Second First Impressions

by tuftsigl
Jun 11

Ananda Paez is a rising junior majoring in Economics, and is a member of the EPIIC Colloquium on Global Health and Security.

McLeod Ganj looks exactly the way I remembered it. The small bakery that sold large slices of carrot cake is still there, the hidden underground store that sold "Save Tibet" pins remains unchanged and of course, the majestic snow-covered mountains continue to cast their shadow on the green valley. But this time, only a few days after arriving, I know that my experience here will be completely different. My first impression of McLeod Ganj four years ago was that it was so Tibetan I kept forgetting I was actually in India. This too, has changed.

 I suppose that last time I was so excited by the possibility of laying eyes on the Dalai Lama and so thrilled to see Tibetan monks in person for the first time- in short, so absorbed in my yet-to-come-true dream of going to Tibet-  that I fashioned a little Tibet for myself in the streets of McLeod Ganj. This time, I had a hard time remembering why I had thought that in the first place. Of course McLeod Ganj (home to the Tibetan Government in Exile) has heavy Tibetan influence, but as I wrote to my roommate a few days after arriving here, it is also more Indian than I remembered. I now believe that the juxtaposition of a seemingly unchanged town with that of contrasting experiences and impressions will mark my time here. 

My first big impression this time around has been the lack of sexual education among Tibetan Refugee Women in India. At my internship with the Tibetan Women's Association (TWA), I am helping to write a report on the status of Tibetan Refugee Women in India which is primarily based off of questionnaires answered by hundreds of women around the country. The questionnaire is long, and often asks women to write out answers, and as a result responses to it have been as diverse as India itself. However, regardless of age difference or educational level, one constant remains: the lack of sexual education among Tibetan women in India is alarmingly high. Most women received no information about sex or family planning before they got engaged, and almost all of them asserted that they wanted to know more about these topics. More surprisingly however, the by far most common source of information on sex and family planning are not family members, health professionals or teachers, it is friends. But who are these friends? Are they female members of the Tibetan community in Exile? And if so, why are they informed on these issues when most of the women surveyed are not? Thus,  the potential for misinformation is rather scary. This trend has both troubled and surprised me and I hope to be able to learn more about it during my time at the TWA. 


Add new comment