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Not Made in China

He’s a warrior with a message of peace, a patriot barred from his homeland, a refugee in a country he was born in and an idealist living in a world disenchanted by anything without a price tag. If you know of Tenzin Tsundue, it’s probably because you watched him steal the visiting Chinese Prime Minister’s media thunder in 2005.

Tsundue unfurled a ‘Free Tibet’ banner sitting high up on the ledge of a building screaming “Wen Jiabao, you cannot silence us”. Yes, you can’t silence the determined dissenter, but you can restrict his movements, throw him jail and make an example out of him to frighten others with lofty ideas of freedom, justice and righteousness.

Some estimates claim that almost a million Tibetans have perished in the struggle for a free Tibet. The next obvious question is… What does this one man hope to accomplish? With global icons at the helm of affairs, what can Tsundue really do?

He hopes to keep the “idea of a free Tibet alive”. Reminding the world that whether living under Chinese rule or in exile, the Tibetan people are still hoping, waiting and yearning.

In an era of armchair activism where people assume they’ve done their bit by wearing t-shirts with clichéd slogans and ‘sharing’ news about the horrors of war and exploitation in their virtual lives, Tsundue goes the extra mile.

When he’s not dangling precariously from towers, Tsundue is writing poetry about his life and his people’s struggle. He travels to every part of India with a Tibetan population- inspiring and binding them together in a peaceful resistance against “colonial China”.

He’s also open to spending time in jail- most recently in 2008, after being arrested by the Chinese border police for attempting to reach Tibet. Tsundue along with his compatriots wanted to stage a protest against the Olympics and human rights violations and the political propaganda that’s controlling Chinese citizens.

Tsundue says, “There can be no freedom for Tibet, till the Chinese people are free. Unless there is democracy and dignity for the Chinese citizens, there will be none for Tibetans. The only way to deal with a bully like China is through compassion, empowerment and support of it’s people.”

Tsundue was born in a tent besides a road, his mother, along with other Tibet refugee labourers, were constructing in Himachal Pradesh. His family was eventually settled in a refugee camp in Tamil Nadu, where he attended a Tibetan school and eventually went to a local university.

“Even though India has an over cautious stance where it comes to the Tibet issue, the country has given us a home. It has allowed us to continue in our way of life, to keep our cultural identity and to me that is the most valued support”, he stresses.

Tsundue’s brand of activism and his past endeavours require him to register with the police in Dharamshala each time he plans to travel and also upon his return. He must carry that ‘permission slip’ with him at all times. He feels no resentment and expects no special treatment. “Everything I endure is nothing new to any refugee anywhere, there is no room for ego here”.

Recounting his darkest hour in a prison cell, fearing being locked away and forgotten for a lifetime, Tsundue says that something remarkable happened. “I realised that there is joy in the simple things in life- a few moments in the sun outside my cell, a cup of hot water and a steamed bun for breakfast and the idea of a free Tibet.” Inside that jail cell, Tsundue had been released. Now, he carries that sense of calm with him always. He’s content with a Spartan existence, earning sustenance from his published work. Almost fearful of getting too comfortable, lest it distract him from his life’s mission.

He may have spent his entire life in exile, but Tenzin Tsundue was ‘Made in Tibet’.

15 Responses to “Not Made in China”

  1. Eva Pinto says:

    i remember reading about this crazy man who had climed a 20 storey building in bangalore. nice to see that hes not some crazy dude with a stunt, but an inspired and peaceful activist for his people

  2. Vivel Wagle says:

    sahi hai, yeh kissi ngo ke saath kaam karte hai? or only independently, pls contact information deejye inka, thanx

  3. mrs kiran madan says:

    even as a kashmiri it was not easy to uproot urself from home and live among strangers, but we have done it. india is a place that makes room for all

  4. Jyoti Sampath says:

    i read a letter to the chinese prime minister that tenzin had wrote, soul stirring stuff. i hope his endeavors find success

  5. Randhir Shekhawat says:

    they’re capitalist masquerading as communists. i agree with tenzin, that first the chinese ppl shud be set free, then we can discuss tiet, hongkong, taiwan, their suppport of the Junta in burma and all their other meddling

    RS, Jaipur

  6. Nova Dorjee says:

    unless u have been a refugee, u will never know the pain. being called chinki is not just a insult to our ethnicity, it steals any sense of identity, like calling any south indian a Madrasi

  7. surinder prakash yadav says:

    i have followed ur writing from ur first article, well done, ur parents must be proud. do write more stories of indians, contact me for some leads. best regards sp yadav

  8. Jasmine Mathais says:

    fear not a path fraught with danger for only it will lead you to the promised land…

  9. Noi Palmo says:

    Lovely piece, i’ve read his book Kora- the one he’s holding in the picture above. very moving, simple and applies to any community living in exile- not just Tibetans

  10. Desh Premi says:

    the sad part is, someone like him will struggle his whole life and not see success. the issue of tibet is not going to get resolved anytime in the near future. admire his conviction none the less.

  11. Jag Sahai says:

    Have you been following the story w/ regds to the millions in foreign currency hoarded by the tibet monk? all is not what it seems, no disrespect to Tenzin. but even his ppl are guilty of pilfering funds from the cause. tibetan youth congress has also been under scanner for things like foreign trips by senior officials using org’s money. disgraceful, we need more whislte blowers

  12. vinayak jha says:

    tithiya, come to bihar, i will show u a hundred heroes only from that one state. and we need some good press too :) warmly, vinny

  13. Capt. Pawanjyot Sidhu says:

    nicely written, great man tenzin is surely, BUT i beg to differ on the ‘best way to deal with a bully like china’ bit. If all we did was show compassion- we’d be a chinese colony too by now. they are a threat to the idea of democracy- not just their own land but all over the world.

  14. Tithiya says:

    Dear folks, thanks very much for your comments. I sincerely appreciate it. The idea was to spark a debate, and get people thinking and eventually acting on their ideas. I’m delighted that you’re feeling so strongly about the people and topics i write about. best regards to all of you.

  15. Auriela Dectois says:

    For the Billions lost in corruption in politics and businesses in India, a paltry sum of 6.5 crore rupees is being investigated. While it’s plain to see it comes in donations from Buddhist disciples. rather shameful, im sure Tenzin and his people are appalled as well

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