Indian clothes, Tibetan food...

APPAREL FOR ALL OCCASIONS: A scene at the Tibetan Market in Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.

APPAREL FOR ALL OCCASIONS: A scene at the Tibetan Market in Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.  

Go to Tibetan Market near ISBT not for fancy Chinese gadgets but Indian clothes at throwaway prices. Round it off with a visit to a local restaurant providing Tibetan food for Delhi's palate, suggests MADHUR TANKHA... .

WHENEVER YOU feel like visiting the Tibetan market, don't have any preconceived notion that imported, smuggled goods will greet you. The market, situated at the age-old Inter State Bus Terminus near Majnu Ka Tila, offers some of the most affordable clothes this side of the Yamuna.

Initially, the Tibetan market started selling Tibetan delicacies like Thukpa, Momos and mouth watering Chowmein. That was some 20 years ago but gradually shops selling garments at chicken feed prices started mushrooming. After the assassination of the Nepalese king, imported goods -- smuggled from South-East Asian countries -- have come to a grinding halt. Now, the market is flooded with indigenous goods which travel from Ludhiana, the Manchester of India, and Bangalore.

You might be a shade disappointed to see faces of non-Tibetans selling clothes but they sell the same shirts, trousers, jackets and pullovers as the exiled people. So Sikkimese and Biharis can be seen rubbing shoulders with Tibetans and Nepalese. One might wonder why the goods are sold at such dirt-cheap price. Simply, because the rent of these shops is far less than the owners of make-shift shops at Janpath and other such places.

Namgil hasn't seen his homeland but looking at pictures of his kith and kin in the beautiful landscape of Tibet brings hope in his heart that one day he might see his beloved country one day. Says he, "His Holiness, Dalai Lama is fighting with single-minded determination to get some autonomy from the Beijing administration. He is our torch-bearer."

One asks him how he speaks flawless English. This has to do with the fact that SOS, the charitable organisation, is running schools in Dharamshala, Mussoorie, Dalhousie, Shimla and Dehra Dun. In Dharamshala, some of the sellers have received education at the Tibetan Children's Village -- one is on top of the hill, the other down the valley.

Sonam Tomas, an old, hunch-backed lady, says, "All types of people come here. There are some who work in Government departments while most are college students, who want to save some pocket money and don't want to waste all of it on clothes. They chaffer a lot many times. Sometimes we relent, at other times we refuse to go down on our price. We earn a nominal profit of Rs. 15 or 20."

Dechen, a 28-year-old man, sells sweaters of brand names like Costa Rica, Oswal, Royal Classic and Absolute. They are priced between Rs. 250 to 550. Tshering sells some imported jeans. He says, "The wholeseller who sells says that it is from Bangkok but we aren't so sure. Adidas jackets are manufactured by local people of Bangalore and then exported to some European countries."

The allegation by some irresponsible media men that Tibetan market is swarming with Chinese goods is like rubbing salt into the wounds of these unfortunate people. "It is yellow journalism. We will die of starvation but won't sell a single Chinese item," pledges Rinpoche.

The customers who come here first buy goods - shoes, garments and whatever catches their eyes and then go in for Tibetan food sold at the local restaurants.

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