India and its status as a home to diverse communities does not come as a surprise. We speak of several people of different backgrounds and cultures coming together here, but reminiscing of times at home is a common reality for them all.
Tibetans in India have lived in the country for 60 years, and for some, even more than that. Their lives have experienced changes and alterations — some irreversible. When they are faced with questions of their identity, they are forced to ponder over what ‘home’ really means to them, and where it really is. Photographer Serena Chopra spent her eight years (2007 - 2015) navigating through Majnu Ka Tilla, Delhi’s Tibetan refugee neighbourhood. Here, she would spend time getting to know them as people, as well as a community, and a part of the result is her new photo book, ‘Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries’.
She says in the preface of the book, “I wanted to create a way for the Tibetan refugees I met to express their views and feelings — a means for them to convey, to themselves and to the viewers of the photographs, how they truly felt about living in exile.” She achieves this through the reliable relationship she built with the people, and the trust hence gained. She also received motivation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who encouraged her to document the lives of the community and compile them into a body of work.
Majnu Ka Tilla, as seen in the book, is far more than a neighbourhood. It is a representation of a home that may have been temporary for some and a people with layers to their identity. Serena Chopra’s Majnu Ka Tilla Diaries conveys stories of the Tibetan community in Delhi through them and their own words and no form of storytelling is as genuine as that.
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