Old Tibetan Hands


  • Harmandeep Kaur Gill University of Oxford




Old age, hands, Tibetan exile, touch, sensorial anthropology


Hands bear memories, embodying the weight of personal histories. The hands of the first generation of Tibetans escaping into exile carry stories of hardship and struggle. In old age, these hands are finally allowed to rest. However, many of the elderly Tibetans find themselves aging in the absence of love and support from family members. Hands that had once cared for others and the world, have for many, been left to themselves in old age. This photo essay hopes to connect the readers to the stories of my elderly Tibetan friends who are lay women and men, and monastics of a lower rank living in the Tibetan exile capital of Dharamsala, northern India. During my fieldwork, I reached out to them with my hands by massaging their legs and feet on a daily basis for 14 months. Through the act of massaging – touch – physical and emotional, connected us to one another. By combining words and photography on hands and the elderly’s surroundings, I also hope to aid the reader with getting in touch with the silence or loneliness that surrounded the elderly’s everyday lives.

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How to Cite

Gill, H. K. (2023). Old Tibetan Hands. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 43(1), 150–181. https://doi.org/10.2218/himalaya.2023.8858

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