India diary part 3: the foothills of the Himalayas

A further drive took us up to Mussoorie and Tibetan Homes Foundation. At over 6,500 feet, you really do feel in the foothills of the Himalaya. When we arrived, we made for the Homes’ Temple, the first Tibetan Buddhist temple built in India. It’s currently being redecorated in time for the 60th Anniversary of the founding of Tibetan Homes on the 30th October. The master thangka painter is fully taken up with painting new surrounds for deities and repainting many other decorative features. There was juniper drying outside; this will be ground and put in the new statues. Upstairs there is a cabinet that houses special pieces donated by new arrivals from Tibet. One being a unique depiction of Milarepa, the famous Tibetan yogi and poet. Whilst there we released some Lungta, paper prayer flags, given to us by Gwen Hall who won them in our recent Tibet Bazaar.

Next we went to the Tibetan Homes School where we were welcomed by bagpipes and trumpets! Not only was the welcome unique; the campus, with langur monkeys, dogs and amazing views, is also truly unique. We have worked with Tibetan Homes since 1965! At the moment we sponsor over 200 children and elders and support an annual Medical Emergency Fund to help cover costs of treatments for children and staff. Whilst there, we had really constructive discussions with some of our sponsored students and teachers. It was also a delight to catch up with Dekyi Wangmo, Project Coordinator and Sponsorship Secretary. We also met Youdon who look after Tibet Relief Fund’s sponsorships.

We have sponsored elders at Tibetan Homes Old People’s Homes in Mussoorie and Rajpur. We were given warm welcomes at both homes, where we hosted special teas, power cuts notwithstanding! Thupten, TenNyima and Penpa chatted to the elders and learnt many a history. We will collate some of these extraordinary stories and post on our website. One remarkable character is Mr Shillock, who has decorated his doorway and balcony with his take on prayer flags; they make a colourful splash. We also met Lhakpa Dolma and Kelsang Choedon, who have been under Tibetan Homes care since they were six. Both are sponsored through Tibet Relief Fund.

Tibetan Women’s Centre in Rajpur was established in 1965, and is one of the first Tibetan handicraft centres set up in India. It not only has a large weaving workshop for carpets and a specialised apron weaving room, it is home to 69 families. At least one member of each family works at the centre. Here we met Tenzin Tselha who, sponsored through Tibet Relief Fund, has completed her three year nursing diploma course. She was just about to leave for Managlore to do a two-year post BSc and wants to specialise in gynaecology. We also met Tenzin Dolkar who was previously sponsored through us. Tenzin suffers from memory and developmental issues. It was touching to see how happy she is living at the Centre and contributing to its work. Due to a leg injury, she is no longer able to weave. Instead, she spins and prepares wool for the other weavers, as well as colouring in and setting out design template guides. We are now seeking sponsors for both.

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