Bhubaneswar/Cuttack: Around one lakh Tibetans consider India their home away from home. Tibetan refugees reside in various parts of the country including Chandragiri in Gajapati district of Odisha. With the arrival of winter these Tibetan refugees come to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack to sell woolen garments.
From jackets to woollen sweaters, blankets and caps each and every winter garment is found in these markets. Variety of designs and garments of different materials are sold by the refugees in the stalls put up at two designated places Saheed Nagar in Bhubaneswar and Khan Nagar in Cuttack.
“We are getting good response here because our collection is different from others. We first conduct a survey and then order the items to sell here,” informed Karma Khedup, President, Tibetan Winter Market.
They give designs to the garment manufacturers in Punjab and Delhi and purchase it from the wholesale markets there to sell it here. The Tibetans own the stalls while they bring in local people of Gajapati to help them as salesmen at the stalls.
“We are getting good support from them. Although they are from another country but we live like one family in Gajapati,” said salesman Sunil Pani.
“The atmosphere in Cuttack is really good and so are the people. We keep busy with farming for eight to nine months in a year to earn livelihood and then come here for business during winter,” said Tibetan refugee Sonam.
The Tibetans have been selling woollen clothes since last 35 years and these markets have now become an important shopping destination for the residents in these two cities. They started selling their products at various places of Cuttack and for last one decade they made Ranihat their place of business. This year the Cuttack Municipal Corporation has provided the land at Khan Nagar for the market. People in good numbers throng these markets and look for their woolen outfits.
“I have come here to buy a jacket. I visit the winter market regularly because of the reasonable prices of the items sold here,” said Umesh Sarangi, a visitor.
The Tibetan families living at Chandragiri earn their livelihood by growing Maize during most part of the year while in winter they come here as businessmen. They have made Odisha their home, many of them speak Hindi while some can even talk in Odia with Indian citizens. Despite living here since decades, they are still connected to their roots and rituals.
When asked about the memories of Tibet, Karma Khedup said, “Homeland is always close to our hearts but we are getting good support from the central and state governments and are living happily here.”
30 Tibetan families have set up 35 stalls in Bhubaneswar and 56 in Cuttack. The Tibetan refugees also visit other cities like Berhampur and Sambalpur to sell their woolen items during the winter season. With the special tag of ‘Free Tibet’ on the garments they sell, the refugees are spreading the message of Indo-Tibet Friendship not just in our state or country but also to the entire world.