Tsering’s parents used to hide their radio in the closet in order to listen to His Holiness’s teachings (the Dalai Lama). They did not want Tsering (not her real name) to know, because she was young, and if she accidentally mentioned it to someone, her whole family would know the punishment. One day, when coming home from market, the Chinese opened fire on people in Tsering’s village. She ran to the hospital terrified, not understanding what had happened.
In order to escape this tyranny, as a teenager Tsering took off through the Himalayas with a small group of people, leaving her friends and family behind.
Tsering has lived in Dharamsala ever since. The Chinese limit the contact she can have with her family. One of the few times she could call home, she found out her father had been dead for several years. She has not seen or spoken to her mother in six years. Because most of the Tibetans here still have family in Tibet they are often afraid to speak out against the Chinese. The Chinese have killed or jailed family members of those who have done so.
Tsering tried to call her sister before the Olympics. Her sister answered the phone and got hysterical when she realized who it was. She yelled at Tsering for calling and told her never to call again. Relatives of Tibetan refugees living in China could be imprisoned for life just for accepting such a call. Tsering felt guilty for calling.
“I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know why.” She worried, wringing her hands as she told us the story.
“Because you are all alone. You miss your family. You can’t blame yourself for wanting a connection with her, wanting some human contact. Don’t blame yourself.” I told her.
We were fiddling around with my laptop, inserting the DVD Tsering had brought over. The screen came to life, and we watched news reports of the protests before the Olympic games in China. I had only seen a bit of the footage in the United States. There were major protests outside the Chinese Embassy in India.
Tsering pointed to the screen, narrowing her finger in on a girl with long black hair, “Look here. There I am. That is me. They throw me in jail for that.”
“You went to jail for those protests?” I asked, finding a newfound admiration for her civil disobedience.
“Yes, but it’s okay. In India you just go to jail, maybe get beat. In China you protest, they shoot you.”
The only education Tsering has ever had was two years of schooling here at the Tibetan School in Dharamsala. She is fighting to make a life here in India, but you could tell, it did not feel like home. I found myself struggling because I felt like I should help her. Yet I didn’t know exactly how. Or what the right thing to do was.
See Tsering speak for herself below:
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