His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Birthday Celebrated in New York
New York, 5 July: They were on subway trains from Queens and Brooklyn. They were on cars and trains from Connecticut and other parts of upstate New York. Some of them had journeyed the day before on the cheap China Town buses from Boston and Washington, D.C. Others had journeyed from Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
As they headed toward Manhattan’s Armenian Church, their colorful chubas (Tibetan National Dress) and traditional hats attracted curious looks from fellow travelers and holiday-makers, who tried to guess their nationality and but did not venture a question.
Even the lone Tibetan layman from Florida was on the New York subway train that morning, having come all the way to take part in the famous New York celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday.
Armenian Church, the favorite venue of Tibetan events in New York, is just 15 minutes of brisk walk from the United Nations headquarters, where three Tibetans had nearly starved themselves to death two months ago to demand justice for their countrymen in Tibet.
Last Saturday, 1,500 Tibetans gathered there for the first day of a two-day celebration to mark His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s birthday, which actually falls three days later, on 6 July, when very few Tibetans can get leave from their jobs in this energetic and relentlessly toiling city.
The celebration was organized by the Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey.
Mr. Karma Khedup, president of the association, started the morning ceremony by offering a white greeting scarf at the portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Dr. Nawang Rabgyal, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to North America, addressed the gathering and said the birthday should not become an occasion for mere festivities and that it should instead be made more meaningful to the self and others.
He called on Tibetans to use this occasion to “rededicate our mind, speech and body to the advice and vision of His Holiness”.
Dr. Rabgyal emphasised the need for introspection at a time like this in order that “we may feel inspired to commit ourselves afresh to the efforts of internalizing basic human values”, and to studying our culture and language, as well as to bringing the light of freedom in our homeland.
Cultural performances and talents shows, followed by all-can-participate gorshey, a circuitous folk dance from western Tibet, took the best part of the first day.
On Sunday, Tibetans and other Buddhists from the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal gathered in Central Park for a day-long picnic. Stand-up comedies and songs from Tibet, Nepal and India regaled the crowd till five in the evening.
It was a measure of the singers’ talent that a family of Indian tourists from Mumbhai was lured to the site to witness what they thought was the local Indian community’s live concert with artistes from Bollywood. Their eyes nearly popped out when they saw a tiny white awning under which a “Japanese” face was mouthing Bollywood strains into the mike in front of hundreds of other admiring “Japanese” faces.
Ironically, the Indian family had to come all the way to New York to learn that over 100,000 Tibetans were living as refugees in India and the seasonal sweater sellers on the “footpath” of Mumbhai were Tibetans and not Nepalese. They promised to say “Tashi Delek” to the sweater sellers back home and also to visit Mundgod, the nearest Tibetan settlement from Mumbhai.
The day stealer, however, was a stand-up comedian’s mimicry of a new Tibetan dialect that has evolved among the Tibetan emigre community in Darjeeling. Known as the Darjeeling Tibetan, it sounds like a hybrid language, has heavy Nepalese intonation and is laced liberally with Nepalese words.
The Tibetan Association of New York and New Jersey took the advantage of this large large gathering to conduct an election for its new office bearers. The biggest winner was Sonam Wangdu, one of the three hunger strikers, who is presently in California playing soccer for the New York Tibetan team.
On 8 July the Office of Tibet in New York will host a special reception at Tibet House. Dr. Nawang Rabgyal said invitations had been sent to 400 people, including diplomatic missions, US Government officials, local Tibet Support Group members and leaders of the Tibetan community.
“This year we are expecting attendance from many important dignitaries, including members of the UN missions,” Dr. Rabgyal said.
The increase in attendance, Dr. Rabgyal, said reflects growing awareness of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s contribution to the promotion of peace, non-violence and human brotherhood.
A report sent by Oot, New York