After a late night of final discussion and planning, my alarm set off at 6 the next morning. With thrill running all over, I effortlessly slipped into my chuba and prepared myself for the unravelling of Rigdol’s historic site specific art installation in Dharamsala.
As I watched Tibetans from all walks of life, overflow with emotions withheld for decades, walking firmly on the 20 tonnes of soil from Tibet, I called to my mind a similar experience I underwent in the summer of 2002 when I returned to India to the Indo-Tibet border in Sikkim for my high school break.
That was the first time I ever was closest to Tibet, high up in the hills overlooking the valleys and paths winding down at the distance. I was shocked to find how a simple border no less than 3 feet tall distanced me from my land an inch away. Apart from the conversations with my friends on the random exchanges of cigarette packets between the guards at the border, I was moved to learn how people developed a system of delivering letters every Thursday through the border to their relatives in Tibet. The whole experience was no less exhilarating to what I felt at Rigdol’s “Our People, Our Land” art installation which allowed me revisit a poem I wrote after the visit at Nathula (Indo-Tibet border in Sikkim).
They say the postman
Comes here every Thursday
And goes there every Thursday.
And here I stand at last,
the other half of me lying
across that 3 feet tall border.
No other fences grew
Except for the barb wires
Which along the border lay.
The birds above must find it queer,
my hands stretched desperate
to seize a piece of my land across.
And before I unite again, I must leave.
Yet I shall return, I promise,
Taller than the 3-Feet-tall border.
My one half here
And the other half there,
Both in exile lie
Across that 3-Feet-tall border.
In May 2011, I went to Nathula and then taking courage, I stepped across the barbed wire that you speak of. For just a moment in space and time, I was in the land from where by great grandfather had come. I offered a silent prayer that His Holiness would one day be able to return to the land whose people silently awaits him.