Tagged: Toronto

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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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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Seventy two and counting + Toronto Protest on Nov 14

Everything that’s needed to be said has been said.

The searing clarion call from Tibet. The ripples of anguish across the communities in exile. The amoral handwave by the Chinese ruling class. The deafening silence from its detractors in the mainland and beyond.

Everything that’s needed to be said has been said, and yet we find ourselves unable to confront the malignancy of the situation. For those of us outside Tibet, we do our part in going to protests. We write impassioned essays. We get arrested. We get into online arguments.

We pray.

And yet the simple fact of the matter—the skin of the truth—is that we don’t know. We shout a lot, but at the core, within that gauze of work and life and shit, we are at a loss for words. We wonder how the picture of a charred body pricks us, reminds us of our injustice and insecurity, and of our connection to a piece of land many of us have never stepped foot on.

We think we know what drives a young teenage monk to pour fuel on himself and strike a matchstick. We hope we can relate to a mother of three children when she abandons them for the Cause.

What is it that binds us together?

Where is that mischievous, irrepressible smile?

How deep is our well?

My days are ordered with quiet streets and bulbous figures wrapped from head to toe against the November cold. They are insulated within walls and windows, muffling the clinks of streetcars and the wayward songbird. They are filled with breaks of coffee and tea from the computer screen. They are chores pushed back and messages to be returned.

They are not this.

But every week, they become closer. Bit by bit.

There is a protest happening tomorrow, Wednesday, in downtown Toronto. At Richmond St. and Yonge St. In front of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It has to do with the pending sale of Canada’s natural resources to a group of investors in China who have financed the forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads. Tibetans nomads who have now resorted to burning their bodies in order to express their defiance.

It will happen at 10 am in the morning. I know it can be inconvenient, but please try.

We may not know who we are or what we ought to do. But we know this much: our righteous condemnation against a transaction that facilitates the destruction of the Tibetan people, culture and land must be felt and heard.

Especially if it is inconvenient.

The Ethics of Hospice Caregiving and Black Dictators

It’s a crisp, Fall evening—the kind that followed an overcast day but still feels strangely invigorating. If it weren’t for the fact that you have a training workshop to attend, you would be running on the lakeshore, putting in kilometres on a trail that is crowded mostly by fallen leaves, many of them disintegrating in dark puddles of rainwater. The nippy gusts of wind would have added a kick to your stride, would have brought upon a pleasant equipoise to your rising core body temperature.

But instead you are biking purposefully, dodging cars and pedestrians, angling your handlebar across streetcar tracks and passing slow cyclists on the road. You are cutting it close to this evening’s workshop, the fifth in a series of sessions that you have to attend in order to qualify as a hospice volunteer caregiver. You rue the time it took for you to select the colour for the walls of your study room, which came to naught anyway because you decided to go with the leftover paint.

You make it to the location on time with seconds to spare—in one piece, thank god; struck only by tiny pangs of wistfulness upon seeing the steaming joggers on the sidewalk.

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Michael Chabon and Junot Díaz at IFOA 2012, and How I Nearly Missed It

I have it bad for Junot Díaz.1 It all started with an article on Grantland about him walking around his neighbourhood in New York City. I had no idea who he was, but his profile intrigued me, and there was mention of cops at sold-out readings, which is noteworthy for any type of artist, let alone a novelist. So I looked him up. His short story “How to Date a Brown Girl…” hit me with such a potent blend of sensibility and honesty that I had to dust out one of my old articles from my previous blog and completely destroy it. And then rewrite it, in some sad attempt at approximating his style. It’s one of those things I have to get rid of, or it weighs on my head and disturbs my reverie whenever I’m washing dishes or trying to sleep.

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Toronto Council Votes to Remove Jarvis St. Bike Lanes

On a Tuesday night preceded by heated debate in the city hall—and months of active participation from concerned residents through bike rallies, petitions and a whole slew of impassioned and informed editorials, Dave Meslin in particular—Toronto appears to be on track of being on the wrong side of sensible and sustainable transit for all.

It follows that a mayor who is smugly suburban, is driven by an uncompromising zeal for fiscal “prudence” and has a preternaturally myopic outlook on what a liveable city is, would vote in favour of removing a perfectly serviceable bike route. Never mind that the cost ($300,000) to remove the bike lanes goes against his creed of respecting the taxpayer above everyone else. It’s Rob Ford. His nonsense makes sense in a sad way.

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