For the past three and a half years I have lived in a small Indian town in the Himalayas. The Tibetan name for here is ‘Tso Pema’ or Lotus Lake. It has very special significance for the Tibetan People because of Guru Padmasambhava, or second Buddha. He brought Buddhism to Tibet in the 9th century. I was fortunate to be here in 2016 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV came for the Tsechu festival to commemorate the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava (Tibetan year of the Monkey).
The plight of the Tibetan exiles and Nepali people living in the Himalayas came to my attention when I began volunteering as an English teacher in a local monastery. Many of the boys are orphaned, or come from extreme poverty. Basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing are not available to the families of these young boys and so they are sent to monasteries, if they’re lucky. Many end up in appalling situations. Several situations have been brought to my attention over the last few years. I have helped and done what I can but this never seems to be enough. In one case, a 9 year old boy needed life saving surgery costing £4,000 ($5,250). This procedure was only available through private consultation. The consultant visited the nearest city, Calcutta (a seven hour journey for the family) once a month. The family sold all their possessions and the small plot of land they used to grow vegetables to raise money for the operation, but only managed to secure 10,000 rupees (£1,000). They were devastated that they would lose their beautiful boy. When my friend and I heard about the situation, we were so shocked that we immediately emailed our friends asking for a donation to raise the money for the boy’s operation. The consultant’s visit was due in 12 days time, and so time was of the essence. The response from my friends was overwhelming. It is something that will remain with me for the rest of my life. Not only did we raise the money for the operation, but enough money for his medication (which is separate cost in India), and also enough to accommodate his parents during his hospital stay. I am delighted to report that Dawa is now a fit and healthy 12 year old boy.
Just two days ago I was shown photos of a seventy-five year old man living in appalling conditions near Darjeeling. He needed, what we would consider a small sum, (£100) to fix his roof and make it wind and water proof for the freezing winter conditions, and also to provide a store of food for winter. These are basic human needs which everyone should have.
Because of visa reasons, I am leaving India at the end of September. However, I want to continue supporting the marginalized communities living in the Himalaya, particularly the Nepali and Tibetans who have no status in India. My friend and I, along with trusted friends here in Tso Pema are setting up a tour and travel agency called Pure Himalaya to help fund better living conditions for the beautiful people of the Himalayas. I will post updates here, on Instagram and facebook.
Thank you for reading this and being part of my journey. Perhaps one day you will join us on a Pure Himalaya tour and experience for yourself the majesty and serenity of the Himalaya.