The Tibetan exile story, caught on tape

An organization in India has recorded thousands of oral histories from Tibetan exiles dispersed around the world in hopes of preventing Tibetan culture from fading away.

By , Contributor

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

With their community dispersed far from their homeland, many Tibetans have long been worried about sustaining their culture and history.

To prevent their voice from getting lost, the oral history department at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala, India, has spent 35 years recording thousands of Tibetans’ stories. Based on these accounts, they have published 27 books in their native tongue, the latest of which came out in May.

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In a stark, top-floor office overlooking a green valley, interview transcripts fill cabinets. A large framed photo of the Dalai Lama keeps watch on the few full-time employees in the department, which is on the grounds of the Tibetan government in exile.

Interviewees come from India, Nepal, Bhutan, the United States, and other places where Tibetans have settled. They document folk culture, traditional medicine, music, clothing, arts and crafts, religion, theater, and other aspects of their heritage. In addition, there are personal stories from refugees.

Tsewang Bhuti, an assistant editor on the project, says some tales can be humorous, while others are heartbreaking. Ms. Bhuti says the taping continues because it’s critical to capture the narratives of elders.

“If they pass away, then it is difficult to maintain that history,” she says.

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