Friday, March 7, 2014

Tenzin Tsundue: poems for Losar of Tibetan resistance



Tenzin Tsundue, the Tibetan activist with a red bandana in Dharmasala, sent me two poems for Losar, the Tibetan New Year. See "The Fiery Invisible Sword of Nonviolence" here. The poems reflect some temporary ebbing of the struggle. And yet the fire in them burns brightly...

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"Dear Alan,

Today is the fourth day of Tibetan new year. Traditionally it's celebrated for fifteen days in Tibet with number of festivities and rituals. Since the 2008 Tibetan uprising which lead of more than 400 Tibetans killed by the Chinese security forces, thousands jailed and now that the self-immolations have risen to 126 in Tibet, LOSAR is subdued.

-tt"

***

SOMEWHERE I LOST MY LOSAR*

Somewhere along the path, I
lost it, don’t know where or when.

It wasn’t a one-fine-day incident.
As I grew up it just got left behind,
very slowly, and I didn’t go back for it.
It was there when as a kid I used to wait
for the annual momo dinner,
when we lined up for gifts that came
wrapped in newspapers in our
refugee school, it was there when
we all gained a year together, before
birthdays were cakes and candles.

Somewhere along the path, I
lost it, don’t know where or when.

When new clothes started to feel
stiff and firecrackers frightening, when
our jailed heroes ate in pigsties there,
or were dead, heads smashed
against the wall as we danced
to Bollywood numbers here,
when the boarding school and uniforms
took care of our daily needs, when
family meant just good friends,
sometime when Losar started to mean
just a new year, few sacred routines,
somehow, I lost my Losar.

Somewhere along the path, I
lost it, don’t know where or when.

Colleged in seaside city, when it was
still Bombay, sister’s family on pilgrimage,
uncle in Varanasi, mother grazing cows
in South India, still need to report
to Dharamsala police, couldn’t get train tickets,
too risky to try waiting list, and it’s
three days, including return journey
it’s one week. Even if I go,
other siblings may not find the time. Adjusting
timings, it’s been 20 years without a Losar.

Somewhere along the path, I
lost it, don’t know where or when.

Losar is when we the juveniles and bastards
call home, across the Himalayas and cry
into the wire. Losar is some plastic flowers
and a momo party. And then in 2008
when our people rode horses, shouting ‘Freedom’
against rattling machine guns, when they
died like flies in the Olympics’ spectacle,
we shaved our heads bald and threatened
to die by fasting, but failed.

Somewhere along the path, I
lost it, don’t know where or when.
Somewhere, I lost my Losar.

-Tenzin Tsundue

*Losar is the Tibetan New Year in the lunar calendar
which generally falls in February or March.

***

LOSAR GREETING

Tashi Delek!

Though in a borrowed garden
you grow, grow well my sister.

This Losar
when you attend your Morning Mass,
say an extra prayer
that the next Losar
we can celebrate back in Lhasa.
When you attend your convent classes,
learn an extra lesson
that you can teach children back in Tibet.

Last year
on our Happy Losar,
I had an idli-sambhar breakfast
and wrote my BA final exams.
My idlis wouldn’t stand
on my toothed steely fork,
but I wrote my exams well.

Though in a borrowed garden
you grow, grow well my sister.
Send your roots
through the bricks,
stones, tiles and sand.
Spread your branches wide
and rise
above the hedges high.

Tashi Delek!

-Tenzin Tsundue

Tashi Delek – Tibetan greeting
said especially at the New Year
Losar – Tibetan New Year
usually falling in February or March
Idli-sambar – A South Indian rice cake dish








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