An intermingling of cultures is inevitable when diasporic connections are forged. The Tibetan Market in Dehradun is a testament to this notion.
The Tibetan market in Dehradun started in the year 1989. It consists of around 150 shops and has 15 entrance points scattered across its perimeter. The market has one Buddhist temple in the centre of the expansive area. The temple has been built with funds from the association that manages the market. It is considered as a symbol of luck and prosperity. The market consists not only of stores selling handicrafts but also of fast food joints that sell the distinct and flavourful local cuisine of the Tibetans.
Since the establishment of the market, Tibetans belonging to Deckyiling, Clemen Town and Rajpur settlement have been living their lives relying on the sales generated by the market. Some of my friends accompanied me on a stroll through the market, and we were able to interact with a few store owners who sold traditional Tibetan handicraft products.
Backbone of the Market
Tibetan market association is the main body running the market since 1989. The association promotes store owners and their products in order to increase the productivity of their businesses. The items sold include several handicrafts, clothing items, and accessories. The various businesses at the market are run by the Tibetans and are famous for their handmade woolen sweaters and garments, local soups and fast food.
Interaction with shopkeepers
On our walk, we met Tsewang Rinzin, a 53-year old man who spent his life selling the clothes in a 5.5 feet shop.He stated that the earnings from this business are more than sufficient for him and his family.
He has been in this business for 30 years now, and this is what he had to say:
“I came to Dehradun from Bhutan in the year 1982. My family depends on our business for sustenance and also generates extra income on the side. This business has become part and parcel of my life.”
Tsering Lhamo, who has been working at the market for 3 years now said that there is no holiday as such in the market during the winter season. The shops do remain closed, however, on important Tibetan holidays such as New Year (Losar), the Birthday of the Dalai Lama and several others. She also added that the every Tuesday is a holiday for the store owners during the summer season.
Another business woman, Nyima Dolma said that she has been working in the market for over 6 years now and she used to have very good profit and earning from 5 years back. However, the profits have plunged severely over a year. According to her, this tragedy is because of the inflation and increase of transport costs for goods.
Thus, it is clear that the Tibetan diaspora in Dehradun depends greatly on the market for its livelihood. Interacting with business owners at the market gave us an insight into their economic condition, as well as the success of the market in functioning as a major local economy for this diasporic population.