It was a Saturday evening. It was quite late and I was dying for a cigarette. I had to search a while to find an open shop, as Dharamsala’s Kalachakra-bound citizens were yet to return. I walked up to what seemed to be a new grocery store and was pleasantly surprised to see an elderly Tibetan behind the counter. I purchased my merchandise and indulged in some small talk with the storekeeper.
“So what is the latest?” the elderly Tibetan asked. “We might soon have to return to Tibet and you, my old man might need to sell your things on discount”, I replied. “Its all due to the mercy of Chenrezig,” the man in reply closed his eyes and folded his hands. “It is an optimistic time,” he murmured as I bid good night.
A little too soon? For then the news came of Lobsang Dhondup’s execution.
Lobsang Dhondup was executed recently by the Chinese on flimsy charges. To date, neither the court nor the Beijing authorities have been able to substantiate or admit to the real reason behind this cruel act.
Lobsang Dhondup was probably shot in the back of his head at point blank range, to make the execution efficient and the result a surety. Probably his passing away was quick. Maybe it was painless. But I am sure it was terrifying. A close friend asked, “I wonder what was on his mind, right at that moment?” I shudder to think.
What would be going through the mind of a young man, condemned to die for something he did not do. Condemned to death for the sake of an occupying forces’ politics and power games. Sure, he is far from the first Tibetan to die for such reasons, and even further from being the first ever person to die in this manner, but when it is your life that is forfeit, I am sure that those facts are not the ones foremost in your mind at the time. Was he wondering why was he being executed? Why he was the one picked? Was he a victim of the new leadership in Beijing, wanting to send a clear political message?
What would it feel like to walk across the killing ground to the last place you would stand in this life? Or did they just come into his cell and end it there? Buddhism teaches the cycle of life, the turning path of our lifetimes, but as one not extensively trained in the high reaches of monastic disciplines, how much fear was there during his last moments, hours, days? Or in the end, did he see himself dying for his country and proud to offer literally everything he had for this cause?
The truth? Well, of course we will never know, or come anywhere close to knowing. I wondered about simpler things. Lobsang Dhondup’s young life was cut short by the Chinese - he was but 28 years of age He was just few months older than me, living in a country that I have never yet seen. What dreams might he have had? What plans? Where did he think his future was going to take him? To the gallows or to a Free Tibet? To a life later in exile, or a quiet existence watching his family grow up around him? Had he hoped to become a successful businessman, and if so, where would that have led him? Or was he content living each day as it came?
I have lived my life in exile, aware of the Tibetan situation since young. My hopes, my dreams; they may be similar to those of my friends’ here around me, they may not. How different are they though to those of my brethren living inside my unseen homeland? I have an education, many of them do not. I can speak out about what I think without fear of ending up incarcerated, or dead like Lobsang Dhondup. Many within Tibet are politically active, like us here, but run far greater risks. So how do our dreams, our thoughts, our lives differ? Do we see the same futures, the same dreams, but through different eyes? Or do we see different dreams and a different future through the same eyes? Will we meet in our current lifetimes? Will we ever get the chance to compare our thoughts, our hopes, our passions?
I have to believe that we will. I have to believe that all that we fight for, all the suffering that so many have endured, all that so many have sacrificed, will achieve what we aim for in the end, in the not too far distant future. I want to know that lives given have not been used up and thrown away, but are pebbles on the road to freedom. I believe that all the work that I, that my friends, that so many around the world have contributed, will succeed in the end. That the efforts, dreams, and deeds of thousands will prevail, that sanity and peace will return to the high plateau and deep river valleys. And that I will see my homeland, that I will meet my family, my unknown cousins, and my yet un-met friends. That one day we will sit together in the high, rocky mountains around my father’s village and discuss our thoughts, our dreams, and our new plans for the future.