It has been two decades since I left my homeland Tibet. It’s been two decades I haven’t seen my parents. It’s been two decades I haven’t seen my fellow Tibetans from my hometown, loss and sadness written all over their faces. Now, Losar is round the corner. I too gave a thought to the Tibetan New Year. I haven’t made any preparations. I don’t need to make any preparations. This is because so far I have celebrated all my Losars at TCV, my alma mater. My school is my home. And that is where I celebrate my Losar.
Reflecting on Losar last night, my mind was able to recover some memories of past incidents. These incidents are related not just to me. They are relevant to all of my friends. It occurred in the winter of 1999: I was not able to go for winter break, so I had to remain in school. We had twenty-two students in our room. Twelve of them left for their holidays. The rest ten of us remained behind. Losar was round the corner. We too thought about celebrating it. After finishing our evening study, the monitor of our room raised some questions about how to celebrate. The main question was how much money each of us should collect. After deliberating on this and a host of other issues, it was decided that each of us should contribute Indian rupees 250.
I didn’t have a single penny in my pocket. Still I gave assent to this decision. That night I thought it over deeply. My main concern was how should I arrange the money? I couldn’t borrow it from my friends, for I thought they too were broke. Most of the students who remained in school during the winter break were the ones who didn’t have their family in India. I was also one of them. This anxiety over celebrating Losar even gave me a few sleepless nights. Almost a week passed weighed down by that anxiety. Most of my hostel-mates had already arranged their monies. I was the only one who still couldn’t get it. Then one day, as I was reading a book, trying to bury the anxiety hovering over my head, someone called me from outside. Fortunately, he was a friend from Tibet. He came to see me at school with his wife. Before he left he gave me Indian rupees 200! It made me so happy that for the time being the anxiety over celebrating Losar took a backstage.
Then I thought about arranging the rest of the money. I still needed fifty rupees. Suddenly an idea popped up in my mind: during winter break, some of my fellow students used to sell second-hand clothes to local Indians living around the school. All of these students spoke good Hindi. By selling second-hand clothes to these Indians, their Hindi language improved by leaps and bounds. I went out to see them, taking along myself a shirt that I brought from Tibet. I told them I needed fifty rupees for that shirt. They said, “This is not possible, the Indians will not give such a huge amount of money for this shirt. You got to bring one more.” I gave them a brand new shirt. Then, one of the students said I should come to get my money after dinner, to which I gave a big nod.
Losar was round the corner. We had only a week. The room monitor once again called us for a meeting. The monitor said, “All of you have contributed your own share of money. Thank you very much. Now, we must share the amount of work that we have to do among ourselves to prepare for Losar.” It was decided that Khedup should accompany the prefect to buy meat and vegetables from the market; Khedup and the prefect were the senior-most students among us. Tenzin was given the responsibility to arrange utensils such as frying pan. Tenzin had good connection with the cooks of our school. Machen had to find out someone who could lend us a stove. He had many friends among the monks living in a monastery behind our school. (Machen left school for Tibet after his seventh standard. Years later, I heard he died in Tibet!) Norbu and Phuntsok had the most important job to do: to create a makeshift kitchen. Our school had a regulation that disallowed cooking food in the room during Losar. So, they had to create such a Kitchen that would make sure no one get a whiff of it from outside. Gyatso and Jampel were responsible to decorate our room, including the fixing up of Derkhas. Tsepak and I took the responsibility for cleaning up the dishes. Phuntsok volunteered to cook for us. Losar arrived, within the confines of our hostel, silently and in whispers, we ate all kinds of food, drank lots of rice wine (dres chang), and immersed ourselves in all kinds of gossips. In this way, we celebrated Losar in much fun and merriment.
A year passed and again another Losar knocked our doors. We celebrated it in a way as we did the year before. Another Losar arrived. This time we collected more money and celebrated it pompously. Now, the situation of the society has changed. Even the financial conditions of the students had improved. The school facilities had also improved. The school gave out new shoes and new shirts to students before the New Year. I have many friends who put on the coal-black boots during winter and sleepers during summer, given by our school. Changes also occurred in me. I reached seventh standard, then passed it and reached eighth standard. But one thing remained same. The school remained the place where I had to celebrate my Losar. I became the monitor of our room. The responsibility to prepare the New Year celebrations fell on my shoulders. I too followed in the footsteps of our earlier monitors. The only difference was that we celebrated it a bit more pompously. We went out into the local Indian villages to borrow cheap DVDs. We watched the DVDs in our room.
I reached tenth standard, and then eleventh standard. I too had friends outside. They invited me into their homes during Losar. But I declined their invitation: I was enjoying myself in school, celebrating Losar in my school.
The path of my career widened. I had better prospects. My priorities and goals underwent a change. I arrived in Europe. Again I had to stay in a school. But the big difference this time was there were only two Tibetan students in our school. Tibet’s New Year had nothing to do with my new school. The school remained closed only for Christmas celebrations. Therefore, we had to attend classes during Losar. But my friend and I couldn’t stay away from our Losar. Another Tibetan Losar arrived; Chinese New Year arrived, this time Tibetan and Chinese New Year fell on the same day. My friend and I sat down to have a discussion on how to celebrate Losar. It threw up a new task, a new challenge before us: a political task. Our Chinese friends told other students that the New Year belonged to the Chinese, that it was Chinese New Year; we said it’s Tibetan New Year, and belonged to the Tibetans. The neutral students got confused. Some of the students questioned us as to why Tibetan and Chinese New Year fell on the same day. They wanted to know if Tibet was part of China or China was part of Tibet. I told them that Tibetan and Chinese New Year are different, but sometimes they would fall on the same day. I said the fact that Tibetan and Chinese New Year fell on the same day didn’t necessarily prove that Tibet is part of China. That Tibetan and Chinese New Year fell on the same day gave me an additional suffering. A new idea sprang up in my head: my friend and I invited some Indian and Nepali students to our house during Losar. We ate lots of khabse, distributed khabse among our friends. We went to our classes and gave away lots of khabse to our professors and fellow classmates. We told them that today we are celebrating Tibet’s New Year that we make and eat lots of khabse during New Year. Through this, we found out a new way to express how Tibet’s New Year was different from China’s. This made me proud, the fact that I took the occasion to demonstrate that Tibet and China are separate nations. My friend too felt the same sense of pride in him.
A year elapsed. I have now arrived in the United States. Again I have to stay in school. It’s been almost five months since I set foot in the United States. Coinciding with the school break, I had a chance to travel to many American states. I came across many fellow Tibetans. I became friends with many of them. Again Losar is round the corner. Some of my friends invited me into their homes during Losar. They said I should celebrate Losar with them. I once again gave a deep thought to it. This time Losar falls on Sunday. I asked myself if I had work on Sunday. I realized I had to prepare for my test on Sunday. I had two tests on the following Monday. The Tibetan Government said we shouldn’t celebrate Losar this year. Some of the Tibetan NGOs said we should celebrate. There are Tibetans who want to celebrate and who do not want to celebrate. I thought it over once again. I decided to be on the side of those who don’t want to celebrate. Instead of celebrating Losar, I decided to write this diary. This is my Losar, this is my diary for Losar and this diary is my Losar.