Following the Chinese invasion, thousands of Tibetans escaped to neighboring India, Nepal and Bhutan under extremely harsh circumstances. Due to the lack of education, foreign language skills, thousands of them ended up working as road builders along the Himalayan border regions of Northern India. Thus began the Tibetan exile experience of the Lam-so-wa or ‘Tibetan Road Builders’ which lasted for more than a decade.
After hearing about the sorrows and difficulties of being a Lam-so-wa from his grandfather and father, contemporary Tibetan artist Tenzin Rigdol started his mega project of recording the lives, challenges, and the history of the exile Tibetan road builders. So far, he has interviewed almost a hundred former road builders located in various parts of the world and Rigdol thinks that he will be able to complete the project within two years.
The interviews in the project go beyond just the actual road builders but also include the children of the road builders, medical nurses and even tea sellers who worked amongst the road builders, all contributing to provide a rich and comprehensive picture of the world of the Lam-so-wa of the 1960s.
Rigdol tells VOA that, “I intend to interview as many Tibetan road builders as possible before they all pass away with their important and precious stories. Every story so far has been inspirational and I think Tibetans and people around the world could learn from their tumultuous yet comprehensive experience of being the earliest Tibetan refugees”