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.
No trees and birds; no song for the heavens.
Stubborn lines of lungta stretched by stray squalls—
Wishful prologues; polyester in abeyance.
Folds of red gather around the pyre;
Their intoning chants quite mellifluous.
Burning juniper and black flesh recall
Crushed barley that is spread lightly, superfluous.
Ashen fingers light a hundred eight lamps,
As the tips of hair recoil at heat this close.
Saffron shadows sauntering in the hall
Attempt to console the hums of past, future ghosts.
My head was clear though my heart beat in protest.
Amidst the frenzied screams I was at peace.
Petroleum skin flinched in withdrawal;
Vows in situ, I hope to go back to the trees.
The coldest of winter beset by flames
That melts the edges of uncertainty.
Do you hear these shouts that disturb the Wall?
Don’t make scrolls of martyrs yet; please first hear my plea.
Many Tibetans here in Toronto are becoming increasingly numb to such news from Tibet. It used to be that the initial shock and horror of the news was followed by a call for action: protest, candle-light vigil, prayers, lobbying at the Parliament, etc. Now, many of us talk about the self-immolations over breakfast, we might make a comment or two about the parsimonious coverage from our news outlets, and then we go on with our lives. When previously every new report of self-immolation was a sign of an imminent judgment day for our struggle, now they barely register in our social media updates.