Mission Delhi – Lobsang Dorji Hayer, Majnu ka Teela
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Drawing himself forward, he says, “On my passport, I’m an Indian because my father is from Himanchal Pradesh, but my heart beats for Tibet.”
The Delhi Walla is sitting with Lobsang Dorji Hayer, 28, at Dolma House. Owned by Mr Dorji Hayer’s family, it is a restaurant in Majnu ka Teela.
North of the city, Majnu ka Teela is an enclave of exiled Tibetans. It was established as a refugee camp after thousands of Tibetans fled their country along with their spiritual leader Dalai Lama during the invasion by China in 1959.
“I was brought up by my Tibetan mother among her Tibetan relations here in Majnu ka Teela,” says Mr Dorji Hayer, “so I’ve grown to be very Tibetan.”
We are having beef thukpa.
Most of the young Tibetans in Majnu ka Teela were born in India but, according to Mr Dorji Hayer, they feel emotionally connected to a land that they have never seen.
What if by some miracle Tibet gets independence from China? Will Mr Dorji Hayer leave India?
“I think I’ll stay back. I don’t know how Lhasa would be. I’m familiar with Delhi.”
After graduating from Ramjas College, Mr Dorji Hayer did graveyard shifts at a call centre in Gurgaon. He is now pursuing a computer course. “I want to do something in software programming,” he says, showing his room at the top of Dolma House. Eminem is staring from the wall.
The balcony is decorated with the national flag of Tibet.
We go out to explore the neighbourhood. Both sides of the street are lined with hotels, travel agent offices and tea shops.
There are times when Mr Dorji Hayer feels like a foreigner in the city. “Delhiites tease you with names like ‘Chinky’ or ‘Chinese’ just because you have fair skin and slanted eyes. And some Indians think that our girls are easy, which makes you scared to take your girlfriend anywhere except the malls.”
Mr Dorji Hayer is walking ahead of me. The back of his white T-shirt shows a message.
Light the Passion,
Share the Dream:
Freedom & Justice for
He stops to exchange greetings with a woman shopkeeper. She responds with a huge grin. Across the street, a young lama in saffron robes is standing by a music shop that is loudly playing the Tibetan pop star Phurbu T Namgyal.
Entering a coffee shop, Mr Dorji Hayer says, “Like you, I’m also a Delhiwalla. But I’m a Tibetan first.”
[This is the 59th portrait of Mission Delhi project]