You wouldn’t think that Chime Dolkar was a beggar by looking at her. Wearing a Tibetan dress and wrapping a pink shawl around her neck, she looks no different from all the other Tibetan women in Nakchu town, a nomadic place in northern Tibet. But for the past two years, Chime Dolkar has survived by begging with her daughter, Tashi Dolma. Blind and with no one else to turn to, she had no other choice.

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Chime after surgery being led by Tashi.

Her daughter Tashi is 6 and has been her only companion. Particularly during Chime’s blindness, Tashi was her only source of strength and love. Since the age of 4, Tashi has held her mom’s hand and guided her mother through the streets of Nakchu to beg, ensuring that the two of them wouldn’t have to go to sleep with growling stomachs. In the evenings, they would crawl into a small and nearly worn-out tent stationed near a bridge in the upper town.

There were times Tashi begged alone, telling her mother to rest in the tent. One day, Tashi was begging on the street where the Civil Affairs office was located, and an official, who was aware Chime’s blindness, told the little girl that a Seva medical team from Lhasa would be doing free surgeries for the blind and would be arriving in one week. He encouraged Tashi to bring her mother for treatment.

Tashi ran back to their tent with the great news. Chime reacted rather indifferently from hearing it and responded, “Surgery? Why would I want that? I am destined to be blind. It’s better for me to comply with my fate.” Poor Tashi didn’t really understand that much about destiny, fate and all that complicated business, and disagreed with her mom by saying, “Nothing is fixed. If you keep trying to change things for the better, what you call ‘fate’ will be different. Why don’t you try the surgery? It’s free. Please give it try, mom, please!”

“Nothing is fixed. If you keep trying to change things for the better, what you call ‘fate’ will be different. Why don’t you try the surgery? It’s free. Please give it try, mom, please!”

Chime agreed, counting off the days until the Seva-funded medical team’s arrival. Each morning when Chime woke up, she asked Tashi, “How many days left to the doctor’s arrival for surgeries?” As each day passed, their excitement escalated.

When the medical team arrived, they diagnosed Chime with advanced cataracts in both eyes and on the first day of the camp Chime’s had cataract surgery on her left eye. Later, on the third day, she had surgery on her right eye.

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Dr. Fen performing surgery on Chime Dolkar

Nothing in her 48 years of life had so transformed Chime’s life as listening to her daughter’s advice and regaining her sight. Until then, Chime said that her life was “totally meaningless and a failure.” When she was a small child her parents died early and she endured a forlorn childhood as an orphan. “I didn’t have any relatives or friends,” she said. “Everything about me was wrong and I thought that there was nothing about me that was worth loving.” At 40 she met someone and fell in love, believing that at last the loneliness would end and that she could have a family with the man whom she dearly loved. But two months before Tashi was born, Chime’s partner left and never returned.

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Chime walking alone for the first time in two years.

The sight-restoration surgery has given Chime new hope and confidence. She is anxious to start a new life for both her and Tashi. No longer forced to beg, Chime is planning on seeking a job at the Nakchu train station. Smiling, she says, “I will be very happy if I can work at the railway station… I can work as a garbage cleaner or security guard.” She gazes at Tashi and continues, “Tashi should be going to first grade of elementary school. Wow, life is not that bad after all!”

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Chime and Tashi overjoyed at the result of the surgery.

Sight Stories and News

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    Sight stories | November 15th, 2017
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    Sight stories | October 20th, 2017