Every time I visit my home town in South India, I cherish the warm and calm environment in which most hard working people breathe in and breathe out. For them, life is simple; and strongly believes in the principle of hard work. Their days start early in the morning - hours before the sun sets it foot on earth. Their compliments are genuine; sometimes it might be hurtful. You do not have to ask questions to get answers. They willingly open up to you by sharing their personal life stories.
However, within these personal stories, you will also sense the existing culture of jealousy. It's normal for many of them. They live in this community of "others."
They openly share about how their neighbors built new houses, how many have bought new cars in the camp/village, who have migrated to the West, which lady bought expensive jewelries, who married who and how, and how much this new college graduate earns. Moreover, how other neighbor bought the most expensive car in the village or built a better house is the norm of their usual conversation. It seems one person/family is trying to outdo others by spending more monies into displayable assets. It's a small world of competition that never seems to fade away. This jealousy - a product of competition - is further enhanced by people from the West.
Some individuals - having no means to compete - generally blame people in the West for promoting this culture of competition and jealousy. One resident said, "Prior to 1000 Ari Walas, everyone was equal and happy." If you visit any Tibetan settlements in South India, you will see some truth in this statement.
If you see a new house or an expensive car, most were made possible through their children, siblings or relatives in the West. If you have a child in the West, s/he will be portrayed as a tree that bears unlimited wealth to the family.
Of course, with more buildings and wealth, the community is changing: there are more walls but less security; there are more monies but less satisfaction; there are more rooms but less occupants; there are more technologies but less connections; there are more pride but less wisdom; and the list goes on. In short, like in the west, the community is becoming less and less open.
In the past, people in the village used to gather under a single shed - usually a tree - to mingle and spend meaningful time as one large happy family. When one needs an Onion or any other help, they straight away knock their neighbor's door without any hesitation. Now, people have started to confine themselves in their expensive buildings as if they are not a part of this community.
Also, though they don't have enough money to spend on a half plate of Thukpa (Tibetan noodle soup), they walk together for several kilometers to do grocery shopping. On the midway, under a tree, they stop for a rest to talk about how life used to be so different in Tibet. Now, people do their grocery on their bike or car and talks about how this and that individual wealth has multiplied during these past years.
Looking at these changes, one has to wonder - do these people really care about the future of Tibet? From the way they talk, it seems the only thing that matters is the Kunga Dhondup (a local expression for money and wealth).
Wealth has successfully brought in the western culture of independence; this will slowly kill the culture of "our" "us" "we" and be replaced by the culture of "I" "me" and "self".
Often, I hear that our Tibetan culture is losing its value in the West. But I see it fading fast and quick in our own Tibetan backyard in India. It seems wealth changes everything including culture and a sense of belongingness.
For individuals in the West, it's important to make sure your money is spend wisely and on the right purpose. Send money to invest in your parents or siblings' future and not in their present. For instance, send money for your siblings education or capital for business and not for owning a show-off assets such as car and empty buildings. Don't let them depend on your money; help them to stand on their own feet.
Also, most people from the West understands that their immediate family members and relatives are having a far better life in India/Nepal than their own. They live in huge buildings while you live in a tiny shared apartment; they travel in an expensive car while you travel in public transportation; they dine and stay at luxury hotels while you eat at food carts on the street; they own a house while you stay in a rented apartment or basement; they have more savings in their bank account while you have to start from zero savings once you return from the vacation.
When such is the reality, this reality should be reflected through your (people from the West) action. Share your stories on how you save every single pennies to make sure your family members or relatives have a decent (not luxurious) life. Tell them how you live in a gloomy present so that they could have a brighter future. Most importantly, advice them to utilize your money on the right purpose. For instance, I keep hearing how a family member in India was spoiled (failed in college or drenched in alcohol), killed in accidents, and in worse cases, murdered by others. These things happen because you failed to invest in their future. You only invested in their present.
To conclude, people in the West must make sure that the community in which they grew up remains tall and strong. While investing in your family, think of a larger family such as village or camp. Remember, whether you live or not, this community remains Yours and it's your duty to uphold and respect it's value.
Also note that your action and behavior may be the leading cause of how people in India fall victims to human traffickers. The story of human trafficking victims are not uncommon in our society; some have lost all their monies, some caught up in the sex trafficking ring, and in worst cases, a few have ended up as death in nowhere land.
If Tibetans in the West as well as those in India/Nepal start to take the responsibility of "Spending Money Wisely," then, this battle of jealousy may soon come to a STOP.
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