OLD FLAMES NEVER DIE. THE MOMENTS SLIP AWAY LAID INTO ACCOUNT
The Living Tibetan Spirits inhabit my consciousness. The Moments Slip Away Laid into Account. For my Memory lives, I claim, “Old Flames Never Die.”
Special Frontier Force
‘Tibet with My Eyes Closed’ captures the stories of a region that is at the risk of being forgotten
In the past century, Tibet has been damaged irreparably. Ever since China took over Tibet and began instating their harsh rule on the Tibetan people, many escaped to India seeking refuge. Though they have settled, they often still remember and long for their motherland. “Unfortunately, they can only see a free Tibet in their mind and memories. And it was this sentiment that inspired me to write the book because many Tibetans can only see Tibet with their eyes closed,” said author Madhu Gurung during the launch of her book Tibet with My Eyes Closed in Delhi on July 25.
The book is a compilation of vivid and deeply emotional short stories on Tibetan people. Inspired by the colors of the vibrant Tibetan prayer flag, the author divided the stories into five colors and the elements they represent. The book was launched amidst an eye-opening discussion. The chief guest for the evening was Ven Geshe Dorji Damdul, the director of Tibet House, the Cultural Centre for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. After the ceremonious release of the book, the renowned guest graced the event by explaining the historical importance of the Indo-Tibetan relationship.
“Tibet was more like a barren place, and if not too presumptuous, barbaric. With the advent of Indian culture and philosophy, a beautiful culture of compassion grounded in wisdom started to take root in Tibet, and then it became such a beautiful nation,” said Ven Geshe Dorji Damdul. He has a PhD in Buddhist Philosophy and has even learned Tantric Studies, which is probably why he understands the connection between the cultural philosophies of both the countries so well.
Praising the book, he said, “Reading it, I felt it so close to my heart. And all the readers will also relate to the feelings and thoughts of the Tibetan people. I was so affected by this book. I really congratulate Madhu Gurung Ji and am very grateful for giving me the honor of coming here and speaking.”
The author Madhu Gurung started writing as a freelance journalist. She has worked for BBC World Service Trust, Oxfam, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was the Media Adviser for the National AIDS Control Organization. She has written a book previously. Titled The Keeper of Memories, the book is on Gorkhas and was shortlisted for the Shakti Bhat First Book Award.
She explained how she came to interact with the Tibetans while writing an article on them. Some of their stories stayed with her. So, when she was done with her first book and the article was published, she was inspired to write this book.
“When I started meeting people, there was this underlying thread, this deep yearning. It was like a wound that they carried of losing a homeland, of trying to start a new life. The wound heals over a period but a scab forms over it. And at the slightest remembrance of home, it bleeds and there is nothing that can stop it,” she said.
Her passion for the plight of the Tibetans was evident throughout the talk. Dates of politically significant events and small details of people’s lives rolled off her tongue as if she was talking of her own past when she answered questions.
Madhu Gurung was in conversation with author Preeti Gill, who is best known for her work in documentaries like Rambuai: Mizoram’s ‘Trouble’ Years. She had read Tibet with My Eyes Closed and praised the book saying, ” I think it’s a really unusual collection of stories and right from the time when I read the first story, I was completely enamored”
Preeti Gill grew up in Mussorie, and the school that she attended had Tibetan students too. So, she is familiar with the issues Tibetans are facing and their stories, and she was happy to see it highlighted.
A lot of details on the lives of Tibetans was revealed in their fascinating exchange. The author was careful to avoid spoilers but while describing her favorite stories, she gave context and background of the tales. Most stories are true and are taken from someone she has spoken to. “But when people talk about their lives, they never talk the way you want to write them. They just tell you; they compress the years of their lives into few sentences and everything that you get is like the tip of a mountain. The rest of the mountain is down and so what I did was that I started doing a lot of research. I started reading about Tibet and I was fascinated by the 2100-year-old Tibetan history, it’s myths, culture and the way that life was. And all of that is interwoven into the stories and I have used my imagination to create conversations and situations. Yes, it is true.”
The stories she told were so fascinating that the pile of books at the event emptied quickly and had to be hurriedly restocked to meet the demand. Everyone left the event a little more in awe of the perseverance of the Tibetan spirit.