Celebrating Tibetan New Year festival in Delhi's 'Little Tibet' Majnu Ka Tila

​Significantly, while each of them experiences a sense of belonging towards Tibet and wants to visit the country, for them, ‘home’ means India. 
Tenzin Thardoe, Founder-Director, Ama Cafe
Tenzin Thardoe, Founder-Director, Ama Cafe

NEW DELHI: Two Tibetans, now well ensconced in Delhi and running successful enterprises at Majnu ka Tila (often called Little Tibet), tell us how they celebrate Losar – the three-day Tibetan New Year festival (starting February 24). One is Lhanzey Palden (LP), 27, who runs Mapcha, a fashion store that explores the vivid cultural lifestyle and the rich legacy of the Himalayan people. And the other is Tenzin Thardoe (TT), 41, who runs the Ama Café.

Significantly, while each of them experiences a sense of belonging towards Tibet and wants to visit the country, for them, ‘home’ means India. 

How do you celebrate Losar and other Tibetan festivals?

LP:  With much grandeur –Losar is just like Diwali. There is gathering around delicious food, special dough cookies, Chang (barley beer) and lots of Tibetan music. We all dress in traditional attires.

TT: Majnu Ka Tila remains closed on these three days, but our café functions from day 2 as we have many regulars visiting us from different parts of the city. This year, we will offer complimentary khapsey to all our guests. 

Lhanzey Palden,
Founder-Director, Mapcha

Living in India, how do you keep your culture alive?

LP: I’m the second-gen born here, but I’ve had a very Tibetan upbringing mixed with North Indian elements. Tibet was passed down as a second-hand knowledge by my parents and grandparents. I’ve never visited Tibet, but it is assimilated in me through my narratives in the form of literature, religion, photographs, film and music.

TT: I was born in Dharamsala, a ‘mini Tibet’ in itself. After I moved to Delhi, I chose to live among my community at Majnu Ka Tila. It was my desire to share our culture with the others that led me to open a Himalayan concept café here.

You may have had to change your food, clothing habits. How did you adapt to this change?

LP: Being born here, I didn’t have any issues. But the older generations who witnessed the exodus first-hand, still wear traditional clothes on almost a daily basis, and their diet is simpler than mine. They love their barley flour with butter salt tea first thing in the morning. 

TT: Same here. But my parents are impacted by the change. We try to incorporate our own cuisine and clothing as much as possible in our daily lives.

Do you speak Tibetan or has Hindi/English taken over?

LP: Till four years ago, my command over Tibetan wasn’t very good. At home we did speak in Tibetan, but English always took over. But now working amid people of my own community, my Tibetan has improved. Language is so important to be able to connect with because so much gets lost in translation. 

TT: At home, it’s mostly Tibetan. While outside with my community, it’s English and Hindi.

How much of India have you assimilated in your life?

LP: At times, I feel I’m more Indian than Tibetan. I’ve trained in Kathak and Bharatanatyam, and Butter Chicken is my staple food. My close friends are Punjabis, Bengalis and Kumaonis but not Tibetans!

TT: My thought process is rooted in my ethnicity as I have had that environment around me ever since I was a child. But I’ve always loved Indian food. My love for Rajma overshadows everything. 

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