Source: Tibet Telegraph
By Tenzin Kalsang
When I saw pictures of my classmate’s home in Ngari I wondered if I would also have been living in a stacked-stone hut upon a barren, rocky field if I were in Tibet. When we did projects in school about Tibet and we came across ethereally beautiful pictures of heavenly blue lakes and jade green pastures, I used to wonder if those would be the scenes I would remember from nekor during childhood instead of the murky waters of Tso Pema if I was also from Tibet. Would I get to eat thuey everyday if I were in Tibet instead of blueberry yogurt?
I hear great writers and activists talk with such conviction about going home. I read Bhuchung D Sonam write, “Exile is anticipation, longing for a day when the road leading home is navigable and familiar things will reveal themselves…”
I smirk at my own hypocrisy in my head. My whole life I have been recanting these worn-out words: “Of course i want to go back to Tibet, it’s where I belong.” I have been saying it for so long, I can almost believe myself but in my heart, i don’t know where i belong. I wasn’t born in Tibet but i am without doubt a Tibetan. “I was born in India but I’m not Indian,” is how I explain to non-Tibetans my mongoloid features. But there are so many aspects of myself that are undeniably Indian, most times I react to “Indian” problems the way that an Indian would. Yet, I am a Tibetan who has never seen this homeland of mine that i have been fighting and yearning for since the day I learned to understand that I was living a borrowed life on borrowed land.
It does get kind of tricky when people ask me, “Oh, so you are from Tibet?” That’s when i have to go into all the details about how I and both my parents were born in India but in spite of never having known any other home, no, I’m not Indian, I’m Tibetan. How exactly do I make them understand something that even i cannot fully comprehend?
I get jealous sometimes over little things of the people who have come from Tibet. When they tell me of how capsicums are so much tastier in Tibet, I wonder if I wouldn’t have capsicums so much if I lived in Tibet. When I saw pictures of my classmate’s home in Ngari I wondered if I would also have been living in a stacked-stone hut upon a barren, rocky field if i were in Tibet. When we did projects in school about Tibet and we came across ethereally beautiful pictures of heavenly blue lakes and jade green pastures, i used to wonder if those would be the scenes I would remember from nekor during childhood instead of the murky waters of Tso Pema if I was also from Tibet. Would I get to eat thuey everyday if I were in Tibet instead of blueberry yogurt?
And how exactly could I have been dreaming of going “back” to this land that i have never seen?
On the back of Bhuchung D Sonam’s book Yak Horns, it is written, “His permanent address was stolen.” I now realize that that I don’t have one, I never did. That supposedly permanent address on my RC could be taken away any time it pleases the Indian government because it was never my family’s to start with. The permanent address that we did have in Tibet, my grandparents had to give that up to the Chinese when they fled to India and three generations later, we have almost no relatives left in Tibet. I have never known a home other than India, yet now I know that I never even had a home to start with.
However, this absolute faith with which I can say, “I want to go back,” while knowing I have nowhere to go to even in Tibet… is that what being a Tibetan all stems from?
NOTE—Tenzin Kalsang is a student of English literature at Jesus and Mary College-University of Delhi, and Media and Information Coordinator at Students for a free Tibet, India