Do enjoy listening the untold story from this conversation.
Category: My Story
My Late grandfather
My grandfather is one of the few Tulkus we have in our region. He is a monk with few words, and duly does his daily rituals. He enjoys chanting prayers all day long with his musical ritual items. He was not only revered and respected by the people around his locality, but people from a distant district come to see him and regularly seeks his advice and blessings. He was the one who taught me the Tibetan alphabet. Tibetan script was developed into its present form as early as the 7th century by Thonmi Sambhota, one of the ministers of 33rd King Songtsen Gambo. He was sent to India to learn, and he returned with a Tibetan script based on the Sanskrit script. My grandfather constantly pushes me to practice my Tibetan calligraphy on a wooden plate. I must have gained a great knowledge in Buddhism and perfectly putting the Tibetan script in different styles if I were lucky enough to stay a little longer under his training and tutoship. But unfortunately, I wasn't lucky enough and had to leave him and others in the same year I left my country. When he is happy, he tells us the tales from the great epic Ling Geser Gyalpo, to which I am fond of listening, and sings the poems in a great rhythm. To my utter surprise and astonishment, he got a permanent bulb-like bump on his head, and he choose not to share how the bump was developed. Out of my curiosity, I often ask him about the same and touches it when he wears a smile on his face. But I wasn't a lucky kid who had the priviledge of understanding all the things they have gone through. Later on, I understood that he was beaten by the Chinese soldiers during the culutral revolution in Tibet that destroyed more than 97% of the monasteries and nunneries and disrobed 93% of the monks and nuns. If I knew about the same when I was with him in Tibet, I would have annoyed him with endless questions.Some of the people whose name still lingers in my mind were Tsering Losar, Sonam Rinchen and Phakpa, etc. Who suffered the same fate under the Chinese repressive policies. Sadly, my grandfather passed away few years back, and I send him some prayers from the Land of Lord Buddha for a swift rebirth. By Sonsnow * "tulku" is an honorary title given to a recognised reincarnate Lama
Interview with Sonam Tsering
Interview with Sonam Tsering
POEMS2GO INTERVIEW FEATURE: SONAM TSERING (SONSNOW)
(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.
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 is the dream to dream in every sleepless night of mine.
I was born and brought up in a beautiful region of Kham province in Tibet where the means of subsistence is strongly supported by farming and domesticating animals. When my parents were busy in bringing out a better production with works of winnowing, tilling and threshing. I was grown up under the great care of my great grandmother who was no longer there at my sight since then. As a naughty and snotty six-year-old boy I knew not more than me and my toys, the pebbles which I play with, Yaks and goats which I graze on the ground of great width. When I was grown up with enough strength to support my family, they taught me the tactics of tilling and shown me the greener side of grassland where I have to graze either goat or yaks with yelling and yowling. Thereby the idea beyond the boundaries of my village is out of my imagination and I knew not more than my domesticated animals. It was a time when the tales of tragedies were buried behind their fake smiles and sweets word, which were never narrated to their innocent kids. It was all about a Great Depression where the siblings suffered under the socialist suppression, my Father had endless tales to tell of how his father was tortured in the cell. My mother also had memories of how her mother was angered by enemies who drags dogs and domestics till to death and beat her till to her last breath. It was a time of black and blind where the violence in silence was taking place after every blows and boom. It was a time of black and blind where the red stars striking on the snowy mountains and the smells of blood stained streets hit hard on the nooks and noses. But I was born at a time when the dust was gone and debris was deserted to no man’s touch.
One day I was asked by my parents whether I wanted to go to India or not. Till then I have no idea where exactly it was located and the rough idea in me says that it was a place where my holy Guru is educating the children of my kind. Then I accepted their proposal with such excitement that what could be there beyond the boundary of my village. Then I was accompanied by one of my cousin brother who was ten years old with the same age of mine. And we were told by our parents that a man who is totally a new man in our new world would take care of us throughout the journey. Then we started our journey and it took almost thirty days to get to India. We beard each and every hardship that we had faced on our way and finally able to get to India. We slept under the sun when we think of the galvanized gun of Chinese. We step out like an owl at night when the enemies are not in our sight. When we think of far behind bars we crept and crawled like victims of war. We escaped through the crest of hills and through the winter wind chills. We crossed the rivers in its coldest stage and manage to cross the border by leaving behind the boundaries of the Great Wall. Our foods were finished in the last minute of our arrival at border areas and had to bang the doors and begged a bread to save our last breath. We exchanged our clothing for food and managed to reach in Nepal after crossing countless mountains and rivers.
Finally, we were received by the Tibetan Reception Centre in Nepal and send us to India from where We got the blessings of our great guru His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and got education under the guidance of TCV (Tibetan children’s village) and it has enlightened me from an uneducated nomad boy and truly transformed me into another human being. Since then I lived an exilic life and the saddest thing of being a refugee is that “there is nothing around you that you own and even the heart deep down under your chest choose to run away every now and then towards homeland”. We live a life of our own with such haste that we are always ready with our bags packed and ready to move from one place to another and that’s the challenge when you don’t have a place to call as a home in exile life. I lived so long single and solitary in an unknown place with unfamiliar faces, but I hardly remember a time where I was fallen in the illness of homesickness. It was not because that I have a heart as hard as stones but because of blessing in disguise which brought meaning in me. I realized the responsibility of being a voice for voiceless, voiceless Tibetans buried behind the boundaries of high standing Himalayas. Because of which I feel that I have more time for the cause of my country than for myself. I believe that each Tibetans like me is capable enough to contribute something to somewhere in this most difficult time of struggle for our common cause. And I know that its high time for us to put our potentials into performance and visions into action so as to see our snowy mountains before they melt out of mining and marketing.
I am too busy living with my dreams that one day we will see ourselves back to the land we dreamt for so long and I am hopeful enough to meet my parents whom I didn’t meet for fourteen years. I am hopeful enough to resolve our cause sooner than later and reunite with my countrymen and my families before they pass away one after another.