82-year-old Samdrup Drolma is wearing a Tibetan chuba (dress) and standing on the roof of her home, looking out into distance and thinking about of her past.
In her life, Samdrup Drolma has experienced the days of both Old and New Tibet, and in all her life she has had a relationship with the land. The difference is, in the old society, she worked for a serf owner, and her life was miserable. However, in New Tibet, she works for herself, and her life has dignity and honor.
"Before the democratic reform, my whole family worked for the Lhayu Estate in Chusur, which was part of Kunde Ling Monastery in Lhasa. At that time, the estate had many serfs who would freeze to death or starve due to strenuous, forced labor and lack of food and clothes. When I was 10 years old, my father and mother both died due to these harsh conditions. When I was 13, I started to work day and night for the serf owner. At that time, there were 40 other young workers like me." Speaking of the past, Samdrup Drolma became lost in thought.
"In 1955, my aunt, older sister, and I could no longer bear it, so we decided to run away. At that time, if an escaped serf was captured, they would be brought back and beaten. In order to avoid capture, we had to keep moving. The farther away we got, the better," Samdrup Drolma remembered. "The food that we carried with us ran out after a few days, so we were forced to beg along the way. After we got to Yadong, we found that there were many other serfs who had also run away. Together, we struggled to keep a living."
"In 1959, the Liberation Army gathered us roaming serfs together, and they declared to us that Tibet had undergone democratic reform and abolished the system of serfdom; we had received our freedom. They also told us that we could choose to continue staying there, or we could return to our hometowns." Samdrup Drolma and her elder sister decided to return to Chusur.
After they returned to Chusur, Samdrup Drolma and two of her elder sisters each received two mu (1 mu = 0.165 acres) of land. During the next spring, they earnestly planted highland barley in their fields. During the autumn harvest season, when they saw basket after basket of their own grain, they were excited for several days.
"In the old society, we gave our crops to the owner of the estate and worked day and night. We didn't even have any grain for ourselves. Each spring the estate owner would come and give the serfs some seed of grains for sowing. In autumn they would come and aggressively collect debts. If there were any carelessness, they'd just put people in a dark room and whip them," Samdrup Drolma said.
In 1963, Samdrup Drolma and nine other villagers voluntarily joined the Communist Party of China. As a member of the Party, Samdrup Drolma became the assistant leader of a small production team and devoted herself into developing rural production.
In 2016, Samdrup Drolma's family benefitted from relocation policies for impoverished areas and moved from Chufu Village in Chusur Township to Sanyou Village in Darga Township.
"Do you know what the ‘three haves' (Sanyou in Chinese translates to ‘three haves') of Sanyou Village are? They are: houses, health, and industry." Samdrup Drolma said happily.
Now, Samdrup Drolma lives in a two-story, 180-square-meter Tibetan-style house. The house is clean and has every kind of electrical appliance inside, including some Tibetan-style furniture.
"In the old society, it would take three days to walk from my hometown to Lhasa on the bumpy dirt roads. Now, there is a wide cement road that comes all the way to our house, and we can get to Lhasa in one hour by car. The village even has stoplights. In the old society, serfs such as my parents who died of coldness or hunger, no one would care. Now, we ordinary citizens all have guaranteed healthcare, education, and housing. Our family doctor would come by every few days to give me a health check. Life is both steady and happy. As an elderly Party member, I receive a monthly allowance of more than 500 yuan (74.5 US dollars)." Samdrup Drolma said.
"Now, life is happy. These good days are the secret to my long life and health!" Samdrup Drolma said, with a smile spreading across her wrinkled face.
Editor: Tommy Tan.