Tibetan Review August 2004
The old amala rephrased her question "I mean are you Amdo, or Khampa orToepa?" Lobsang gave the same defiant answer again. In a brash tone hesaid "Tibet". One amala mumbled condescendingly - "obviously the boy doesn't know his parentage, his native land."
This incident happened at a restaurant in McLeod Ganj, where my friendLobsang, a school drop-out works there as waiter. He was trying to bepolite to this gang of old amalas while serving them tea, when he was asked: "What is your native land?"
Most Tibetan youngsters would perhaps give the same answer as Lobsang did.Some are oblivious to their parental roots. Many know, but do not like toidentify themselves with any of the clans. Tibetan youngsters don't wantto carry the extra baggage of their regional and sectarian identities,which, more than anything else, has become a divisive tool to many of the petty politicians in the community.
Tibetan youngsters are choosing to steer clear from such typecasting. This is the new generation emerging with its own sense of identity. They have seen such categorization resulting in communal fundamentalism.The challenge is to know ones own parental and cultural roots, and yet notfall into the trap of clanish groupism, which has stifled Tibetan parliamentarian politics.
This is the fine balance I believe our youngsters must maintain to take the community forward into positive development. Through this we will achieve that wonderful democratic visionthat exiles are struggling for.
Right from the beginning of our exile life, His Holiness the Dalai Lama placed great importance on the healthy growth of the Tibetan children.Tibet's youth who are receiving both traditional and modern education willgreatly influence future Tibet. Today, there are over one hundred Tibetan schools in exile.The children of exile are the hope for free Tibet.
His Holiness has aspecial word for this 'Sontsa'. Sontsa is not the unborn seed, it's not the assumed potential; it is the sapling, it is already fertile andgrowing, and yet it is young. There is promise of a bright future inSontsa.
As a kid growing up in school, the Elders gave us the most wonderful dream- a dream called "Free Tibet", a country of our own, the country our elders lost to the Chinese and we have to quickly grow up and reclaim.There was so much patriotism in our education, whether it was about the national flag, our leader His Holiness, or study of Tibetan history andpolitics.Today we are grown up and ready to fight for that dream, but the rules have changed. There is no longer that freedom to fight for. The goal posthas moved, and we are left with no role to play. Now we can't even do aprotest rally; elders charge us of disloyalty with the Exile Government's request to keep calm.There is no glory in battling for a compromise, nor does the compromise look hopeful. Anyway, even if it was granted, would the youngsters keep silent and be satisfied with that autonomy?
Quite often I get to work with Tibetan college students in cities all overIndia. Tibetan students in these cities have been forming studentassociations through which they collectively campaign for Tibet. These arebeing run from the funds they begged from Tibetan camps during theirsummer and winter vacations. These associations double up as welfare organizations taking care of students in times of emergencies like sickness or accidents.
Last year I was in Mangalore, the seaside-city in south India. About 300Tibetan youngsters study there. During the four-day Tibet festival, acurious Indian student asked one Tibetan youth, both about the same age:"How does Tibet look like?"The Tibetan student stopped in the middle of his speech and began thinking. He was perhaps recollecting images of Tibet he had seen in films and photographs.
Most Tibetans born and brought up in exile have never seen Tibet, even the hundreds who escaped at a young age haven't seen muchof their homeland other than the village they fled. Their Tibet is created by their imagination, their education, stories theyheard from elders and tourists and what they inherited in their blood. There is no citizenship to claim; the Dalai Lama is their passport. They are born refugee.
Yes, like the younger generation of any community we too have our own share of problems with language, traditional customs, and yes, we have loads of attitude. And yet deep down there we are Tibetan. Every mention of Tibet and the Dalai Lama in a newspaper, TV, radio pulls the strings in us. It's something very personal. Tibetans strayed to foreign countries with or without papers tell me of this heartstring. It's just magical. This, I believe, is Tibetanness, and I know this is there in all Tibetans.
At the end of the day, we also want a home to return to, a small place tocall our own, somewhere where we belong. It's too difficult imaginingthere will be a free Tibet and postponing our dream called "Home," and yetthe struggle must go on. Often I am asked how should the Tibetans channelize their emotional power into real works to free Tibet.
Today, with the youngsters receiving aworld class education, equipped with global language and technologyskills, we can put up a strong fight. Today's youngsters are not bound bycustomary loyalties. They are patriotic, but educated and informed. If only we can do away with the inhibition where - in the name of faith -we place the whole job of freeing Tibet on the shoulders of one man: His Holiness the Dalai lama.
We are the kind to share responsibility while simultaneously receiving guidance from the Buddha.We do have a younger group who have excelled in their field of socialservice, leadership, art and literature, and have set examples. Norsangruns the most popular Tibetan website, www.phayul.com single-handedly, LobsangTsering runs Kunphen; his drugs de-addiction centre in Dharamsala has helped more than 120 patients, Rapsel has been campaigning for vegetarianism; traveling Tibetan camps across India, Techung and Tsering Gyurme in music, Tenzin Dorjee in photography, Karma Sichoe in thangka painting, Lhadon Tethong in youth leadership, she's also the president ofworld-wide Students for a Free Tibet, and not so young Dolma Gyari andKarma Yeshi in the Tibetan parliament.
I salute these and many others who work silently with commitment and yearsof dedicated work for Tibet. This article pays tribute to that power ofyouth, to this new generation of Tibetans in exile which is now slowlycoming of age, and making 'Sontsa' - the dream of His Holiness - come true, a promise of new Tibet.
Well....not many of you would be knowing Tenzin Tsundue. All I can say is, he's one remarkable personality I have met in my life. A revolutionary, he fights for the Tibetan cause. I had the priviledge of meeting him once. Well all about that in the next 2-3 posts. I promise you the next post would be soon.
I did not post all these days b'coz, I dunno, I just didn't feel like it. In a way, its good I took a break. Surprsingly I did not miss it. its weird, it really is weird. But well, after fair share of threats and stuff from people, I decided to post today. Please read it fully people, this is something which is really close to my heart. I willt alk about my personal experiences later. :)
and yes....yesterday was my Bhai's birthday :D :D