My tryst with immodesty

Telling the world about being nominated for an award is, in the Tibetan world, akin to being immodest. Any Tibetan caught or suspected of blowing his own trumpet is met with the slightly unkind, yet apt tongue-in-cheek Tibetan remark: “Kyakpe kup kyak,” which literally translates into “The shit is lifting the butt.”

award21But today, I am throwing caution to the winds by proudly letting you know that I was nominated for my first blogging award — The Versatile Blogger Award — by Vicki oEco Elements. Vicki, who is passionate about healthy living and the environment, writes a wonderful blog as he seeks to discover and share unique ways of preserving the planet for our children.

I’d like to share the award rules (given below) and nominate my other friends in the blogging world, this time a powerful set of women of four:

Perelin Colors — “Travel advice and impressions of a colorful world”

Plateau Journal — “Threads of life”

Simply Tibetan — ” Tsampa, Momo, Laphing and more”

Revisions of Grandeur — “Life is a draft”

Rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog
  2. List the award rules so your nominees will know what to do.
  3. State 7 things about yourself
  4. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers for the award.
  5. Contact your nominees to let them know you have nominated them.
  6. Display the award logo on your blog.

Monthly blog spotlight: Simply Tibetan, Simply Delicious

I’ve been following this wonderful blog called Simply Tibetan, Simply Delicious, and I think you should too.

Simply Tibetan has a wonderful collection of recipes of unique and yet-familiar Tibetan dishes, including the tsampa, the Tibetan staple diet made of barley or wheat, and momo, another popular Tibetan dish.

A Tibetan lady preparing her bowl of tsampa

A Tibetan lady preparing her bowl of tsampa

The author artfully weaves together personal accounts of her own experiences with Tibetan food and cooking in all the recipes on her blog, proving without doubt the significance of food in one’s effort to preserve one’s rich and unique traditions and memories in a foreign land.

STSD, who appears to have been blogging since 2008, has over the years shared a wide assortment of recipes, roping in friends and family in this inspiring enterprise. There’s even one on a Tibetan snack called khapsey, where the major part of the preparation (and eating) was done by the author’s son and his friend.

And yet, it is the author’s narratives and personal stories that bring the recipes to life, allowing the reader a taste of an original Tibetan kitchen amid all the modernity — in that Tibetan cooking essentially calls for a strong perception in terms of duration and measurements rather than defining clear specifications on either of these two essentials of modern-day cooking. Nonetheless, the author is able to effectively balance the two in her posts, even acknowledging this truth in her momo post.

So take a moment and try any of these fabulous recipes, and your home will be filled with the rich aroma of Tibetan cooking.

The fortuitous impact of small acts of kindness

Sunrise

I grew up in exile without ever having met a single Uncle or Aunt from either of my parents side. Both my parents had brothers and sisters, who in turn had large families, back in Tibet. Still, after their escape into exile — separately, when they were much younger — in the 1960s and 70s, they lost all contact with their families until the 1980s, when Deng Xiaoping decided to open up the borders and loosen the Chinese government’s tight hold over border security.

My Pa-la (father) went to Tibet then. He was reunited with his brothers and sisters for the first time since escaping to exile. My parents had saved up some money, from which my father took some back to Tibet. Before his trip home, he told me he bought two bicycles in Nepal to take to Tibet, bags of warm clothes and swathes of cloth to gift his large family and an ever larger circle of friends and well wishers. For his sisters, he bought soaps — soaps were a rarity in Tibet and considered quite a luxury to own before the Chinese invasion (and probably for a long while after too, given the Cultural Revolution and its impact on the social-economic conditions of Tibetans). For his brothers, he bought several “Western” watches, which were very popular, and yet hard to come by, in Tibet. (I’m not sure if the brand was called “Western”, or if this was just another instance of a Tibetan mispronouncing a non-Tibetan word and never really bothering to find out what the original word was/is.)

During that trip home, Pa-la met my maternal Uncles and Aunts, or my Ashang-la(s) and Somo-la(s), for the first time too. He went to my mother’s home in Tibet and introduced himself to them as my Ama-la’s husband. Pa-la was also reunited with his brothers and sisters, my Agu-la(s) and Ani-la(s).

There, at his home, he learned of the many changes that his family had been subjected to — changes that struck them too swiftly and too cruelly, without warning. As my grandfather, my Popo-la, had passed away before the Chinese invasion, my father’s eldest brother automatically became the next head of the house; following the invasion of Tibet and my Pa-la’s escape into exile, Pa-la’s eldest brother was accused for belonging to an aristocratic family and was subsequently, subjected to tham-zing, or public struggle sessions, in community centers and finally, imprisoned and tortured in prison. However, when Pa-la made his first trip to Tibet from exile, his eldest brother was back home from spending several years in prison and recounted many a tale of the horrors of Chinese prisons.

Pa-la also learned of how his brothers and sisters, and their families, were ostracized by the rest of the community, particularly during the Cultural Revolution, in keeping with the new government’s policy of ridding the Tibetan society of aristocracy and serfdom. To be sure, Pa-la’s family owned large pockets of land for cultivation and had entire families living on the lands owned by his family — these families, in turn, worked on these lands, although the arrangement with Pa-la’s family wasn’t on the condition of bondage. Many of these people, who had earlier worked for Pa-la’s family, later became the local government heads, appointed by the Chinese government in their effort to get rid of the old ways –“serfdom” — and in its place, install “the new fours” — new customs, new cultures, new habits and new ideas. Ironically, many of these newly-appointed local heads, who previously worked for Pa-la’s family, were lenient towards the family and would, in fact, secretly warn the family ahead of any raids or arrests that were likely to take place at their house, going so far as to offer tips on how best to avoid arrests and suggestions on where they could hide certain things — areas where the local heads would be sure to refrain from checking during the raids.

So, Pa-la heard about all the kind acts that were meted out to his brothers and sisters by the new local heads — several of whom pointed out that their kindness was mainly a reflection of the kindness that Pa-la had extended to their families each time they were in dire need of help.

For Pa-la, that first trip home from exile was a great reminder of what little acts of kindness could do and how you eventually, albeit indirectly, reap the rewards of being compassionate towards every sentient being. Pa-la found happiness in knowing that despite the physical distance, he was still able to make a positive difference to the lives of his brothers and sisters during their most difficult time of existence.

The last Dalai Lama? Who should have the last word?

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

We’ve all read the news by now that the Dalai Lama has speculated that he may be the last Dalai Lama. This was reported by the German newspaper Die Welt and subsequently picked up by other newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the HuffPost, to name a few. But according to the VoA, Tibetans are saying that the Dalai Lama’s statement has been taken out of context and, hence, is misleading.

Nevertheless, we must remember that the Dalai Lama has, for several years, cited various scenarios that may be likely with regard to his succession. This time too, his comment isn’t conclusive and appears to be a view that he has always held. (Read more about this in the second answer to the question on the last Dalai Lama on his official website).

As early as in the 1970s, the Dalai Lama told a Polish newspaper that:

The Dalai Lama office was an institution created to benefit others. It is possible that it will soon have outlived its usefulness.

Given this background, the Dalai Lama’s recent comment highlights just another of those possibilities related to his succession that have already been deliberated at length. In the end, as the supreme head of the Tibetan people (and no amount of devolution of powers will ever change that), the Dalai Lama will, I believe, do whatever is in the best interest of the Tibetan people and Tibet, just as he has all his life.

And so, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Chinese government has no right whatsoever to dictate to the Dalai Lama what he should and should not say and do. According to Reuters, the atheist-Chinese government told the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, that he should respect Tibet’s age-old practice of reincarnation. This is ironic coming from China, given that its government has, over the years, attempted to destroy Tibetan Buddhism, either by demolishing thousands of Tibet’s centuries-old monasteries or by disrespecting Tibetan cultural and religious traditions by indoctrinating the people with Chinese versions of these customs and then subjecting Tibetans to untold torture for practicing them the Tibetan way?

So perhaps, the Chinese government is not in the best position to be dictating terms to the Dalai Lama, particularly owing to the fact that despite all its efforts over half a century, the Chinese government has failed miserably at one thing — and that is in turning the Tibetan people against the Dalai Lama.

I profess to being just one among the millions of other Tibetans who feel a deep sense of devotion, gratitude, awe and wonder each time I have been in the presence of the Dalai Lama, our precious one. This is an innate sentiment that has determined the fate of the Tibetan people in that, our unquestionable faith in the Dalai Lama has made it impossible for the Chinese government to honestly boast of having complete control over all things Tibetan.

It’s not that they haven’t tried. They have — in every scheme, program, plan, campaign, tactic, propaganda, and project. And yet, they have failed.

Yes, they definitely conquered the Tibetan plateau (not that it was terribly difficult to conquer a nation armed with just prayers and prayer beads) and also managed to occupy Tibet after passing off many areas of erstwhile Tibet as their own (which means, these regions are no longer even categorized under the Tibet Autonomous Region — a separation that the Chinese regime itself masterminded after the occupation of Tibet and which constitutes less than half of historic Tibet). The Chinese regime also implemented countless strategies to force the Tibetan culture and language into oblivion or to a very-watered-down version of their former self. They even tried winning the hearts of the Tibetan people through development projects, a majority of which have come under immense criticism for the tremendous harm done to the environment and for the fact that many of them are aimed at benefiting Han Chinese migrants in Tibet. Various forms of religious and patriotic re-education programs were also introduced in Tibet, along with the launch of ten-million-something campaigns to pitch the Tibetan people against the Dalai Lama.

And yet, they have failed in all their efforts, making it ever more clear why the Chinese government will never have the last word in determining the future of the Tibetan people. Ultimately, it is the Tibetan people, as his Holiness has always said, and the Tibetan exile government, which was created to represent and promote the true aspirations of the Tibetan people, that should determine and chalk out the future of the Tibetan people and Tibetan history — whether it is in ending an age-old tradition of recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation or in requesting the Dalai Lama to be reborn as the 15th Dalai Lama to lead the Tibetan people once again.

The blog post about the blog

I am a terrible writer! Let me establish that from the very beginning. That way, you’re unlikely to visit my blog to read beautifully scripted lines about the now-not-so-mystical Tibet and its people. However, I do hope you will visit my blog for three main reasons:

  1. To read honest-to-God truths about being a Tibetan — the good, the bad, and the ugly (of it) — with no self- or others-imposed censorship whatsoever. The Tibetan culture, language and heritage is undoubtedly unique, one that has exhibited its resilience over the many decades in exile by remaining true to its traditional form, while continuously adapting positively to the changing times we live in. Still, there are some pertinent issues that need to be addressed, and I look forward to asking those hard questions, or if not anything else, bringing them to light in this blog.
  2. To understand and experience the lives of ordinary Tibetans, our hopes, our dreams and our ambitions, most of which may very well be quite like yours, with the only difference being that, as Tibetans, we were born with the additional responsibility of furthering our cause in every way we can. So I hope to share with you the many challenges we face and overcome as many Tibetans like me try (or in most times, struggle) to cope with having to simultaneously lead two separate lives — 1) involves working hard at your everyday job to ensure you make enough to put food on your table, and 2) involves answering the call to work and contribute towards the greater cause for Tibet.
  3. To read about Tibetan achievers — young and old — through profiles, interviews and guest posts. Many of our Tibetan friends appear to have this preconceived notion that the majority of the Tibetan people are non-English speaking, illiterates, who are always seen holding a string of prayer beads in one hand, murmuring a prayer quietly (and some cases, not so quietly) to oneself. It’s interesting that while we are a very religious community, we now have our fair share of atheists, highlighting just one example of the sea of changes that have engulfed the community. Some of these changes have been positive, producing a slew of achievers in various fields. I hope to be able to share their stories with you through this blog.

Is there something you’d like to know about Tibet and Tibetans. If so, take this poll. I’ll be sure to user your feedback to write about the things you’d like to read about.