Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Behind Barbed Wires

Picture courtesy of www.tenkalden.com

History is full of stories about persecution,genocide and mass murder of people. The reasons behind such events mostly trickled down to the geopolitics of the era, and in many cases ascribed to communal hatred and ideological differences.Regimes driven with a particular ideology have more then often promoted violence to meet their ends.

But that is history. And yet the memories of the past haunt us even now. Whether its the havoc caused by the Nazis, memories of cultural revolution in China for many, the mass murder at Tiannamen square, it all lingers around. Ironically, violence somehow always tends to leave behind unscathed scars.

Contemporary world, despite all its glamour and niceties, still witnesses these acts of violence with a shy face, helpless to do anything. The crisis at Darfur, the suffering in Gaza, the hunger in North korea, and the genocide in Tibet all remain unresolved. Other then the obvious reasons and the technicalities to explain our failure in these matters, what I see is the failure of Humanity . This realisation was very much thrown at my face, unlike before, while I worked for an organisation of former political prisoners from Tibet.

Apart from the obvious cliches of stories pertaining to suffering and hardships,common to the lives of all prisoner's of conscience.There were a few unique and very individual things I came to learn while working with former political prisoners of Tibet.

During an interview with one of the political prisoners, the answer to one question remains etched in my memory. On being asked whether one feels any guilt about having participated in an action that resulted in their imprisonment, every political prisoner i was able to speak had one unequivocal answer. That answer was "Yes".

What lied behind this acceptance of guilt for an action of conscience, revolved more around the realization of the futility of their action's outcomes rather then disdain for those outside Tibet.

"I have practically become a useless man now", "telling stories about the past seems to be the best thing I could do","my health or my intellect doesn't allow me to be able to do something practical,both for myself as well as my society". These were remarks of one of the political prisoners from Tibet. Of course there would be many who might have been made stronger in both will and wit after this experience. And yet many remain broken and disillusioned.

This is the underlying truth behind the failure of all of us responsible and all of us who have a conscience to answer. Many have lost lives and many more forgotten in the obscurity of prisons.

Whatever our actions might have been and whatever we might have done. Yet it is clear that humanity has failed and bowed down to tyranny and money( what seems to be the new age synonym for power).

Behind Barbed Wires lies the woes and cries of so many. For how long will we be deaf.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Miss Tibet Pageant 2009 from 5-7 June

courtesy- www.tibetsun.com

MCLEOD GANJ, India, 25 March 2009 — Miss Tibet Pageant 2009 will be held from 5-7 June. The finale will be held on the 7th at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Dharamshala.

There will be seven rounds of competitions to be crowned the title and the cash prize of one lakh (100,000) rupees (2,000 USD approx.) for the winner. The second place will receive 50,000 rupees and the third place will receive 25,000 rupees.

Those young Tibetan women interested to participate in the pageant can apply through the online application. The deadline is approaching soon.
The participants will arrive in Mcleod Ganj on 28 May. A week's training will be provided from 29 May to 4 June that will include yoga, stage craft and dance. Orientation on Tibetan history, culture, language and current affairs will also be a part of the training. The participants will visit the Tibetan government-in-exile, schools and other institutions during the excursions.

Swimsuit round will be on the 5th at Asia Health Resorts. Rounds two and three on the 6th - the Speech and the Talent - will be held at TIPA.

The finale on the 7th evening at TIPA will have four rounds - Introduction, Evening gown, Traditional costume and the Interview.

The funds for the pageant has been coming from the director's own pockets over the years. However, Gyalnor Tsewang, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile and a buniessman from Nepal, contributed 50,000 rupees in the last year's pageant. Anybody would like to sponsor or contribute to the pageant may use the PayPal button or contact us.

Tashi Dele! :)

Lobsang Wangyal

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Walk The Talk

( This is something interesting, so I have posted it for readers.)

An article By Thubten Samdup
March 22, 2009

Dharamsala, March 22 -- Four months ago a website launched to facilitate the nomination process for the next Kalon Tripa generated considerable excitement through out the Tibetan diaspora. Despite this initial enthusiasm, Tibetans have taken little to no concrete action with regards to the actual nomination process; no contributors have stepped forward, no candidate names have been submitted.

It begs the question: why?

For the first time in our history we have a parliamentary system and an evolving democratic structure intended to grant representation and freedoms. A representative political system is a tremendous achievement, but it also implies a responsibility to choose our leaders.

Tibetans in diaspora now have a precious opportunity to participate more directly in the democratic process: to choose worthy candidates from among our people to stand for the highest office in the Tibetan government-in-exile - the Office of the Kalon Tripa.

The announcement of the Kalontripa.org website met with a profusion of phone calls and email messages, all declaring an overwhelming support for the project, yet, to date, not a single nomination paper has been submitted. What are we to make of such a discrepancy between the initial verbal support expressed and the inertia that followed? Is it that there are no qualified individuals to stand as candidates in our communities, or are we just being lax, and passive?

As Tibetans in diaspora, we have 'talked the talk' of the perfecting the democratic process, and building our government-in-exile. We must also, now, 'walk the walk'.

The incumbent Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche?s term ends in August 2011. Why do we fail to exhibit the appropriate motivation or concern to find his successor?

In the last 3 years, we have been sufficiently motivated to hold 14 'long life' prayer services for His Holiness. We all want His Holiness to live long. For this, we must also sensibly see to it that his workload is lightened; affording him some much deserved rest in his later years. The next Kalon Tripa's term in office is likely to prove a crucial transitional period. During this 5-year span, His Holiness will be between 76 and 81 years of age. Mindful of this, let us in addition to offering our most earnest and sincere prayers also apply ourselves to the necessary task that will produce the optimal candidate.

We cannot afford to be lax; nor can we entertain fuzzy beliefs that would leave our democratic development to 'some ill-founded notions of 'fate' intervening for us: hoping unrealistically that ?something good? is going to happen. The next step is clearly that of working as a community to find the Kalon Tripa's successor.

Please treat this matter seriously and discuss it among your friends and in your community meetings. Let us all work together. With some effort we will surely find great candidates to run for the next office of Kalon Tripa; someone to lead us forward after Kalon Tripa Samdhong Rinpoche leaves office in 2011.

Nothing good is going to happen unless we make it happen.

For more info, go to www.kalontripa.org

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Wonder How It Happens

Rain falls
And rivulets flow
Every morning i see
small leaves glow
Mighty clouds cry
And the earth smiles
It's all miracle
I wonder, how it happens!!

Happiness comes
And everything is gay
Lucky people, always get them
Their wishes, when they pray
But for others, its all worse
When their lives, move astray
Yet, it's all Truth
Still, i wonder, How it happens!

A Thousand hands are raised
But God blesses one
Why this injustice
And this cruel fun
Oh! I won't see this line
On one side, it's all jovial
On the other, it's all glum
So, strange it all seems
I wonder, how it happens!

A rich man feels pleasure
But for the poor
There's no leisure
Dreams he visions
Yet none fulfilled
A heart he prays for
But no one's thrilled
Alas! I am still stunned
I wonder, how it happens

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lions for Lambs

There are some movies that connect to you at a personal level, even if the movie had been a box office blunder and forgotten in a critic’s trash pile. Still sometimes, one finds these few movies that connect with a select few, spread across the moviegoers fraternity. “Lions for Lambs” was one such flick I saw a year back.

This is an intertwined story about a Senator, a journalist, two soldiers, a college professor and a student. Each playing their roles in the social fabric that results in angst, frustration and the underlying helplessness, as well as indifference. For more detailed synopsis read here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lions_for_Lambs

Though the story is mostly about the War in Afghanistan, the politics behind it etc etc. But my interpretation of the movie is quite personal. The political cunning of the senator(Tom Cruise), the journalistic conscience of Meryll Streep's role, the concern of the professor(Robert redford), the indifference of the student, and the sacrifice of two soldiers amidst this is all is but the reality of many societies.

The stark resemblence it bears to many elements of the Tibetan exile social fabric is also obvious and many might have even noticed it. But I decided to write about it.

Personally, the character of the indifferent student, who suddenly stops attending any of his classes, was the closest to my heart. Partly because I had gone through something similar and partly because it was an uncanny semblance to how many youths who could have made a difference slowly drift away into indifference.

The conversation that follows between the professor (played by Robert Redford) and the student very lucidly brings out the moral dilemma every person faces when he desires to be an instrument of change. The frustration, the anger and the disgust at the nature of modern politics and the character of a modern politician is quite common among youths of today. Especially in the Tibetan society it is now not uncommon to find many young people who are frustrated at the way things are going and the way things are at present. Obviously I belong to this same herd.

Further, the character of the two soldiers in the movie moved me the most. These are two young people, filled not only with the angst of the above character (in the earlier paragraph), but also with the desire to do something about it and not just drift towards indifference. They then decide to join the army and become an instrument of change. This later leads to their lives being lost without achieving any purpose.

This in many ways conveys, how thin is the line between becoming an instrument of change or drifting towards just becoming one another tool in the expansion of the current political and social strata.

One can even compare their story with those of many in Tibet, who die almost every year and many every day in the darkness of Chinese prisons. Their efforts, flamed with the conscience of not standing behind when their brothers shout in exile, lead them to actions of immense courage and solidarity. And yet, knowing that such actions lead to the ruin of their complete life, troubles me to my hearts core.

What is most disturbing for me to observe, is the fact that even though there are not many who are losing their lives in exile while trying to become an instrument of change? But there are certainly many, who are misguided and misled towards believing in things that might not eventually be right.

This brings me to the character of the Senator played by Tom Cruise. Cunning, playful with words and extremely ambitious politician who wants to become the president of the U.S. In his efforts in manipulating and using Meryll Streep( the journalist) to accomplish his political ends, I see the perpetual efforts by the political herdsmen in exile, to form public opinion, in some cases manipulate it by using the name of the Dalai Lama to achieve there own political ambitions. Of course I won't be getting into name listing them here. But it grieves me to an extent that the very people in whose hands the fate and the future of the exile Tibetans as well as those who are in Tibet lies, are playing unscrupulous strangling games for their own petty political ends.

While despite Meryll streep's character's resistance in giving her words the meaning which the senator (tom cruise) wants to imply, her work somehow ends doing exactly that. And she loses all control over things otherwise and later vanishes in the story. This is again indicative of many an efforts by someone here and there in our society, that has so far failed to culminate in fruitful practical results, and with time, these efforts lose their shine and fade into obscurity.

The impending feeling that surfaces at the helm of my solitary and in many ways obscure act of writing blogs about all these things, Is in some way very much familiar to the sheer helplessness one feels, seeing the state of thing and being unable to do anything about it.

I might be a cynic, even a pessimist, but surely "Lions for Lambs" is prettty much a phrase very true to the story of the Tibetan struggle in exile.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flightless Stairs

(Dedicated to the lost lives and unheard cries of those in Tibet)

To climb its steps
Reach its pinnacle
To find what’s
What’s Unknown
A mystery unsolved
A goal not achieved
A line not crossed
A message not read
I try and falter
Tumble and fall
Every Step’s
In air
Climbing these
Flightless Stairs

In Seclusion
Lies there
Woes of men
Of a nation Torn
In Obscurity
Withers away
Stories of Valour
Of freedom
Yet I try
To reach them
Free them
Fight for names Lost
And lives shattered
My efforts
In vain
Climbing these
Flightless Stairs

Friday, March 13, 2009

Of Korean movies, Bollywood and the Tibetan genX

I am a big movie buff, there's no particular taste I have been following but any movie that keeps me interested after the first half, falls in my favourites list. Growing up, I was mostly introduced to the Bollywood movies, this was not because of choice but simply because of the fact that we had only one all pervading channel on our Black and White, 14'inch Panasonic, and that channel was DoorDarshan(later called DD1). I would sit back on the couch right after I return from school and gorge any movie or program that was up, while doing tons of homework. Wasn't a good habbit but I really was quite efficient at it..hahahh!!

Childhood mostly went in watching Amitabh Bachchan do a doule role in Don to Rajesh Khanna Dying in Anand, from watching Shammi Kapoor do the Indian version of the twist in his various movies to Sharmila Tagore look both young and old in Aradhana. These movies were quite old even for my age, but I got to watch these movies only as a child since we didn't have a local theatre to watch new movies or a VCR player to hire a video tape. Still it was pretty interesting. As years passed by I was introduced to movies of Anil Kapoor, Govinda, Salman, Amir Khan, later Shahrukh etc... Bollywood had moved a few steps ahead and I was able to keep up the pace.... late night escapades from C.S.T Shimla(name of my boarding school) lead me to the theatres in town..Ritz, Rivoli and Shahi. Thus, I kept on gorging Bollywood movies every now and then..and every time I had money to spare and the time to have fun..I hit for the movies...

Korean movies were something I came to see quite late...I remember I was in my first year at college when i saw the first Korean movie.. and surprisingly it was one of best contemporary pop korean movies of modern times.. and that movie was.. "The Classic"(at least for me)..hahah

I remember Son Ye Jin(the actress) playing love struck daughter as well as the mother in this movie. The scene where the actor(don know his name) forgets his umbrella and how she realises its importance in flashbacks..touched me.. What was best in the movie was the scene when Jo-Seung-Woo( one of the actors) returns blind from the war and practises his meeting withe Son Ye jin in the restaurant and finally falters.. its was marvellous.. besides all these the soundtrack of the movie had become quite popular...almost most of the young tibetans had it in their cell phones or comps...then on I started taking interests in korean,thai,and some of the japanese movies.. though most of them are junk.. but you might come across a few good movies here and there...

What is most fascinatiing to me is to observe how these movies from across the spectrum of asian culture is influencing and affecting the lives of many young Tibetans in exile?

The craze behind korean and bollywood movies is quite strong among the Tibetan gen X. You could easily see how these movies have influenced even the hair style many young Tibetans have.There are many who even learn not only Hindi songs but surprisingly Korean too, many struggling with the seemingly incomprehensible words in the lyrics and yet singing it and perfecting it after sometime..using day to day korean phrases is ofcourse quite common among many.. the usual "I love you" i.e "Tsarang Ngei' (i don't know if its the right wording)is obviously a hit amongs many Tibetan school students as well as the younger people.. All this i feel, is in many ways reflective of the emptiness a Tibetan GenX feels when it comes to an identity. The lack of significant numbers of Tibetans whom you can call your ideal, except of course The Dalai Lama, might also be another reason for this search of ideals and trends across other cultures.

Now is this something to worry about? The answer is "Yes" and "No". "No" because cultural influences and the youth's inclination towards everything alien is natural and the current globalisation the world is facing is omnipresent. "Yes" because such trends are also indicative of the desperate need a social group feels about identifying itself with what is "current","modern" and "Hip".

Arguments could follow that the offsprings of a nation as great as Tibet with a culture that is still pristine and one of a kind, with a religion that is wow-ing many, such danger of identity crisis is too far fetched. But for a generation exiled thousands of miles away from its land, for a society shoved in a hot pot of modernity, wouldn't such effects as "Identity Crisis" follow? Ours is a society, even after 50 years of exile is still struggling to find its niche in the modern world.

Despite my extreme abhorrence with cultural cynicism and extreme traditionalism, these trends do make me feel that somehow, our younger generation is seemingly feeling lost when it comes to one's identity. There is a strong re surging feeling that even though one cannot escape globalism in its various forms and its nothing new when a traditional culture is influenced by a more modern one , but perhaps our genX is struggling with the same and yet more precarious situation of identity crisis that many young people face today. That perhaps these exile Tibetan GenX's escapades in the movies and lifestyles of our asian compatriots is indicative of the cultural dilemma our life in exile has put all of us into.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hindi For Tibetans

Language in its varied forms and facets has always played a pivotal role not only in evolving civilisations but also in sustaining social harmony. Imagine a world without language, without signs and symbols used to communicate, without a native script, without signals of varied sorts, wouldn’t it be a more chaotic place than today?

Imagine further what repercussion surface when misinterpretation takes place in communication, when lack of sufficient fluency in a particular form of language leads to misunderstandings and resolution of issues become difficult, and when inferences are misconstrued due to poor grasp of either of the parties language. Many of the world’s differences occur today, simply because of the lack of understanding of the other side’s language and the culture responsible for that language’s evolution.

Being a Tibetan born in exile, I had the privilege of studying both in an Indian school as well as a Tibetan school. Throughout my primary education other than English, Hindi was the primary mode of communication. This was mostly because I was studying among Indian students at the Indian school. Then in my junior school I had the privilege of having the opportunity to study Tibetan at a Tibetan school. Even then I still was able to study Hindi till my eighth grade. But what I see now is that since almost a decade now, Hindi is only taught for three years between sixth, seventh and eighth grade to be precise. The standard of Hindi taught during these three years is what a lower KG, upper KG and a first or a second grader learns at an Indian school. The result is an even poor level of understanding and fluency in the language of the land where we are currently in exile. Another major step was to reduce English to just one language class and all other subjects are taught in Tibetan now till the fifth grade. Of course, there were reasons ascribed to such steps being taken.

Primary reasons given for such steps were to improve the standard of Tibetan among the Tibetan students. This policy was later strengthened by the Education Policy implemented around 2003-05 by the Education Department of the Tibetan government in exile. Now this change has been in effect for almost a decade. What bothers me most is the question of whether or not periodic evaluation of such a policy taken place? Whether or not prompt analysis or proper studies are being carried out to study the outcomes so far? Every policy, especially with regard to education needs constant evaluation and review to gauge its viability with time and necessity. Is such a need felt within the education department of the CTA? The question bogs me.

In my personal opinion, formed through experience of working with students graduating out of school and colleges, as well as Tibetan population in general, such a policy as above has only resulted in the degradation of Hindi and English language skills of Tibetan youths. And also, this surprisingly has not also been able to uplift the poor standard of Tibetan language in exile schools.
Anyhow, leaving policy discussions behind, I come back to my main issue of the negligence of Hindi language in Tibetan schools and its repercussions.

Many underestimate the importance and significance of Hindi language for the Tibetan community in exile. The practical need and the viability of knowing the Hindi language for a Tibetan in India is enormous. I cannot even imagine how policy makers would underestimate the role of Hindi both in present and in future for Tibetans living in exile.

First and foremost all strategy for the future of Tibetans revolves irresolutely around the belief that the Tibet issue will be resolved in a near finite period of time. Of course in some cases, we see a more futuristic and long term appraoch towards policy making but the overall outlook in every policy concerning every aspect of our exile life is mostly near sighted. Infact, this can be clearly discerned from the fact that India is one place across the globe where awareness regarding the Tibetan cause is the least. When I say India, I don’t just mean some first generation Indian politicians of the time of Pandit Nehru, to some officials in and around Dharamsala and some few Indian journalists. I mean the general populace across India, students across Indian universities and schools, and the Hindi media (newspapers especially). Of course efforts have been up since the last few years in the form of some Buddhist exchange programs to some other initiatives and I applaud them. But over the course of last 50 years, I would ascribe the near zero outreach of the Tibetan cause among the 100 plus crore Indian populace and across the larger Indian political spectrum, primarily to lack of fluent Hindi speaking people in Tibetan community. And more than that the lack of interest in interaction with the Indian communities in general. This in some ways is one of the side effects of the settlement policy, which has still managed to nourish the isolation syndrome, we Tibetans so miserably suffer from.

Political support from India is not as substantial as Tibetans might want, and despite the geopolitical reasons behind this attitude by the Indian policy makers, one reason I believe is our inability to have been able to raise enough lobbyist for the Tibetan cause in the Indian community. And this mostly has happened due to our isolation from the Indian populace, resultant of a poor understanding and mastery of the Hindi language.

Secondly, one of the most critical things that sometimes worry me, is the surge in fights between Tibetans and Indians. It is understandable that, an area with two communities from a different cultural background might sometimes witness some friction among its members. And yet it goes beyond my belief that even after 50 years of our stay in India, we have not been able to grasp and adapt to the cultural intricacies of the land where we have sought asylum. The result is an increase in numbers of friction among Tibetans and Indians. This is not a matter to be slipped under the pillow. One might be too naïve to ignore the effects such incidents could have on the future of Tibetans in India, and believe me, we are here for another long stint.

Sometimes these individual skirmishes turn into communal disharmony (no matter how much one denies it). And we have seen such events occur as in the case of Chauntra and many other smaller incidents. Again, I believe that such events might have been prevented if there is more knowledge of the Indian culture among the younger Tibetan youth as well as a near thorough understanding of the Hindi Language. A good Hindi speaking (and I mean good, and not the usual typical illiterate Hindi we most Tibetans speak) person with good negotiating skills can easily diffuse such situations of tension. Of course other factors too contribute to such happenings but in the end, it all comes to misunderstanding and misinterpretation of each other’s intent. A suggestion here for the authorities, why not put one Hindi speaking Tibetan negotiater in sensitive areas where such incidents are common.

In the end, even this is just a quick fix. We would only be able to project a good image of Tibetans in India, just like the one the west has, by teaching Hindi again at the schools and also formally educating Tibetans in the Indian culture too. More engagement between Indian and Tibetans at schools and colleges should be encouraged.

Finally, one of the advantages of being able to read, write and speak proper Hindi language opens up more job avenues for the Tibetan youth. Networking is the core of increasing your opportunities of finding a job in the mainstream Indian market. Good Hindi skills, increases one’s chances manifold. Fields like insurance, marketing, public relations, journalism etc prefer a good understanding of Hindi language. Though the number of people speaking English in India is increasing manifolds, yet it always gives you and edge in your career, if you know the language of the people you work for. I have worked in the field of Youth employment and I have seen many younger Tibetans, school dropouts, school graduates and even college graduates, are not only lacking in English skills, but not so surprisingly in Hindi too. And of course I don’t even need to tell how good they are in their Tibetan skills.

What surprises me more is the fact that monks in monasteries and newly arrived Tibetans are not taught Hindi but rather English and Tibetan? Even science is taught now in the monasteries, but sadly no Hindi. Many are not even able to read the name of places where a bus is going. How can we then say that we truly appreciate this land of culture to whom we call our tutor?

Its time now that our education policy makers review the current policy and bring back Hindi to our schools. Teaching modules in Hindi should also be brought forth for newly arrived Tibetans in India as well as those who are born here.

I have heard about a culminating realisation of the importance of Chinese language across the globe. Especially many Tibetans too are saying that it is essential that we know Chinese. The reasons are surplus and I won’t be discussing them in this write up. Yet it makes me wonder, if 50 years have not made us learn the language of a place where we have been living and many who have been born. How this prudent realisation of the importance of Chinese language will shape up remains to be seen? But for now, I think its more then essential that efforts must be done to teach more Hindi.

This is the land from where Buddhism reached Tibet, from where Tibetans learned the lesson of “Ahimsa Parmo Dharma” (Non-Violence is the highest religion), a land where the roots of our Tibetan language lie, a land where we have sought refuge from Chinese oppression, a land where we have learnt democracy and a land from where we strive for our freedom.

If we don’t value and embrace the language of this land that has given us so much, I wonder how prudent are we in thinking that the future will be fine just as it is. It is this language, I believe that will play a far greater role then any other in our freedom struggle, and its high time we realise the importance of “Hindi For Tibetans”.