Award-winning writer, Tibetan activist and poet, Tenzin Tsundue is currently in the city as part of a poetry reading event which is scheduled to take place at Our Sacred Space on Monday. But Tenzin’s second visit to Hyderabad is not the only common ground people from the city can relate with. Like the people of Telangana, many of them who fought over the years for a separate state, Tenzin too, is no stranger to struggles and is on a mission to free Tibet even at the cost of being detained and even facing police supervision when Chinese leaders visit India.
Tenzin’s one-month speak-tour started from Gangtok and en route he has been speaking in Darjeeling, Kolkata and Chennai. “Now I am here in Hyderabad and from here I will travel to many other places before returning to Dharamshala, where I stay these days,” he says. “I am on a mission to free Tibet and I hope to do that by making people aware,” says Tenzin, a recipient of the Outlook-Picador Award for Non-Fiction (2001).
Tenzin published his first book of poems Crossing the Border in 1997 with money borrowed from his classmates at the Bombay University. “I not only repaid my classmates with the sales’ money of the poetry book, but I did another MA course with the money. I found a way to feed myself,” says Tenzin, whose second book KORA is now in its tenth edition. “Semshook my third book, saw three editions. My latest was TSENGOL (2012) and it has been published in a third edition. At the moment, I am working on a collection of Tibetan exile stories,” says Tenzin.
Like his parents, most Tibetan refugees in those early years of rehabilitation in India worked as road construction labourers. “In fact, I was born in a tent, on the roadside, in the upper regions of Spiti in Himachal Pradesh,” he says. “When we re-settled in Karnataka in the Kollegal refugee camp in Chamrajnagar District, we were so poor we went hunting for vegetables in the forest and in the fields. We learnt the local names of wild berries and vegetables and how to collect them from other weeds and that’s how we survived,” says Tenzin.
Compared to other writers, Tenzin admits he started late. “I didn’t even have the language skills to write, having studied in a Tibetan refugee school,” he says. Tenzin says that there are hundreds of writers, poets, intellectuals and artists who play an important role of providing intellectual leadership to the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation. He adds, “The deep contemplation that goes into writing helps me make sense of our life; hanging between the goal of returning to a free Tibet and the reality of having to live in India as refugee.”
Tenzin adds, “The struggle is between the dream and reality. My articulation helps me speak better, helps me comment on our conditions of life and also argue for our rights and identity,” he says....