News and Views on Tibet

FREEDOM SONG: Interview with Tenzin Tsundue

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His fierce desire for a free Tibet make Tenzin Tsundue’s work an emotional read. His slim new book ‘Kora’ (roughly translated to mean ‘circumambulation’) consisting of eleven poems, an essay and a short story deals with the theme of a man in exile. His aim is “to bring together estranged generation of Tibetans with an excuse of a ritual – going for circumambulation around His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s exile house in Dharamshala.”

Elle talks to the rebel with a grand cause.

ELLE: Poetry in exile or poetry and exile?
Tenzin Tsundue: I am in India, but my heart goes to Tibet. Living between exile and dreamland, I am neither here nor there. My life has become poetry. I write about it sometimes.

ELLE: When did you first start to write?
Tenzin Tsundue: I took my writing seriously only while doing my MA in Mumbai University in 1998. Now it’s become a necessity.

ELLE: Describe yourself in 20 words or less.
Tenzin Tsundue: Stoic, Spartan, obstinate, emotional, romantic, artistically inclined sans the skills, more evening than morning, hate rituals, more reader than writer.

ELLE: Your favourite authors/books?
Tenzin Tsundue: I love to read Neruda, Frost, Gandhi, Orwell, Camus, Arum Kolhatkar, Ruskin Bond and Dhundup Gyal. Two of my favourite books: Tsering Shakya’s ‘Dragon In The Land of Snows’ and Hernst Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man And The Sea’.

ELLE: Your greatest victory?
Tenzin Tsundue: To protest China’s continued occupation of my country, on the 16 January, 2002 scaled the 14th floor of Mumbai’s Oberoi Towers with the help of a scaffolding. China’s Prime Minister Zhu Rongji was addressing a conference on the same floor. The security people caught me and dragged me into a hotel room from the window. I resisted but never retaliated. I had won over myself. My greatest victory in a test for non-violence.

ELLE: Your bravest moment.
Tenzin Tsundue: On 4th March 1997, as a fresh graduate, I walked to Tibet, literally, alone, illegally. I wanted to see Tibet for myself.

ELLE: When fear became real?
Tenzin Tsundue: After walking for four days in that uninhabited mountainous regions, I fell in the hands of the Chinese border police. Interrogations, beatings, imprisonment. I counted days on the prison walls. Uncertainty hung from the closed prison door; a probable execution stared from the prison window. I thought I would live to work for Tibet. “Cross-border agreements” were put into action and I was sent back into India.

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