The Von Ngari Monastery, Manali currently shelters 12 kids ranging from young eight year olds to adolescent 19 year olds.
Over a brief period of five days, while documenting their lives, I followed them, stalked them, sneaked into their class rooms, laughed with them and watched them at play; and all of this, through my viewfinder. I could relate to them, as it’s not been a very long time since I stepped out of my ‘hunky dory kid’ phase.
But here’s what struck me hard about them:
Lobsang Thekchok, 15, told me about how it was getting difficult for his father, a daily wageworker to even arrange for a decent meal. Feeding a family of five, his father had no option but to ‘give up’ at least one child to a monastery. Thekchok was the eldest of the lot and he agreed to relieve his father of one mouth to feed. Today, it’s been almost six years since he last saw his family.
What is worrisome here is that, Lobsang is not the only one. Another 11 kids had a similar story to narrate.
Also, the Von Ngari monastery is the smallest of the several monasteries in India. Others shelter a minimum of 50-55 such children.
We must realise that we’re talking about the 4th-5th generation here, and it’s high time these ‘little refugees in exile’ get back what they deserve i.e their home.