Interview with Sonam Tsering

Interview with Sonam Tsering


(Interviewed by Sarah Kirstine Lain)


Author Biography: Sonam Tsering was born in Tibet and brought up in India where he studied under the great guidance of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama. He escaped from Tibet in 2003, walking day and night for thirty days. He was too small to know what it meant that he would not see his parents again for so many years.

Sonam recently completed his MA in Public Policy from O.P. Jindal Global University and now serves as the General Secretary of the Tibetan Youth Congress, the largest Tibetan NGO. He considers himself an activist and tries to live up to his mantra: “I have more time for the cause of my country than for myself, and I will make the best use of my only life to carry out the legacies of my forefathers and to fight for the rightful cause of my country. This is the dream that I dream on every sleepless night.’’

For 30 days, you took a very difficult journey from the Kham province of Tibet to India where you now study. You write, “The saddest thing about being a refugee is that there is nothing around you that you own and even the heart and mind choose to run away every now and then towards the homeland.” Since you left for India, when have you found your heart running toward home?

RESPONSE: The only sickness common to all Tibetans in exile is homesickness, and I have been suffering the same for many years. I know it will continue to hurt and haunt me as long as I remain isolated from my country and my home. I knew that my heart chooses to run away now and then from the moment I arrived in India, as I couldn’t see any familiar faces anymore, and everything seemed new to me. I started missing the people and the place (my home) when I had a lot of challenges to overcome. It didn’t spare me even in my dreams, and I dreamt often about the homecoming. I am living in exile with this very hope of homecoming, and I will continue to struggle to make this happen for me and my countrymen who are longing for the same for so long.

When you arrived in India, you met His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and were blessed by him. What did that blessing mean to you after such a difficult journey? 

RESPONSE: That blessing means so much to me, as I have called his name in my prayers many times while escaping from Tibet by cutting through the forest and crossing the rivers running down with icebergs. Our elders were crying at the moment they saw him. Like any other innocent child, I was wondering and watching carefully if he was the same Lama in the black and white portrait that I had the opportunity to see. When I read and recognized his face, I felt much relief, and for the first time, I felt that I was in India.

In “This is how it ended,” you write, “They came and took away everything” and “They came and kicked me out.” How old were you when this happened, and what is your memory of the event? Where did you go when you were kicked out?

RESPONSE: When I say they came and took away everything, I am trying to generalize the issue of Chinese illegal occupation of Tibet. They have come in the name of liberating Tibetans from the feudal system and foreign imperial influence, though we hardly had any foreigners in Tibet at that period of time. In the name of development, they built road and railways, but the benefiters are always the migrants from the Mainland China. They dominate the market and marginalize the Tibetans. They make money by mining minerals out of our sacred mountains and leave Tibetans out of the sight.

When I write, “they came and kicked me out,” I am trying to portray the plight of how the Chinese illegal occupation has led me to leave my own motherland. They have actually kicked out all the Tibetans scattered all across the world.  So, when my countrymen were kicked out of the country at the initial years of Chinese occupation, they had nowhere to go; they must now accept the companion of the soil, sky, and sun.

You are called Sonsnow: the son of snow land, and with this voice, you speak of “beautiful things buried behind the boundaries of those high standing Himalayas.” From your eyes, Sonsnow, what is buried in the Himalayas that the world needs to see?

RESPONSE: When I say “beautiful things,” literally it has a lot to do with the last place on earth forced to close its door to the rest of the world, no longer able to witness its natural beauties. The mysterious mountains, the rivers, and the rivulet, which are as clear as the crystals. There are other things, which the world needs to see, such as the suffering of the Tibetans under oppressive and aggressive policies of forced resettlement, restrictions of the movement, repressions of religious freedom. The world also needs to see the solitude of siblings and parents who are longing to see their lost sons and daughters. There are singers and writers whose words and lyrics are stuck behind the barrel of a gun. There are prisoners peeping for a little light of freedom from prison cells. There are those monks, nuns, and laypeople, risking their lives and calling Dalai Lama in their prayers.

You are currently studying public policy in India. How does your study of policy inform your poetry, and how does your poetry inform your study of policy? Please feel free to share about any policies you hope to change.

RESPONSE: I studied public policy for two years in O.P Jindal Global University. My poetry has nothing to do with the public policy, and I really don’t have any idea how these two are informing each other interchangeably in my poems. But one thing for sure is that both of them have something to do with the problems and the plight of people who are oppressed, ignored and isolated from the rest of the privileged few. So, my poems portray the pains and plight of Tibetans suffering under aggressive and oppressive Chinese policies inside Tibet. Therefore, I will continue to write as long as the Chinese government continues to oppress Tibetans. I will continue to write and resist as long as the repressive policies of the Chinese government remain in Tibet.

You write, “I couldn’t stop standing in solidarity and unity with my countrymen / I couldn’t stop speaking out the truth about tragedies behind the bars.” This is a persistence that many people in America also share. As I type this, children and parents in this country are being separated, held in camps. Many refugees here are called “illegal.” Protest for so many people has become a way of life. What keeps you writing and protesting, day after day, and what made you turn to poetry as a way of protest? 

RESPONSE: I write poetries not because I am good at writing. I write because I have a story to tell, and unlike imprisoned Tibetan writers inside Tibet, I have the privilege to pen down the plight of Tibetans freely. I write because I have inspiring and encouraging figures back in Tibet, whose indomitable spirits and undying hope for a free Tibet— energize me. I feel that poetry has the power to pinch one’s heart to such an extent that the reader thinks twice and thrice before he or she interprets it.

Have you experienced any silencing as you have published your writing?

RESPONSE: No, I haven’t experienced any silencing so far, I would feel silencing only if I stopped writing for those who are silenced by the strict surveillance and strong censorship of the Chinese communist party.

Your first post on your website, Silent Songs of Sonsnow, are these words by Izaak Walton: “Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter.” Have you found that your writing has led you to “good company,” and if so, how has this influenced the direction and experience of your journey?

RESPONSE: The name “Silent Songs of Sonsnow” came to me back in my school days and I have a poetry notebook covered with the same handwritten name. The notebook is still with me. Yes, “Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter” are the words of Izaak Walton and I found the significance in having someone by my side, accompanying me all the time. Therefore, my writing has been good company of mine, which kills the silence of loneliness. This is why I keep on saying: “I have enough time to rest but I don’t have a minute to waste, come and catch me with your wise words and we will have some fun with our words of wisdom.” 

Sometimes, I feel that poetry is a playmate of mine, as I put words here and there to make it more enchanting and absorbing. When words are playful and beautiful, then people start questioning the meanings and messages. I always believed myself as an activist who calls and campaigns against the aggressiveness of the CCP. Therefore, my writings help me in doing the same for the same purpose: promoting this cause through a different medium, one that helps me to spread my message to readers from different parts of the world without political barriers and boundaries.

83 thoughts on “Interview with Sonam Tsering

  1. You speak eloquently with a voice of pain and suffering and yet it is wise beyond your years with the hopefulness of youth. Thank you so much for following my blog.

  2. Your story is so moving. Your pain has birthed something that the world needs. In the midst of darkness, you managed to find light. Well done. I pray you find success, peace and love this new year and always.

  3. In a sense, I feel that we are all exiles. Although I have not left my country of birth, I feel uneasy and homesick for my spiritual home. The body itself is a kind of prison, and we are inmates of this world and of our bodies until we change our minds. As A Course in Miracles says, “The world is not left by death but by truth.” We believe that this world of illusion (maya) has something of value, but the only value that it has is the work of healing our minds so that we won’t feel the need to be born here again. And when we have changed our minds about the value of the world, we will return to the world only to help others change their minds also. I am not trying to preach a sermon. I’m just reflecting on your post. 😊

  4. Reblogged this on The Foreign Correspondent: A Site of "Revealing Interviews" of a Foreign Correspondent, the Journalist and Writer and commented:

    Hi Sonam
    Thanks for the follows and likes.
    if you want to follow me, go to
    (to find one or two of interest…perhaps)



    # Though my family and close friends say it would be far more entertaining with a video-camera* in the “real world”, rather than in cyberspace!)
    * By the way, do they still make them in today’s ever-faster changing world..or is it all done with mobile phones?

    (get with the times now,”luddite”* c – it should be a smart phone)

    * or so I was often called by my “my techno-geek” friend, Bill (“the gonk”)

    “total non-techno” c (who doesn’t possess a mobile phone, after a rather eventful’ experience some years back, whilst trying to walk, talk and chew gum at the same time) #

    The impossible we do immediately; however miracles take a little longer!

    * (You may think I’m joking, but just ask my friends!)

    Who says men can’t multi-task!

    Men…Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em!

    “You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”

    – Colette (nice name for a girl, btw)

    All the best with your blog
    Shared by “early bird” (very) * craig
    * my “best” time (by far)

    “Information and Inspiration Distributer, Incorrigible Encourager and People-builder” *

    * not bridges (thank goodness)!

    Well my family and friends say I’m “safest” just writing and sharing

    Driven to share, uplift, encourage and (perhaps even) inspire


    “Live each day as if it’s your last…
    and one day you’ll be right!

    Don’t worry about the world ending today…

    it’s already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand

  5. Your descriptions of homesickness are quite moving. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in exile and have to deal with that kind of longing for one’s homeland.

  6. I kotow to a young hero. I’ve read once “The Stages of the Heroic Mind” by Serlingpa, to stand through adversity and preserve your principles and learning that your teachers endowed you with is a noble feature. Out of all the writings that I’ve encountered so far here on this “wordpress” platform, I found yours most humane, direct, and touching. Perhaps it’s a bias, but I will always be a friend to the noble people of the mountain snows. With permission, I would like to reblog this interview. I wish I would have more integrity, than I do, I oft slip into delusions and anger.

    Kind regards,

    1. Thank you for inspiring and encouraging me to move forward with the same principle. So good to meet you my friend. Stay safe from this deadly disease.

  7. Dear Sonsnow, thank you for the follow. Your name reminds me of another Son in whose name all our wrongdoings can be washed as white as snow. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ. God bless! 🙂

  8. I can very well understand you pain. Hopefully time gives you positive result as your mind is focused on what you wish to. All the very best.
    With regards.

  9. Privileged to have the opportunity to go through your blog. Your poems are just awesome. And what I can feel having a glance at the contents of your blog is that you are a true warrior. Keep going and make your country feel proud of you. Best wishes…

  10. Hello Sonam. Nice to meet you. Thanks for visiting and following my blog. I am of Indian origin but I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. My parents sent me to boarding school in India when I was 5. I lived in Catholic convent boarding schools in India, from age 5 to 12. One of those schools was in Dalhousie. There were many Tibetan monks there. I met the Dalai Llama there, when I was about 8 years old. Its hard for me to put into words, but I loved the Tibetans because somehow they made me feel at home while I was missing my family. They understood how I was feeling, without ever saying a word. I just wanted you to know that. I thought you would appreciate it. I will follow your blog so we can keep in touch. 💕

    1. Thanks for taking the time out to reach my blog, so good to know that you have seen the early life part of our Tibetan refugee communities. You must be having a lot of stories about our elder generations who have come across a lot of difficulties.
      So good to meet you here.

  11. This is beautiful and so awe inspiring. All the love and support to you for following your dreams and making an impact! Keep shining 💜

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words! I will definitely keep it as a compliment and will work towards achieving the dreams I am dreaming for so long.

  12. Hi Sonam, Thank you for following my blog, Always Write. I would never have found your blog otherwise. You have a lot to say. I can’t imagine what it must be to be a refugee, but so many people in the world today are in that position. It is so sad. My former daughter-in-law was in a refugee camp in Thailand from birth until age 4. Her family was befriended by a priest working in the camp, and he got them a sponsor in France. The parents split up and the father moved to Germany, remarried and had two more children. The mother and her four children stayed in France. It was hard for her, and I don’t think she will ever recover from the experience. I will keep you in my prayers. Stay safe. Marsha

    1. Thank you for sharing all these and thanks for keeping me in your prayers!
      It must have been a long year amidst this global pandemic. Wishing you a good health and happiness.
      With love and peace

  13. “The past remains hidden in clouds of memory. Still it returned us to memories of a thousand years before. Such a memory is a reason for a pilgrimage…” Matsuo Basho – Thank you for such a beautiful memory from your own pilgrimage. Thank you for visiting my blog, today, also. I am pleased to meet you here.

  14. Sonam, I found your story very touching. There are many injustices in the world. I am sorry you suffer as a result. 🙂
    All the best for the future and the accomplishment of your goals. Wishing you happiness and success! <3

  15. Sonam – so happy you found me! And therefore I found you! Your people are close to my heart, so close. I went to Tibet to see for myself, and met many people who told me their stories. Stories of the atrocities done to them by the occupants. I think I cried every day, and had this ache in my heart – that I still have when thinking of you. I am glad you survived and came to meet the Dalai Lama. I have seen/listened to him lecturing in Malmö/Lund here in Sweden, and my daughter, son and husband went to Dharamsala once. You are a brave and strong man, may you have a long and rewarding life. I am sure you will stand strong in every wind – and I will follow you here to see your world.
    I see you have section from Bhutan as well. We visited in 2018 and was very humbled and impressed with how they tried to keep up the old traditions. May they succeed!
    Again – thank you for finding me.

  16. While I was reading your post, the sensation was running through my body. I know I cannot feel the pain you went through or you are going through. I hope you will find what are you looking for.

    “Humans Humans Humans, the greedy Humans.
    They snatch away what is yours,
    They scratch your soul,
    And burned down your culture,
    just to make themself superior.
    This is the waste of being human on the land of god. “

  17. Hello! I just found this post, and now understand! I am so glad you escaped and are safely in India! I am also a refugee due to domestic violence and getting stuck in a country that didn’t protect me and my children. I am trying to fix my problems, but sit here as an “illegal”, and it is terrifying, but at least I have my son and am alive. I hope the evil CCP falls and your dreams and wishes for Tibet come true.

  18. Thanks for your story and poems. They are very meaningful and touching. I have been fortunate to be able to learn Dream Yoga from Tenzin Rinpoche. I always resonate with the Tibetan teachings. Good luck in all you do. Do take care. Wishing you the best.

  19. Precious, man, Sonam. I was surprised to receive WordPress notification today. I had a terrible night of poor sleep again and found a tick attached to my stomach. (I was i remission from this deadly disease from back in 19992 but ticks seem to love me). My husband pulled out a tick out of my ear in 2007 and I had mercury poisoning with has left me with a neurological disorder Dystonia since 2009. So now another tick. I would be honored and blessed to share poetry, exchange news of our countries and songs-music. Since I’m housebound because of my condition, I am greatly in need to discourse and connection with other gifted and compassionate journalists like you:) You are a national treasure and I’d love to share my music with you. I don’t know if you like western music. here is my website to listen to songs. ICAN STILL CRY is one of my jewels I am an intercessor and will be praying for Jesus to strengthen and protect you! Thank you again for sharing your truth. We are listening! And JESUS so loves you!

    1. Thanks a lot for the follow back and sharing your stories. I am wishing you a good health and happiness amidst this cruel pandemic, and looking forward to read your inspiring poems. So glad to know that you love music. Music speaks the language of all and uplift the downtrodden souls of every living being. I also play the musical instruments of my country and it helps me to pass the painstaking path of exile life.
      Wishing you all the best and sending you a lot of good wishes from the land of Lord Buddha.

  20. Thank you for following my blog, Sonam. Having three sons, two of whom are here in Spain with husband and me – (we are from the UK) the third in Denmark, I feel your pain having to leave your homeland,but don’t forget the whole planet is as much yours as it is mine! We, who live in a Democracy, should thank our lucky stars that we do. May you find peace and happiness. With best wishes.

    1. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom with all the readers.
      Thank you for sending me a word of encouragement. What more could I expect from a far distant friend?

  21. You have had an amazing journey in your lifetime! I can see how this quote would be very meaningful to you…
    “Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter”

  22. Wonderful interview! I’ve always had so much sympathy for the plight of Tibetans. Reading about it from a young person’s point of view brought home afresh the injustice being done to a peaceful race. May you prevail in your long and patient struggle to regain your homeland!

  23. Well, hello there.
    I’m delighted that you think my writing is worth reading, so thank you.
    I’m now looking forward to exploring who you are and what treasures you’ve chosen to share with the world.
    John Ormsby

  24. Like many of your commentors, my life has been very profoundly touched by the monks of Tibet. They even honored me with a name in your own language, which I believe is spelled “Dham Tseg Drolma”…

    Because I am also very poor, and marginalized by my own society, I can relate to some of your experiences ~ however, I am not missing the most spiritually oriented homeland in all the Earth, where for vacation people go to spin an even BIGGER prayer wheel!

    So I don’t make light of your experiences.

    But you do: you make Light of them.

    From the number of people just in this one post who have written back, “Thank you for finding me,” I see that your suffering is not wasted. That your actual writing is the smallest part of what you are actually accomplishing in this world.

    I’m so sorry you have to miss such a homeland. But without people like you ~ cast adrift like seeds of understanding over this world ~ the rest of us wouldn’t even have a chance.

    Just at the moment, my own activism is taking the form of focused silence, but I allow myself to hope that it may soon be the right time to offer my poetry to this world again.

    In the meantime, I will enjoy yours ~ and add my own little voice to those who say, “Thank you for finding me.”

    Please may be the sun shine extra warmly upon you today, and the birds sing so, so sweetly for you,

    Much love,

    1. Thank you, Ana (དམ་ཚིག་སྒྲོལ་མ། Dham Tsek Dolma) for your warm wishes and kind words. May the light of freedom shines over my homeland very soon, so that we can see the genuine smiles of Tibetans. Wishing you all the best and may you continue to be committed to the things you do as the name speaks.
      Sending you a lot of good wishes from the land of Lord Buddha.
      Best wishes

      1. It is true, the Tibetan people, from the “lowest” to the “highest,” have the most beautiful smiles!

        Blessings in return on your good works, Ana

  25. Thank you, Sonam Tsering, for your moving interview and poem. I believe the links between your writings and your Public Policy work will become apparent in the days ahead. Take heart!

  26. I read this interview and appreciate the feelings of Sonam. He lives Tibet in his heart, in his dream. I support his cause. I have a deep connection with Tibetan people. My ancestors were traders with Tibet before 1962 and they had many good friends there. I wish Sonam good luck in his struggle.

  27. This is a beautiful and insightful interview, Thank you for sharing it, I have been blessed to visit Tibet on two occasions and was struck by the beauty of the country and the Tibetan people whilst at the same time horrified at what the Chinese government have done. Tibet and it’s people hold a very special place in my heart, and I pray that one day you will be free again. Good luck with all your studies!

    1. Thank You Ruth Milington for going through my interview, and so glad to know that you have been to Tibet twice. It’s almost 20 years by now that I haven’t been to my homeland. I am still fighting for the cause and hope it will be resolved soon and retain the rightful independence of Tibet. Hope the time will come soon enough to see my parents before their wrinkles roll down to their eyes.
      Thank you for your best wishes!
      Sending you a lot of good wishes for your health and happiness from the land of Lord Budha.

  28. One of the best things you can do is talk and write and your blog is clearly helping to spread the message. When Mandela walked free from prison after 25 years, nobody would have ever imagined that day and even less so to witness him become president not long after. So, where there is life, there is hope. Tibet is not forgotten. May you return home a free man in Tibet.

    1. Thank You Sabia for the wonderful word of hope and inspiration. Hopefully, the day will come soon enough before the beautiful land of Tibet is destroyed down to ashes by the CCP. May the Justice be prevailed and the truth be victorious.

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