Category: Non-fiction

Dorje Tsering: Where We Failed Him

Dorje Tsering succumbed to his injuries on the third day of his stay in the hospital’s critical care unit.

He was 16 years old. He looked younger, much younger, than his age. In one of the more widely shared photos of his, on people’s Facebook posts and profile pictures, he is in a classroom. He is smiling, in a kindly way.

For most people, this is the only image with which they will identify with this young Tibetan boy in India: a sunny, cherubic face, nattily attired in his school uniform, caught as if in the midst of writing notes on his notebook. There is no sign or trace of the violent deed to come.

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A conversation with Speaker Penpa Tsering – Part 1

Here is the first part of an extensive conversation—well, as extensive as it can get in 30-plus minutes—that I had with Sikyong candidate Speaker Penpa Tsering. We met in one of Parkdale’s ubiquitous Tibetan-owned establishments, Shangri-la restaurant, where we discussed his Sikyong 2016 campaign so far, the state of Tibetan democracy, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lukar Jam, Tibet Support Groups, Donald Trump, and Rob Ford, among others.

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We need to talk about Tibetan Democracy – Part 1

Yesterday, inside the cavernous hall of the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre (TCCC) in Toronto, Sikyong candidate Penpa Tsering began his public talk by stressing on the importance of harmony and unity, as a way of framing his campaign policy. In what eventually turned out to be a rambling three-hour speech that spanned everywhere and nowhere—a performance that at turns resembled a professorial lecture on the mechanics of bureaucracy, nostalgia for bygone times, and a church sermon—Speaker Penpa Tsering reinvigorated some of the charged proclamations that brought much notoriety to his campaign last year and, consequently, captured the attention of the Tibetan diaspora.

He also revealed new opinions (new for me anyway) that left me scratching my head and “stunned tweetless”, a term I used since I was live-tweeting the event in person. Right from the outset, he shared an opinion that may well prove to be a decisive turning point in his quest to be the new leader of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).
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This Oct 19, Vote for a Canada that Accepts the Niqab

Every morning, Tsering Dikyi, my mother-in-law, steps out to her back porch and lights up a handful of kindle in a small, beat up iron pan. She covers the incipient flame with juniper leaves, bits of dried fruit, an assortment of Tibetan incense, and tsampa (roasted barley flour). Most days she sets the pan with the smoke wafting outside the porch and finishes her prayers. Sometimes she takes the pan and walks around the house, letting the smoke drift around the corners of the property. In Tibetan, we call this saahng.

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My Dad Went on a Date with Carrie Shirley’s Mom, and It Got Awkward

In light of Carrie Shirley’s recent article about her mom going on a “date” with a young Dalai Lama, I asked my dad for insight on Shirley’s mom, with whom he had an uncomfortable encounter when he was 14 years old.

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Of Tibetans Banning “Free Tibet”

Tibetan Protest in Vancouver, BC. Oct 21, 2005.

A simmering dispute in the Tibetan diaspora came to boil this past week when organizers of the annual Tibetan National Uprising day rally in New York City publicly clashed with demonstrators that carried placards and shouted slogans containing the words “Free Tibet”. The opposing counterparts fell in two camps: those who advocate for Rangzen (Tibetan independence; absolute freedom from China) and those who favour Umay-Lam (Middle-Way Path or genuine autonomy; similar in some respects to Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two System” setup). The Umay-Lam supporters, it seems, wanted nothing to do with “Free Tibet” at this year’s rally.

Even though the point of contention in New York City on March 10, 2015, rested on what was and wasn’t permissible at the event, the discord points to a deeper issue: One that has been debated vociferously many times in India, and is finally wedging itself in the burgeoning Tibetan communities in North America. On the face of it, the question is about determining Tibetan sovereignty and the future of Tibet. What this incident points to though, is the more complicated question of who decides the future of Tibet.

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Integrative Thinking: Turning Opposites into Opportunities

Are you a conventional thinker? Or are you more integrative? What do these terms even mean?

These were the questions a group of people tackled on a wet, fall evening a couple of months ago in September at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. I was there to attend a workshop called “Introduction to Integrative Thinking for Leadership”.

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An Open Letter to the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Dear Daily Show,

I know Jon Stewart’s taken a hiatus for the summer to pursue his filmmaking project, but I cannot let this grievance just simmer in the long days of summer. I have to say this: I cannot stand open letters.

Oh, and I hate you for making me side with Bill O’Reilly.

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The Curious Case of Tsering Shakya

Consider the position that noted Tibetan scholar Tsering Shakya found himself in one unseasonably draughty, early-April evening in Toronto: you are part of a panel that kicks off a series of discussions under the auspicious heading of “New Beginnings: Young Canadians’ Peace Dialogue on China and Tibet”. Your topic for the evening is “Where Are We Now?: Finding Common Understanding on China and Tibet”.

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A Lot Not Happening

I needed to read this note again.

Something about the blunt acceptance of death, that there is nothing to look forward to from this point on, and yet, the sense of wonder and warmth that remains.

Many things happening. A lot not happening.

I needed to read this note again.

The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don’t look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same.

What is true is that I loved them. Lauren and Marina, as you mature and become yourselves over the years, know that I loved you and did my best to be a good father.

Airdrie, you were my best friend and my closest connection. I don’t know what we’d have been like without each other, but I think the world would be a poorer place. I loved you deeply, I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.

That last sentence.

I have to go run now.