Chura from Tibet


Below is guest post from Sangmo, a 17-year-old high school student, who has recently become active in the Lhakar movement in New York City.

Hello people of the world, or at least the Lhakar world.

So just recently, I found out from my pala during one of our rare heart-to-heart talks that we still have cousins in Tibet. It never occurred to me that my parents, both of whom were mostly brought up in exile in India, would still have any close relations back in our homeland.

According to my pala, we have cousins in Lhasa. This information was hard to process since I had grown up thinking that I had no blood relations in Tibet.

He then went on tell me that his late uncle, originally from Lobra, southern Tibet, settled in Lhasa back in the early 1900s and married a Khampa woman.

He had learned all this from my late momo. She had quite a sharp memory; it is quite incredible. When I was having a conversation with her this past summer in Bylakuppe, India, she recounted their escape from Tibet through Bhutan and even told me how her family had this many yaks and this many dris. I was really shocked that someone in her 90s would have such a keen memory.

But going back to my my grand uncle and his many kids…. When I showed my interest in the existence of cousins back in Tibet, the topic which surfaced when I asked if I could possibly visit Tibet after senior year, my father went on to show me a letter from our cousin as well as their address and telephone number.

I tried to read the letter, but it was in qui-yik (cursive writing) which I sadly have trouble reading. I managed to decipher my father’s name and some words here and there, but what stood out from me was the paper on which the lengthy letter was written. On the margins, there were Chinese symbols.

This was something like a wake up call.

I realized then that I was foolish and naive for mentally placing my cousins in a utopian Tibet, the Shangri La. I had completely forgotten about how they must live under the Chinese authorities. I had forgotten how they do not live in the Tibet that once was. I had forgotten how they might be unhappy.

These were all wake-up calls for me, and I felt sad but simultaneously proud that my cousins could have been those that partook in the 2008 protests or might have even had a friend or someone who self-immolated. This revelation made all these incidents seem even closer to me. For someone to have never seen Tibet from inside Tibet, I felt like I could now relate even more to the plight of our brothers and sisters in Tibet.

To end this entry on a good note, my pala told me it wasn’t the first time he mentioned our cousins in Tibet.

He said, “Don’t you remember when you got those churas from Bhoe that broke your loose milk tooth?”

I smiled to myself. I was so young at that time that I had only associated my cousins in Tibet with churas and completely forgotten about them. But now that I am more aware, I feel grateful of them and I hope to contact them soon.