A Tibetan’s tale of yearning and identity
By Bhuchung K. Tsering
Among the books that I purchased during this holiday period was “Two More Years” by Tendar Tsering (2017) Paperback Price: $6.99.
A positive development in the Tibetan diaspora since the dawn of the 21st century is that there are more writings in English by younger Tibetans. Prior to that period one might be able to name only around half a dozen or so Tibetans who could be seen doing so. There were Tibetans who worked in the field of journalism, whether within the Tibetan community or in the broader society, but that seemed more to be a profession than life’s calling.
Among the latter-day writers is Tendar Tsering. I met him only in recent years, after he had immigrated to the United States (which is where his memoir ends), but have seen his writings for some time before that.
This is a story of a quest for identity and a sense of belonging. It begins with the author’s upbringing in rural Tibet and his experience, even at a young age, of something lacking in his life, compared to how the Chinese people were. What does it mean to be a Tibetan? What is the bond between a Tibetan in Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama? This leads him to leave Tibet for education in India and his travail (along with his fellow escapees) along the way is heartbreaking.
His memoir is a tale of pleasure and pain, and reflects the feeling of angst that is prevalent in the Tibetan diaspora community. The emotional pain comes out in different ways throughout the book. Even as he rejoices in being able to escape to India for his education and being embraced by the Tibetan institutions in exile, he also draws attention to the drawbacks, including in matters like living facilities at the Tibetan Reception Center as well as the Tibetan Children’s Villages School in Dharamsala.
All along the refrain is of yearning, for a homeland by him and by his parents wanting to see their child. Even the title of the book is from a response he gave to his parents back in Tibet (during one of his telephonic conversation with them while in India) when he was asked when he would be returning.
The memoir is somewhat short and so enables a quick reading for anyone. It touches on quite few aspects and I would have wished the author could have provided more explanation for some of them. Also, there are areas where I thought it would have helped in making the thoughts compact.
But the book is a sincere attempt by a young Tibetan, who was born in Tibet under China, got his education in India and is now settled in the US, to try to understand his own situation.