Monday, May 16, 2005

The promised land?

I wonder how many people have even heard of Tenzin Tsundue. I wonder how many people care about what he stands for.

Tenzin Tsundue is a restless young Tibetan, who after graduating from Madras, braved snowstorms and treacherous mountains, broke all rules and restrictions, crossed the Himalayas on foot and went into forbidden Tibet! The purpose? To see the situation under Chinese occupation for himself and find out if he could lend a hand or two in the freedom struggle. He was arrested by the Chinese border police, and after cooling his feet in prison in Lhasa for three months, was finally pushed back to India.

Born to a Tibetan refugee family who laboured on India's border roads around Manali, during the chaotic era of Tibetan refugee resettlement in the early seventies, Tenzin Tsundue is a writer-activist, a rare blend in the Tibetan community in exile.

I think he writes beautifully, and with so much passion that you can actually see it. Here are some poems he's written:


My father died
defending our home,
our village, our country.
I too wanted to fight.
But we are Buddhist.
People say we should be
Peaceful and Non-Violent.
So I forgive our enemy.
But sometimes I feel
I betrayed my father.


Thirty-nine years in exile.
Yet no nation supports us.
Not a single bloody nation!

We are refugees here.
People of a lost country.
Citizen to no nation.

Tibetans: the world's sympathy stock.
Serene monks and bubbly traditionalists;
one lakh and several thousand odd,
nicely mixed, steeped
in various assimilating cultural hegemonies.

At every check-post and office,
I am an "Indian-Tibetan".
My Registration Certificate,
I renew every year, with a salaam.
A foreigner born in India.

I am more of an Indian.
Except for my Chinky Tibetan face.
"Nepali?" "Thai?" "Japanese?"
"Chinese?" "Naga?" "Manipuri?"
but never the question – "Tibetan?"

I am Tibetan.
But I am not from Tibet.
Never been there.
Yet I dream of dying there.


From Ladakh
Tibet is just a gaze away.
They said:
from that black knoll at Dumtse,
it's Tibet.
For the first time, I saw
my country Tibet.

In a hurried hidden trip,
I was there, at the mound.

I sniffed the soil,
scratched the ground,
listened to the dry wind
and the wild old cranes.

I didn't see the border,
I swear there wasn't anything
different, there.

I didn't know,
if I was there or here.
I didn't know,
if I was here or there.

They say the kyangs
come here every winter.
They say the kyangs
go there every summer.

We stay engrossed in our tiny daily problems. Someone failed us, broke a promise, things didn't turn out the way we'd wanted...

What could be a bigger problem than having no identity?

I am an Indian. And, I'm very proud of being an Indian. But, more than the so-called "Indian Pride", isn't the thing that I'm truly proud of the identity I get from being an Indian? I have a home. No - not the four walls and a roof. I mean, a place - a nation - to call my own. To belong to. To be a part of. There are days when I don't feel specially patriotic. There are also days when I don't even give a thought to the place I belong to. But, what if such a place didn't exist at all? What if I was living on borrowed land? What if I'd been shown the imaginary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I was never able to find it? What if promises had been made, and promises had been broken, and I still didn't have an identity? What if no one had ever supported my claim for a place to call my own? My claim for the promised land? What if...?

Can't think of much else to write. Didn't sleep much last night. And then, a certain person's alarm for 6:30 a.m. woke me up!

To all the people who came over last night - Thanks! :-)

If anyone would like to read more about Tenzin Tsundue, you could go to:


Anvita Thapliyal said...

i know of tenzin and his poetry and the non fiction essay which got him the first ever outlook picador non fiction prize. give a link to the essay in ur post, its a must read .

Eastmancolour said...

Brilliant as always :)
I didn't know of Tenzin. Now I sorta do. I like the poems.
By the way... why doesn't anyone..ANYONE support Tibet? what gives? is the "just side with China" thing SO big?

Three drinks always! said...

Anvita - Send the link of the page with the essay plz. And, didya call Nicole finally? :-D

Arvind - I just have this to say to your question - Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups.

Rustic said...

I know Tenzin Tsundue and I have to admit there's no one quite like him. I love what's he does and wish we had more young Tibetans like him!