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Tibetan exiles in Dharamsala, India, settle in with disillusionment

Some who fled Chinese rule for tales of paradise find life isn't what they expected. Others say the tradeoffs are worth it.

September 22, 2010|By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times

"China has jobs; you can start a business without a lot of bureaucracy. You don't get Delhi belly [dysentery] all the time," said Golma, who makes $60 a month as a Dharamsala shopkeeper, compared with $300 to $400 a month in Lhasa.

If you make a political ruckus in China you're likely to get in trouble, added Golma, who was dressed in a traditional Tibetan chupa robe, knockoff Crocs and worn green socks. "But there's also freedom in enjoying your life."

Several exiles paraphrased the Dalai Lama, noting that it's important to distinguish between the Chinese people and their government's policies. "Both societies have good and bad," Rabsel said.

Though China is better organized and has lifted far more people out of poverty, he said, the communist government is often extremely repressive toward the Tibetan minority. India may be bureaucratic and slow-moving, other exiles said, but its people are more tolerant.

"Superficially, everything's better in China," said Dawa. "But mentally, there's also lots of pressure there. You have to think before you talk."

He paused for a minute. "But I really miss my family. I'd like to go back if I ever get the chance."

Anshul Rana in The Times' New Delhi Bureau contributed to this report.

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