Making Khapsey(Tibetan Cookies)

We were making our Khapsey(Tibetan ceremonial cookie) oil dipped snacks like the “Pretzels” and the Indian “Matti”; for our Tibetan New Year (Losar). “Losar” is a Tibetan term meaning New Year and  this year, it falls on 5thFebruary according to our lunar calendar. Like every other communities, we welcome this auspicious day with all sorts of good things; such as gathering of all family members, offering prayers, putting on our Tibetan costumes, eating Tibetan food and of course merry making. Before the Losar, there are so many preliminary preparations one has to do, one of which is preparing Khapsey (cookies).This preparation is something, one will find in every Tibetan household. Myself being the 2ndgeneration exiled-born, I had been seeing my parents doing this in my home town Mundgod, where I was born. And since then, I have been continuing this Khapsey for my children, who will preserve this custom and pass it on to the next generation as well.

Making Khapsey is much easier these days as compared to my childhood period when my parents had to rely only on the mud stove, which did not have medium and sim option like today’s gas stove. The fire should be kindled skillfully; more heat would burn the cookies; less heat would turn the cookies raw. Even for a cup of tea, we need to kindle a fire neither strong nor weak, not only that we had to keep an eagle’s eye on the fire. We used to have special cylindrical blower (funnel like structure) to kindle the fire from the hearth and start a new fire. One should be very good at to give the right amount of blow. Wrong and inappropriate blow would leave your whole face covered with ashes! Ooppss! Rainfall on the other hand would mean extra effort since the firewoods would be wet. Nevertheless, not even a single word of complain would come out from anybody’s mouth! Really those were the days when we had bitter sweet feeling; less facility yet happy. This had been true to many families of my generation. Today, even setting a proper bonfire seem difficult and had to undergo few unsuccessful attempts before forget about cooking a dish which needs specific fire temperature. I really wonder how our parents had prepared so many mouth-watering dishes day in and day out undergoing such ordeals and not even once I had bothered to see how difficult it was actually! There were times when after staying in the kitchen for hours in their attempt to prepare our favourite dishes, they would come out as if they were coming from mining pit, with black soot smeared all around their faces, hands and apron! Their generation was really tough. I should be strong too.

While making khapsey, my thoughts travelled back to my childhood days where things were much simplier. During those good old days, my parents would pack a sack of khabseys, fried maize, roasted rice etc for all my siblings to be carried back to school. We had more eatables than clothes in our bags. Being born into a humble family in a small Tibetan settlement in Mundgod, we didn’t carry much money while going back to school. As the count down for returning to school began, automatically there was a deep feeling of sadness in my heart as if I was leaving my parents for good. On the eve of returning to school for another 9 long months, all our family friends and neighbors would come with their thermos filled with sweet and butter tea, snacks, scarf and give us valuable advice finally hand some gift money. In the night, I would count all the money and put them safely in my wallet to be taken back to school. The same system, excluding the handing of gift money was followed even to welcome someone. My mother would also do the same thing when someone from other families leave for come. As such there was a genuine community of friendly people and neighbors sharing both joys and sorrows together. Every time,  I came down from my school for winter vacation, I used to bring something from Himachal for all of them with financial support from my brother. Today, most of them had left us for good, some still alive bent down severly by their ages and few residing in elderly people’s home.  They all have a very special place in my heart.

My wife, my youngest daughter and myself, started making Khabsey at 5:30 pm and by the time we finished all the dough, it was 7:30 pm, exactly two solid hours for a dough of 3 kgs; enough for a small family. Although it was drizzling outside yet we were all kept warm inside by the heat waves coming from the kitchen and the present manual work. We also enjoyed our occasional gossips, hot cup of tea and the crispy crunchy khabsey in between. And guess what! The khabseys had turned out beautifully, which meant a good year ahead! Yay!

Things, songs, events etc. never fail to bring back our old memories. It is always nice reflecting upon your childhood life and finding your true roots so that you get to stay grounded. And you get to feel the gratitude of all those who have made who you are now. Today, this Khabsey making brought back so many memories of my childhood. Thank you all who have come into my life and contributed something.

About tenzindhar

English Teacher Tibetan Children's Village School, Dharamsala H.P.-176216
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