Father of veteran activist for an indepeendent Tibet, Jamyang Norbu and founder of 'Tibetan Freedom' the pioneer newspaper of the Tibetans in exile, Ku-ngoe Lhawangla passed away earlier on July 10.
by Sonam Dorjee
Darjeeling: The last rites of Mr Lhawang Tenduk Pulger, aged 80, leading citizen of Darjeeling and one time Commandant of the Home Guards was conducted on 15th July. He had earlier passed away after a protracted illness on 10th July at his house, behind the Bellevue Hotel complex at Chowrasta. Noted dignitaries and citizens of Darjeeling, including government officers from the civil service and police came to pay their last respects while the body lay in his residence. Shri Subhas Ghising, Administrator, Gorkha Hill Council Darjeeling, sent his representative to place a khata (ceremonial scarf) in a show of respect for the departed soul.
The procession began at 10.00 a.m. from the deceased person's residence and culminated at Ghoom, 8 kms away, where the body was cremated according to traditional Tibetan Buddhist rites. The funeral procession was led by monks and comprised of noted citizens of Darjeeling including local Tibetans numbering around 300 which wound its way through town braving the heavy, inclement monsoon rains. Mr. Dawa Narbula, Congress MP representing Darjeeling constituency was among the high profile dignitaries present.
Kungoe Lhawangla, as he was better known among the Tibetans, was the grandson of Raja Tenduk Pulger of Karmi near Bijanbari in the outskirts of Darjeeling district bordering Sikkim. His father was Kumar S. Pulger more popularly known to the locals as Kaila Kumar. By virtue of their services during the British Raj, the family owns a number of real estate properties in Darjeeling town and vast tracts of land in the outlying areas of the district, large portions of which have either been subsequently claimed by the government or usurped and encroached upon by the locals.
Mr Sonam Gyaltsen, Ms Yudon and Mr Urgen are his surviving siblings. His second wife Mrs Choden and her two children- a son and a daughter are the other immediate surviving members of the family.
He had two children from his first marriage; a son Mr Jamyang Norbu, former Director of Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala and a veteran Tibetan rangzen activist and a writer, and now settled in America and Ringzin Dolkar who lives in Toronto Canada. It was while staying with her daughter that his first wife Mrs Lodi Lhawang Tethong expired a couple of years back.
His love for horses was well known and he had a stable full of them. He was actively involved in the Gymkhanna club activities, especially in the Horse Races conducted by the Club at the Lebong Race Course and his living room is full of the trophies won by him, not least the coveted Governor's Gold Cup.
Lhawangla undertook the setting up of the Tibetan Refugee schools in Darjeeling in 1960 and Kalimpong in the mid 60's which was in consonance with His Holiness the Dalai Lama's vision of imparting a modern education to the displaced Tibetan refugee children who had hitherto, had no access to any education in old Tibet.
It was under very trying and insurmountable conditions, with the absence of basic amenities like access to water, hygiene, clean clothes, virtually no medical care and supports that Lhawangla, through sheer grit and determination, strived to get the school going with the first batch of refugee children. Most of them were orphans or semi orphans whose parents were either still stuck in the transit camps in Missamari in Assam or Buxa in West Bengal or part of some road construction gangs in Gangtok, Kullu, or Bomdila. Lhawangla’s sheer spirit of enterprise and never-say-die attitude finally paid dividends in that the school gradually found its bearings, so that by the end of the 1960's, it had evolved as an institution of considerable standing in Darjeeling. Once it became a full fledged boarding school of repute towards the end of the 1970's, it was taken over by the Central Tibetan Schools Administration, under the ministry of Human Resources, Government of India as part of a network of Central Schools spread all over India. As proof of the high quality of education imparted and reflective of the devotion of the staff and students, the very first batch of students all passed out in the 1st Division.
Mr Pulger was one of the committee members that set up the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre, Darjeeling in October 1959 under the able stewardship of late Mrs. Gyalo Thondup; and with his passing away, the last member of this founding committee has passed into history.
As an active member of the Rehabilitation Committee for Tibetan refugees set up by the Government, he was one of the founding members that helped set up the Tibetan Freedom Press at Toong Soong in Darjeeling printing the aptly called 'Tibetan Freedom' the pioneer newspaper of the Tibetans in exile.
Owing to the severe and suffocating tropical heat at the Buxa Transit Camp, Mr Pulger helped make arrangements for the transfer of the freshly arrived hordes of monks from Sera, Ganden and Drepung, (the three premier monastic universities of Lhasa) to the moderate climatic zones of Mysore and Bylakuppe in South India and to Bomdila in north east India. Today, replicas of these three great monasteries are thriving and known as centers of Buddhist excellence.
Besides establishing the Central Schools for Tibetans at Darjeeling and Kalimpong, he also helped set up schools of the same calibre in Shimla and Mussoorie in the mid 60's.
Among other medals and trophies that he earned throughout his career in the police, he was awarded the Governor's Medal for Exemplary Service in Calcutta in the latter part of the 1970's.
Generations of students and countless Tibetans who have benefited from Lhawangla's initiative endeavours would surely remain grateful and remember him for posterity.
The writer would like to thank the graceful Mrs Norzin la, Principal of Himalayan Nursery School, Darjeeling for granting an interview which inevitably turned into a most enjoyable reminiscence of the old days)