Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Dharamsala's Gorshey and XZTV's Asinine Programs

A woman in 'Sinicised' Tibetan dress
A scantily clad woman in colourful see-through silk attire danced seductively. In front of her is a thangka of Buddha - beatific and calm. A khata hangs across Buddha’s face lazily. Sharp beams of light darted on the floor and across the hall. Then the woman raised her left leg in the air far above the Buddha's head. This was one of many terribly produced and totally vulgar programs on Xizang TV (XZTV), the official TV channel of the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) on the eve of Losar.

On the evening of the first day of Losar, I was at the Gorshey Night, organized by a group of friends in Dharamsala. Gorshey is one of the easiest and most enjoyable traditional Tibetan performing arts. Anyone can join the circle and just move along and within a few minutes you are a master Gorshey dancer. The best thing, however, is the communal feeling and joy Gorshey creates. Unlike singing, which only a few can do, any Tenzin, Tashi and Sonam can do Gorshey. The feeling one gets after the 'Tashi Shapto Chik Nyi Sum!' is pure elation.

Gorshey  on TIPA's  Ground in Dharamsal
Gorshey Night was probably the first-ever of its kind in exile. The organizers charged a small entry fee to cover for "a simple Tibetan dinner" and a few other miscellaneous expenses. But, of course, like any other Tibetan gathering, they served endless changkhol (boiled barley beer with dried cheese), butter tea and khabsey.

When our own Spice Girls (a group of elderly Tibetan ladies known for their incredible dances) started Gorshey, it felt like a real Tibetan Losar. Everyone joined the circle dance, including the small kid as young as 4-years old.

This event was particularly important after seeing the asinine programs on XZTV the night before.  It was clear from the way the programs were choreographed that there was a definite intention by the Chinese authorities to Sinicise Tibetan performing arts and the language. Apart from a series of neither-Tibetan-nor-Chinese performances, the entire event was conducted in Mandarin Chinese. A  carefully slected people from villages were called on the stage and interviewed in Chinese to prove how educated the 'backward Tibetans' are now under the Communist occupation.

However, in exile, we are seeing a resurgence in Tibetan culture and language. The internet and the social networks have reinvigorated debates and interests among the youth about the importance of our language and culture. Recently  Dharamsala chapter of the Students for a Free Tibet initiated a poster campaign urging the Tibetans to replace words like 'cup', 'bucket', 'TV', 'joke' etc. which have become common use our daily lives with their corresponding Tibet words such as 'phorba, 'chusom', 'nyentrin' and 'goedro'.

The Gorshey Night was a wonderful way to introduce Tibetan culture and the performing arts to the younger generation in a very communal and informal atmosphere. Children loved "this cool dance" as one kid said. Members of our Spice Girls were overjoyed too to realize that "ngatsoi shaptro di lagsa rang ma rey" (our dance will not disappear after all.)

So, next time you are thinking of dancing to Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, don't forget that we have our own Spice Girls who can take you to an even higher realm than Bieber and Gaga. Tashi Shaptro Chik Nyi Sum!  has roots deeper than a Bodhi tree and peak higher than the Mt. Everest.

Good bye Lady Gaga. Welcome Gorshey dance.

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