Tenzin Tsundue

Tenzin Tsundue is a writer and activist in exile. He published his first book of poems Crossing the Border with money begged and borrowed from classmates while undertaking his Masters degree in Literature from Bombay University. His literary skills won him the first ever Outlook-Picador Award for Non-Fiction in 2001. His second book Kora is in its fifth edition having sold more than ten thousand copies. His third book Semshook, is a compilation of essays on the Tibetan freedom movement. In January 2002 Tsundue’s profile peaked when he scaled scaffolding to the 14th floor of the Oberoi Towers in Mumbai to unfurl a Tibetan national flag and a ‘Free Tibet’ banner down the hotel’s facade. China’s Premier Zhu Rongji was inside the hotel at the time. He is also known for his trademark red headband which he has vowed to wear until the day Tibet is free. Tsundue’s poetic voice speaks powerfully of the suffering of Tibetan exiles.



From home you have reached
the Horizon here.
From here to another
here you go.

From there to the next
next to the next
horizon to horizon
every step is a horizon.

Count the steps
and keep the number.

Pick the white pebbles
and the funny strange leaves.
Mark the curves
and cliffs around
for you may need
to come home again.


A Personal Reconnaissance

From Ladakh
Tibet is just a gaze away.
They said:
from that black knoll
at Dumtse, it’s Tibet.
For the first time, I saw
my country Tibet.

In a hurried hidden trip,
I was there, at the mound.

I sniffed the soil,
scratched the ground,
listened to the dry wind
and the wild old cranes.

I didn’t see the border,
I swear there wasn’t anything
different, there.

I didn’t know,
if I was there or here.
I didn’t know,
if I was here or there.

They say the kyangs
come here every winter.
They say the kyangs
go there every summer.



Thirty-nine years in exile.
Yet no nation supports us.
Not a single bloody nation!

We are refugees here.
People of a lost country.
Citizen to no nation.

Tibetans: the world’s sympathy stock.
Serene monks and bubbly traditionalists;
one lakh and several thousand odd,
nicely mixed, steeped
in various assimilating cultural hegemonies.

At every check-post and office,
I am an “Indian-Tibetan”.
My Registration Certificate,
I renew every year, with a salaam.
A foreigner born in India.

I am more of an Indian.
Except for my Chinky Tibetan face.
“Nepali?” “Thai?” “Japanese?”
“Chinese?” “Naga?” “Manipuri?”
but never the question – “Tibetan?”

I am Tibetan.
But I am not from Tibet.
Never been there.
Yet I dream
of dying there.


Space-Bar: A Proposal

pull your ceiling half-way down
and you can create a mezzanine for me

your walls open into cupboards
is there an empty shelf for me

let me grow in your garden
with your roses and prickly pears

i’ll sleep under your bed
and watch TV in the mirror

do you have an ear on your balcony
i am singing from your window

open your door
let me in

i am resting at your doorstep
call me when you are awake