpa Shop and Cafe, according to Sangmo's words, was created mainly to introduce their Baby-Care Center, which is located a little bit backwards - a way down from Tibetan Ashoka Guest House.
The Center welcomes babies from six months to three years' age on condition that they have poor parents, both of whom work and don't have time to care about them. All the care, including meals and cleaning, is provided for free six days a week from eight thirty in the morning till four thirty in the evening, yet the mothers have to come once a day to feed their babies. This is one of the means, with which Rogpa supports and unites the members of Tibetan community that has formed in Dharamshala. It happened so that the Center also gave the opportunity to Sangmo herself to rediscover her own culture.
"I'm not from here, I'm from Uttarakhand," said Sangmo, while we were getting comfortable on small bamboo stools at the glistening cofee table. "I was born in India and my parents were born in India, so we speak Indian language and belong to Indian culture," stated the lady, looking at me with her tipically Tibetan eyes. "So, when I came here it was very difficult for me, because I couldn't understand what Tibetans were saying," she added with a distinct Hindi accent. "There were Tibetans in my place, but both they and their parents were born among Indians, so they forgot their culture and their language," recalled Sangmo and enthusiastically said that she is already learning Tibetan language and wants to know more about Tibetan culture and history.
According to Sangmo, when she was back in Uttarakhand she didn't think too much about going to Tibet or caring too much about the land become free but "when I came here I heard that lots of people want to go back to their land.
My roommate is constantly saying: "I wanna go my land, I wanna go my land, I wanna at least see my land before I die", so I think many, many Tibetans here want to return to Tibet," Sangmo emphacised. As she told me, back in Uttarakhand Indians were very welcoming to her and other Tibetans, yet here, in Dharamshala, there are constant clashings between Indians and Tibetans, especially among teenagers, which, according to her, is one of the causes why Tibetans don't feel comfortable here. "To make a clap you need both your hands, so I don't think there is any right or wrong side," she commented.
"Actually, I came here because of my aim," suddenly uttered Sangmo, while checking the cookies in the oven, "I want to open an orphanage for girls, who were abandoned by their parents." It is largely known that the status of girls is not the best one in poor families - as babies they are often left in the hospitals, thrown in the gutters, etc. "That's why I want to take around ten or less girls and give them care, as if they were my own children, because I was a little girl myself and I know how lonely they feel," shared Sangmo, whose parents have broken all relations with her after she had got the divorce - an unwelcoming practice in Indian society. "My aim seems simple but it is not," argued Sangmo, "I have to gain more experience, I should know how to give those girls the care they need, and there is of course a money problem," she stated with an optimistic smile. And Rogpa Center gives her this opportunity.
As Sangmo explained, while I was gaping around the place before leaving, in the Rogpa Shop they are also selling brand-new clothes, photo-frames and accessories, as well as donated second-hand books and clothes. "These bags are made by our Women's Cooperative," she pointed at cotton bags marked with "Free Tibet" mottoes, bright cofres for water flasks and the like. At the wall nearby were pinned photos of Tibetan women at their sewing: "All women in our Cooperative are single mothers, we provide them with work and pay them monthly salary," said Sangmo, who herself is a lonely mother of a four-year-old girl.
As I was leaving with a pile of Rogpa Center booklets, the first customers were about to drop by this cozy Cafe - "I have a very busy work," excused herself Sangmo returning to the almost-ready biscuits, "but I like it," concluded she with energy - that moment she saw her aim right ahead of her.