Phase 3: (The Transition)
I still can’t forget that scene. It was devastating. The Chinese have started to shut down our culture in Tibet. We, Tibetan people are very non-violent. We do not wish to cause any harm. But they do not understand. I am 22 now. 15 years have passed since I have started to live a life of a Monk. It has been years since Dalai Lama had left Tibet to stay in India to continue his protests to free Tibet. But after what I saw today, I have very little respect left on this system of non-violence.
My dad was a true Tibetan at heart. In order to force the Chinese culture in Tibet, their Government has started re-locating their citizens to Tibet. It wasn’t a problem. But is it fair to shut down all monasteries and Tibetan Institutes and compel us to learn their culture or Mandarin?
My dad was one among those people who raised their voices against the communists when they started infiltrating Amdo Plains. Labrang monastery was already closed for few weeks. We were hiding ourselves to avoid arrest.
Last night, I and my friend Tsering decided to hide near our home back in Amdo. But when we reached there what I saw was unbelievably cruel.
The entire village was on fire.
I located my house and saw my parents trapped inside. They shouted for help. They were being burnt alive.
I wanted to rush there to help them. But Tsering stopped me.
“You can’t go Tenzin. Look the Chinese soldiers are standing there to capture us.”
“My family is dying Tsering. I don’t care!” I was mad at him by then.
But then Tsering let his hold on me and quietly said, “So is mine!”
I looked at him. He was crying.
That night we sat near the bush watching our family die. That night I realised, being a monk was really very difficult. It was tough to forget all worldly pains and still keep your faith on Him. I wept like a child when I realised it was little we could do to save our families.
By the time it was morning, the houses were turned into ashes. They must have died by then. I sat there still crying like a child. The hangover of the tragedy was like a dirty nightmare to me.I looked at those Chinese soldiers who laughed blatantly after killing those innocent people. I wanted to kill those bastards right there. But something strange stopped me. Something I never experienced before. Something I thought I had already overpowered as a Monk. But that moment I realised I was wrong. I was shivering with fear.
I realised that I was not yet a Monk. I still couldn’t overcome my fear. But why couldn’t I?
I tried a lot to answer myself but in vain. I knew only He can answer me. So, I decided to leave for India to ask His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
“I have decided to leave for India. Are you coming with me?” I asked Tsering.
“What will you do in India Tenzin? Tibet needs us.” Replied Tsering.
“I know Tsering. And I will come back to free Tibet, to fight for my country. But before I start my journey I need answers. I do not know how to start the fight.” I said.
Tserin seemed concerned. He thought for a while, and then replied.
“Okay Tenzin I will come with you, but before that you have to do me a favour. I cannot live my life fighting without causing harm to those who killed my family. Last night I have decided to kill those Chinese murderers. I want you to accompany me to the check post down the plain. I promise you, I won’t put you in danger. You just keep a watch while I kill them. ” said Tsering.
He had a different zeal in his eyes. He was a different person.
I thought for a while and decided to accompany my friend.
Phase 4: (The Sin)
Tsering , as planned went down to the check post that night to avenge the mass murder of our families. He had this long sharp steak knife he borrowed from a butcher friend of his. I was standing at the top of a hill from where I was keeping a watch. We had to change to normal clothing so that the soldiers did not find out that we were monks. After 14 years, I had left the saffron cloth for the first time. I looked weird in the new outfit though. I was wearing, some running shoes, a jeans and a long coat over a few sweaters. We had packed a backpack with Tsampa [roasted barley flour], butter, meat, two blankets and one book on Buddhism for the journey. Before Tsering went, he said,
“If I succeed then meet me on the other side of the hill. And if I don’t then proceed alone for your quest.”
I watched as Tsering reached near the check post. There was a soldier sitting inside while a group of three more were sitting nearby in front of a fire. The sight of fire made me weak. I sensed that “feeling” again.
Tsering slowly went through the backside of the check post and with one blow stabbed the soldier sitting inside. He shouted which in turn alarmed the rest.
I knew I had to do something to help my friend. I started throwing stones from the hill top. The soldiers were in a state of panic. The stones kept them distracted for some time which was enough for Tsering to flee. I knew, I would be in danger if I didn’t hurry. So, I took the backpack and ran towards the other side of the hill. As I ran I heard them fire a few rounds.
That night we hid in a cave near the foot of the hill. Tsering was happy. We decided to leave for Lhasa the next morning.
Phase 5: (The Journey)
It was already a month we were walking. The food we brought was almost over. The frequent snow storms and the constant freezing cold had made us weak. Tsering had frostbite. He could not move an inch. So we decided to camp in a cave that night.
From the foot of the hill we reached Lhasa without much trouble.From Lhasa we had headed southwest towards the Nepali border. We decided to reach Saga and from there try to find a path through the Himalayas to Nepal. We were sometimes walking, sometimes hitching a truck ride. On one such ride, we boarded a Chinese truck.
“Where are you guys going?” asked the Truck driver.
“We are on a pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash”, I lied immediately.
But the answer didn’t seem to please him much. The entire journey he looked at us with a doubtful face. It was important to hide the truth as the Chinese soldiers were everywhere searching for Tibetans trying to escape their rule. I was praying my best to avoid any more suspicion. The truck driver, however, dropped us near Saga and wished us luck for our voyage.
From there we kept walking. We slept in shifts to avoid the danger of getting caught by the Chinese army. Slowly we encountered snow as we started climbing the mountains.
We were finding it very difficult to walk. As we were climbing a height and against the slope, even two or three steps made me feel exhausted. After few days of walking in the snow, Tsering’s feet began to swell from frostbite. Our tsampa was nearly finished, and we couldn’t find wood to make a fire in order to melt the snow to drink some water. As Tsering couldn’t walk any further, we decided to spend the night in that cave.
“I do not think we can make it Tenzin. The food is over. I am thirsty! ” said a tired Tsering.
“We will Tsering. Have faith. We have to”, I tried to assure him.
I prayed that night to stay alive.
to be continued……..
(This is a fictitious story inspired from the life of a 23-year-old Tibetan refugee named Tenzin who in 1994 survived a harrowing escape from Tibet and came down to India.)