One of the best things about my job at Thomson Reuters, Bangalore, was meeting Tenzin Pema. Tenzin and I started work at Reuters on the same day about six years ago, and as luck would have it discovered that we were also neighbors. (My apartment complex and the Tibetan youth hostel she lived in at the time share a compound wall.)
Tenzin is a Tibetan refugee and was born in Bylakuppe, a settlement in south India for thousands of Tibetan refugees and monks. As my friendship with Tenzin grew, so did my interest in Bylakuppe. I became fascinated with stories of her upbringing and also came to learn about the complexities of Tibetan politics.
I have been interested in the subject of refugee resettlement for some time now. I thought Bylakuppe would be the perfect place to observe how the local Tibetan population, ethnically and culturally very different from the local south Indian population, have managed to integrate themselves into the area they live in, while simultaneously preserving their own roots and culture.
I spent a lot of time at the TCV School in Bylakuppe. This is a school for Tibetan children who find themselves in difficult circumstances. Many of them have made the long journey across the Tibetan border into India as very young children without being accompanied by their parents.
Throughout my time in Bylakuppe, I got a lot of help and guidance from Sonam Tseten, a monk who lives at the Sera monastery. Sonam la runs a non-profit called Ways To Care, which helps monks who need financial or health-related support.
Happily, I finally managed to make a visit to Tenzin’s house, where her mother, Amala, cooked us a wonderful meal.
I hope you enjoy the photographs.