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13 october 2011 003Mundgod, India: - Many elderly members of Mundgod's Tibetan community, south India, live at the settlement's several old-age homes. The managers and residents of the Camp Three facility agreed to speak to the Tibet Post.

Lhundup, a manager who care for the residents, said that 116 people live in the Camp Three home.

"Some people come here because they have no family around, and some come because, while they do have family, their family has financial problems and cannot take care of them," he said.

Many of the health problems, according to Lhundup, are due to poor hygiene.  "They don't wash every day.  They don't take care of their health," he said.

The washing habits most likely stem from the residents' earlier days in Tibet. In traditional Tibetan culture, people only bathe once a year, on the Tibetan New Year.

Residents also suffer from problems such as high blood pressure, breathing issues, and many other diseases.

"We don't have many problems with the Tibetan government," said Lhundup.  "The government gives food and medical expenses as needed, and allows those who are suffering to go the hospital.  They have clothes, food, and a facility."

When asked about organized activities, Lhundup said the residents gather in the morning and the evening to do puja (prayer) together.

Not many people come to visit.  Still, Lhundup said, "They are happy staying here. They have lots of freedom."

The residents themselves, however, seemed to have some sadness in their eyes as they lounged on the porch of the simple facility. Upon seeing us, they brightened and offered enthusiastic greetings of "Tashi delek!"

Like many other elderly Tibetan refugees, one of the residents, Yangzom, escaped after the Chinese invasion in 1959.  She came to India with her husband and one child.

"Before 1959, we were very happy. We were nomads. Then the Chinese came, and we had many problems."

After escaping, she and her family lived in Ladakh for three years where they, like many other Tibetans in exile, worked making roads.

Yangzom's husband died 20 years ago, and she said she did not know the current whereabouts of her son. "He never comes here," she said, tears filling her eyes. 

He attended Varanasi University, but she has not heard from him since.  "Maybe he is in Bangalore," she said.

Speaking about her life in Mundgod now, she said, tears still in her eyes, "I am happy staying here. I have no problems because of the kindness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama."

Another resident of the home, Yama Choedon, came to India around 14 years ago.  She came with her daughter, a nun, who now lives in Dharamshala.  Her son, a monk at Ganden Monastery in Mundgod, escaped from Tibet 49 years ago.

Choeden suffers from a foot injury, and came to India to receive better care than she would in Tibet.

Initially, she had some problems adjusting to the warm climate in south India. Other than that, she said she had a fairly smooth transition.  Her son comes from Ganden Monastery every Monday to visit her.

"We have no freedom in Tibet," Choeden added.  "The son of my brother was arrested by the Chinese police, who beat and punished him, and imprisoned him for two years. We are very worried about the Tibetan issue."

"I am happy here because we have food and other things provided by the Tibetan government," she said.  She echoed Yangzom's sentiments with her next comment, "We are happy because of the kindness of His Holiness.  I always pray for the long life of His Holiness."

Lhundup, the manager, expressed hope for the future of Tibet.  "In 1959, there were so many problems," he said.  "Now, it is better than before. Most countries become democracies, so I hope one day it gets freedom."

Click here for further reports from Mundgod