Lobsang Damchoe has been teaching Tibetan at LHA for just under a year and his class has been a huge success.
About 10 Tibetans attend religiously every day, others appearing when they have the time. It is not a young class; the average pupil-age is 40 but people are determined to fit the lesson in around family and work commitments.
Though most speak the language perfectly, a lack of formal education has left them with poor reading and writing skills. Dhondup Namgyal is 64 and arrived in India from Nepal a year ago. He grew up a nomad on the grasslands of Tibet where schooling was never an option.
For him, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is his inspiration and motivation to learn Tibetan. “He has made Buddhism a world famous religion,” he says, and Namgyal wants to be able to read the scripts that are now practiced and adhered to all over the world.
For the ladies, another huge reason for their studying Tibetan is passing the language and culture on to their children. “How can Tibetan carry on, and how can we pass on our history if we ourselves cannot read and write our own language?” they ask.
Teacher, Mr Damchoe agrees about the essentiality of passing Tibetan on. He had previously attended English classes at Lha and was surprised by how many people volunteered to teach foreign languages, but no one to teach Tibetan.
“I met so many local Tibetans who could write their names in English but not in their own language. It is the most important thing to a country’s culture, to identifying a country. If you want Tibet back you should learn the Tibetan language,” he says passionately.
Both Mr Damchoe and all of his pupils know that their situation as exiles bestows on them a great responsibility to ensure that the Tibetan culture continues, so just as he will carry on teaching, they will carry on queuing up for his class at midday every day.