Testing Dolma Interview,

by Ethan Chen

On May 1, 2022, I spoke with Testing Dolma at the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago (TAC). Testing was born in Uttaranchal, India, and received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delhi. Before working as a nurse in Chicago, Testing served as an event organizer and marriage broker in India. Testing is the mother of a young son, who attends Sunday school at the TAC.

My conversation with Testing began with her recounting the story of how she met her husband. Like many young couples, they met online through a popular dating app. Her decision to immigrate to America was difficult to make, for she was a respected marriage broker in India at the time. She shared that “[she] didn’t know what to do … [because] [she] was not at the young stage where [she] [could] … pick and choose.” But she ultimately moved to Chicago with her husband, where she became a nurse and mother.

Testing’s pride for her family shone through during the interview. When speaking about her husband, Testing emphasized his strength as a community leader, proudly telling me that he “[did] community service for … small kids, teaching [them] soccer [and] teaching basketball [to] teenagers.” Her smile only grew when talking about her young son. She said that “[she] want[ed] him to be [a] good human being, a kind, humble … [she] want[ed] him for sure to be smart, but before smart and everything, [she] want[ed] him to be kind… [and] to never forget… to help [his] own people and community.”

The topic of community was brought up throughout our conversation. For Testing, community was vital, as it gave the Tibetan diaspora of Chicago generational strength. She said that the Tibetan community center helped “to make sure that [the] [children] should always know, regardless wherever [they] go, … [that] [their] roots are always Tibetan.” She then emphasized that “as [an] individual, you can achieve a lot of things, but as a group, as a community, you can be much, much, much stronger.”

Before parting ways, Testing pointed to the communal table behind us, where four women gathered. As a group, they were preparing that Sunday’s lunch, wrapping ground pork into kneaded dough for momo dumplings. Chuckling, Testing said, “one of the families [was] supposed to cook, but again, everybody is helping, you know. So this small thing … kids observe, even though we don’t tell them.” This “small thing” was her community, a community of elders chatting over sips of salt tea, parents laughing while playing cards, and children singing along to radio hits in between their Tibetan lessons. On that Sunday at the TAC, I could feel this “small thing” buzzing in the very air all around me.

This photograph was taken on May 1, 2022 at the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago. In this picture, four women work together, preparing the lunch for Sunday school. Even though only one person was officially assigned to cook that day, multiple families pitched in to help with the cook. Together, they kneaded fresh dough and chopped onions and garlic for the ground meat filling. This collaboration illuminated the community spirit that Testing emphasized during her interview.

This image is a closer look at the momo dumplings that were being prepared at the community center. Each momo is made with great care. The fresh dough is meticulously pleated together, ensuring that the ground meat filling remains moist during the steaming process.