The Miss Tibet beauty pageant held in Dharmshala is one of the many ways Tibetan refugees in India claim their identity as a nation, the sovereignty of which is denied to them by China. Pema is a second generation refugee born and brought up in India, but in her heart she remains a Tibetan refugee displaced from her homeland. This is true for most 2nd generation Tibetans who hold on to their cultural and national identities and carry on their struggle for a Free Tibet.
Juxtaposed with Delhi’s urban infrastructure, Pema here represents 2nd generation young Tibetans growing up in this capital city and their aspirations and life goals. Though a personal favorite of both me and the author Vishal Arora while sifting the photos for publication, this portrait didn’t appear in the final story on editor’s discretion. Perhaps because in the other portraits Pema fits the idea of a Tibetan refugee better with her religiosity or Free Tibet sentiments. Here she appears as a strong woman, an image different from the public perception of ‘refugee’ girl.
More photos the Majnu Ka Tila documentary is here