Pre-Litmus Series: Tenzin Tsundue

The English Literary Association began the Pre-Litmus 2016 events on an exciting note, with a talk by Mr. Tenzin Tsundue, the Tibetan poet and activist renowned for his stirring poetry and staunch activism for the Tibetan nationalist movement.

The subject of the talk was “From Shangri-la to GPS : myths and legends of Tibet. Mr Tsendue asserted that the very idea of the Tibetan revolution in which many second and third generation activists are involved, who only know the country they are fighting for through it’s legends, traditions and stories is founded on the myth of hope that sustained their struggle against political apathy, colonial subjugation, and the tragedy of exile.

He also explained the various symbols and figures that make up the repertoire of Tibetan myths. These include Ling Gesar, the hero born of Maya Devi’s armpit, the Avalokiteshvara Dalai Lama, and the Snowlion which made it’s way from the Tibetan flag and currency to the unlikely ruins at Mahabalipuram. He introduced the concept of Shabala, a higher paradise.

Mr Tsendue talked about the symbolic ‘R’ which all Tibetan children in India seemed to carry with them, painted on their foreheads, which distinguished them as refugees. ‘R’, notably is also the first letter of ‘freedom’

The talk cast light on the formation of myths, the transference and reinterpretation of mythical figures across geopolitical zones, and the plight of being uprooted from one’s native land. To quote Mr Tsendue’s poem, “My Tibetanness”,

“I am Tibetan,
But I am not from Tibet.
Never been there.
Yet I dream of dying there.”


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