Have you heard of a place called Tibet?

The Tibetan in Mumbai
is not a foreigner.

He is a cook
at a Chinese takeaway.
They think he is Chinese
run away from Beijing.

He sells sweaters in summer
in the shade of the Parel Bridge.
They think he is some retired Bahadur.

The Tibetan in Mumbai
abuses in Bambaya Hindi,
with a slight Tibetan accent
and during vocabulary emergencies
he naturally runs into Tibetan.
That's when the Parsis laugh.

The Tibetan in Mumbai
like to flip the MiD-DAY,
loves FM, but doesn't expect
a Tibetan song.

He catches the bus at a signal,
jumps into a running train,
walks into a long dark gully,
and nestles in his kholi.

He gets angry
when they laugh at him
'ching-chong ping-pong'.

The Tibetan in Mumbai
is now tired,
wants some sleep and a dream.
On the 11pm Virar Fast,
he goes to the Himalayas.
The 8.05am Fast Local
brings him back to Churchgate
into the Metro: a New Empire.

This was written by a young Tibetan by the name of Tenzin Tsundue. His parents were forced to leave their country, Tibet in 1959 fearing Chinese persecution. When they reached India, they worked as mountain road construction labourers in Masumari, Bir, Kullu, and Manali. Hundreds of Tibetans who came across into India died in those first few months as they could not bear the heat of summer, and the monsoon caught them in poor health. But the camp lived on and had many shifts along the road. Tenzin Tsundue was born somewhere along that journey, at a roadside, in a makeshift tent. His date of birth is not confirmed and three different records exist at different offices. He did his schooling in Dharamsala, and later went on to study in universities in Chennai and Mumbai. Today, Tenzin Tsundue is the guiding light of inspiration for the scores of Tibetans living as refugees across the world, and each day, he dreams of going back home.

In a recent article for MiD-DAY, he wrote, "Activism is that social consciousness that refuses to be cowed down under the weight of injustice and apathy, not because the cause being fought for has a high quotient of future success, but because your conscience forbids you to remain a silent witness; your efforts can bring change." And this is exactly why my conscience has woken me up, and perhaps you too can be part of Tenzin Tsundue's and my personal journey in not wanting to be a silent witness.

"When I am writing, I am a poet. But when I publish them, I am an activist." Tenzin Tsundue earns his bread and butter to continue the struggle through his writing. His second book 'KORA: stories and poems' was first published in 2002 and is currently in its sixth edition. I had the wonderful chance to meet Tenzin Tsundue in Dharamsala this year. Not less than a monk, yet not less than a thorough Mumbai lover, he embodies the fire within the youth across the world today. Only, he has been able to channelise them into something he deeply believes in.


This poem that you may have liked is published in 'KORA: stories and poems' -- a compilation of Tenzin Tsundue's words of fiery passion, romance with poetry and patriotism. He has priced the book at Rs 50 and as I have already mentioned, this is how he continues his struggle for his own survival and that of the movement to get the wonderful land of His Holiness The Dalai Lama from from Chinese occupation and repression. When I asked him, "Why don't you price it a little higher?" He replied with a laugh, "I cannot lie to myself to such an extent!"

Let me know if you are interested in purchasing this book for yourself or to gift it to your friends. I am based in Mumbai, and would love to share more about Tenzin Tsundue, the land that he is madly in love with, and of course, why the Tibetans are the most peace-loving people despite the repression and tyranny since 51 years.