A tale of two rows — A glimpse of Tibetan exile society from the moon!

Kunchok Gyatso

Kunchok Gyatso

By Kunchok Gyatso

BANGALORE, India, 26 April 2021

Last night I had a dream of exile Tibetan Society looking down from the moon,. And here I narrate:

Immediately after a thanksgiving gala dinner event hosted for the outgoing Sikyong Lobsang Sangay (LS), the celebration of Penpa Tsering’s (PT) victory and welcome ceremony was held at the same venue! LS’ supporters exited from the back door after the event, and PT’s supporters entered from the front door where LS’ supporters had entered earlier. To avoid any sort of face-to-face confrontation, eye-to-eye contact was strictly prohibited.

One-minute time was given for those estranged ex-lovers and ex-friends who separated just because of this LS-PT rife, to meet and settle pending dues, if any. Verbal fighting was allowed. But not the physical fighting, just for compliance to Covid social-distancing norms. Else, even physical fighting would have been happily allowed.

LS was welcomed to stay back if he wished so. Any of his supporters were also welcomed to stay back. They can say “Bod Gyalo” also, as many as want to. The seating arrangement was done in a sequence of one PT supporter next to one LS supporter, alternatively. Whatever snacks, tea, lunch etc. served during the event were shared by a pair of PT-LS supporters to symbolize unity. There was no restriction on using phone inside the hall. Because almost all have unfriended and blocked each other in Facebook and Insta.

After the event, a peace march protest towards the Chinese embassy was staged in two rows of PT’s supporters and LS’ supporters respectively. The PT supporters row was led by Thokmey Thupten, while the LS supporters line was led by Lhadar Dhondup. The two rows parallel so many common counterparts on each side, ranging from love interests to ex-lovers, brother-sister to father-son, sister-mother to father-daughter, and childhood friends, etc. But the row is row, all think and believe!

The march was stopped for a while when reaching Jackson Heights road for the completion of the debate that the two couldn’t do last time. While the two are debating, the rest didn’t remain standing still, but continued commenting and posting all kinds of usual abusive and derogatory remarks like “Chinese dog” each other against in Facebook. Once the debate was over, the march was resumed and continued marching towards the Chinese embassy without looking at each other’s face.

The slogan of PT supporters was “Save Tibet”, and the slogan of LS supporters was “Free Tibet”. No PT supporter was allowed to say the “Free Tibet” slogan, and no LS supporter was allowed to say the “Save Tibet” slogan. However, a Rangzen advocate but PT supporter, if any though very rare, and an Umey Lam advocate but LS supporter, if any though even rarer, could say both the slogans “Save Tibet” and “Free Tibet” without restriction.

Further, a PT supporter cannot mix in the line of LS. If found, the punishment would be made to say “Bod Gyalo” three times loud! Likewise, any LS supporter can’t be mixed among the row of PT’s. If found, the punishment would be made to says “Umey Lam Gyalo” three times loud.

Smiling and greeting to any bystander foreigners is allowed, even both LS-PT supporters together at one time also. PT-PT supporters smiling and greeting each other is allowed. LS-LS supporters smiling at each other is also allowed. But cross-smiling — ie LS-PT supporters smiling at each other — is strictly prohibited even if one has shared a memorable time together in the past.

But a minute before reaching the Chinese embassy, the two rows are reluctantly merged in one single line to fake a unity before China that we are always united and harmonious which no one can separate us whatsoever. And this is the only occasion during the whole event when anyone, be it PT or LS supporter, can say whatever slogans — “Save Tibet” or “Free Tibet” — they like as the restriction is lifted temporarily.

Finally reached the Chinese Consulate arena and there they halted the march and continued shouting the slogans “Free Tibet”, “Save Tibet” etc.!

After a while, two Chinese officials, followed by a dog brought from Beijing, are seen coming out from the office building and advancing toward the place where our mixed PT-LS protesters are staging the protest event, probably sent by their senior to attend them in an attempt to ease the probable international pressure. Seeing the dog, all Tibetans are unanimously convinced within that none of their political opponent looks like Chinese dog actually!

“What you all want? Why are you all gathered here unnecessarily? Don’t you know that the pandemic is hitting at peak? How irresponsible you Tibetans are!”, said one of the two officials, a young, thin, pale, and inexperienced-looking officer.

Among the Tibetan protesters, many are confused as to whom the officer is calling irresponsible, PT supporters or LS supporters, as usually all have been accusing each other of being irresponsible all the time! But soon they realized it was meant for all of them collectively without distinguishing one from other, and everyone remained silent; looking at each other — this time even PT-LS supporters cross-looking also — for someone who can give a befitting response to this Chinese officer.

Then an iron voice came up suddenly: “This Covid-pandemic came from your country, made by your government in Wuhan. It is now known as Chinese Virus all over the world. Don’t you know this still?” This is said from a staunch LS supporter Rangzen advocate who almost punched the Chinese officer if he had not been stopped by his estranged Umey Laam ex-girlfriend who held his hand firmly, advising him not to do so, or else it would worsen the hardship of Tibetans inside Tibet further.

He loosens the fist and backs off into the row from the distance he had advanced earlier to deliver the aborted punch, in agreement with his ex-girlfriend’s suggestion.

“Then what we should do now? Should we keep quiet like sheep?”, he demanded, without eye-to-eye contact though.

“No. No. We will continue our protest. But not getting physical with them”, she answered. This is the first time they had spoken to each other since their estrangement from PT’s termination in November 2017.

“Tell me who is irresponsible now, your government, CCP, or we Tibetans”, she added in defense of her ex-boyfriend Rangzen advocate who have just argued.

With that everyone in the protest started arguing against the Chinese Officer with all sorts of different arguments and points, each one defending the other, regardless of who is and LS or PT supporter; having forgotten all the differences they have been stubbornly holding on to.

This way, eventually, the pretentious unity that was faked minutes before reaching the Chinese consulate automatically dies off by itself without any effort and all found themselves in perfect true unity while arguing with the Chinese official.

After a while the two Chinese officers go back into the building, warning the Tibetan protesters, as usual, that the demands will never be entertained whatsoever.

Tibetan protesters raised some commonly known slogans like: “Free Tibet”, “Save Tibet”, “Long Live HHDL” etc. in the loudest and highest pitch deliberately directed towards those two retreating Chinese officials, and started marching back home. It was evening time! The dusk was falling! All fell silent again, never speaking a word to each other!

But deep down inside, each one can feel a very joyful and happy feeling of togetherness that the brief moment has left in them which they remember they used to enjoy some ten years ago, but had not experienced for a long time, especially ever since PT’s termination in 2017. And now they never want to lose it again; want to live with this feeling of togetherness forever!

They marched ahead, leaving the Chinese consulate arena behind. But still they don’t want to part into the two rows. They want to continue in one single line only. Because deep down inside they know: they were — are — and will be, “ONE” — always; and the two rows is a self-deceptive and self-destructive lie that they have been living stubbornly. They know well that two million brothers and sisters who died under Chinese atrocities never had two rows. They know well more than 160 brave Tibetans who self-immolated against Chinese atrocities never had two rows. They don’t want to part!

Yet, slowly and reluctantly, they start separating back into the two rows of PT’s and LS’s; Rangzen’s and Umey Lam’s. How strange! They reluctantly merged the two rows into one single row! Now they are reluctantly parting back into two rows! They had to fake unity while merging the two rows into one! They again had to fake the disunity while splitting the row back into two!

And suddenly, all saw a new post in the Sikyong Lobsang Sangay FB page, of which the title caption reads: “Happy to Have Entered White House as the Political Head of Tibet in History for the Second Time”, that too on 26 May 2021, Lhakar, his last day in office.

Then again things resume and fall back into the normal everyday track of chaotic internal cat-fights of PT–vs-LS, Umey-vs-Rangzen, etc. as if never going to end! And now it is deliberate, not reluctantly! The two Chinese officials who attended them a while ago are laughing and enjoying watching, on Facebook, this internal fight scene of the same protesters who looked so united minutes ago down at their office building!

“Tibetans are not a worry”, said one to the other. “Yes, of course. Not a worry, I told you before”, responded the other!


[Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and all characters, events, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.]

About the author

Kunchok Gyatso, LLM, is a corporate lawyer working in Bangalore, India.

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