The United Nations passed an ineffectual resolution ‘demanding respect for human rights in Tibet’ but the invasion created an influx of Tibetan refugees into the surrounding countries.
Dervla Murphy had spent the first six months of 1963 cycling from Dunkirk to Delhi (the story for this journey is in her book Full Tilt). Whilst recovering from heat stroke she met a refugee worker by the name of Jill Buxton who invited her to visit one of the transit camps/schools at Dharamsala. For the rest of the year Murphy worked to help these refugees adjust to their new lives.
She was very taken with the Tibetan children, or Tiblets as she calls them.
On visiting a nursery and finding the teachers were absent she observed two ten year olds taking the class whilst the rest of the children were copying on to their slates. She also remarks on the ‘complete equality between the sexes’ and how she could draw comparisons with a modern Western community, only to remind herself that this equality is relatively new to our society but has ‘always been taken for granted in Tibet’.
Murphy writes with warmth and compassion, producing a humorous and moving account of the day to day, the life and death of refugee life. She meets the Dalai Lama, cycles through the Valley of the Gods, and spends a ‘strange’ Christmas with the Malanis – ‘an autonomous community of some 600 people who live on a 9,000ft plateau, independent of all outside influences’. It is estimated that the Malanis have been living on their plateau for about 5,000 years.
Written in diary form detailing each day’s challenges and rewards, her energy and commitment shine through. On her last diary entry she contemplates the refugee predicament.