All paths lead to you, I promise, I’ll return

While editing Tenzin Kunsel’s [1] first music video and listening to its lyrics carefully, I felt very uncomfortable. In the song Phayul Dren Lu, the feeling of being away from home and missing one’s mother is strongly expressed. This is a common feeling among all exiles. The desperate call of Tibet, ’our mother’, can be felt in the heart of exiled Tibetans. There is intense wish to return no matter how far we are.

Glittering houses and crowds of colourful people
But I find none of my own. I am tired.
My eyes are restless, to find you somewhere. They keep looking.

Lost and empty… I can feel your heart cry in loneliness
My heart is heavy too as I hear you sing;
Come to where you belong, where your people await.

Hundreds of cars zip across and pass by me as do people
I stand still eyes closed, alone, while passers-by push me,
I stand strong, as I feel the wind bring me your fragrance.

The road maybe long and wide paved with gold
And at every next corner I wish I could reach you.
Asking for directions I often hear you…
Come back to where you belong.

No matter where I go I will return
How far can I go? Your voice pulls me back
All paths lead to you, I promise, I will return.

Twelve-year-old Kunsel’s beautiful voice and her all-round singing captivated thousands of music lovers. Realizing that her generation has not lost their Tibetan-ness makes me feel so proud.

My generation of Tibetans were mostly born in exile. Though most of us have never been to Tibet, the emotional attachment is strong. We’ve settled far and wide but we’re not welcome in our own home.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.
— WH Auden

While filling forms wherever I go, it always takes a bit longer for me than others, I get stuck at the space where I have to mention my nationality. With much agonizing thought I write Tibetan and end up writing ’stateless’ along with it.

It hurts. But this is nothing compared to the pain and suffering that Tibetans in Tibet go through. Here I can scribble my feelings in the luxury of this coffee shop, while in Tibet someone must be getting arrested. And there you read my thoughts in the comfort of your home or office, while in Tibet yet another Tibetan is being tortured.

Hearing Tenying’s innocent appeal to Tibetans in exile and her warm sisterly consolation to Tibetans in Tibet on SFTTV [2], I pondered how a simple message can make a huge difference and bring comfort to those who are suffering.

Everyday for us is a burden with obligations and responsibilities. Every minute is critical for Tibetans who face death sentence for raising their voice against oppression.

After almost half a century in exile, today we have doctors, engineers and pilots. We have activists and supporters, websites and radios, newspapers and magazines, orators and listeners. But we don’t have TIME.

My sister often tells me that today is yesterday’s tomorrow. The 2008 Beijing Olympics is a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to draw global attention to China’s brutal occupation of Tibet.

It is important for all Tibetans, Tibetan NGOs and Tibet support groups to pool in their energy in this fight. Let’s leave any differences behind and forget any ideological difference. There is no limit to our achievements as long as we don’t care to whom the credit goes. I remember a story from my childhood about a father who called his sons and gave them a bundle of sticks tied together to break. They could not.

This piece struck me on the train, when I felt an extreme sense of loneliness and helplessness. I was in the midst of people from different nationalities — Polish, Russian, Irish, Japanese and Chinese. All of them have countries they can go back to. A drop of tear, almost invisible, trickled down my cheeks when I asked myself — When can I return home?

At home bullets and bombs overshadow the silence of tranquillity
Screams of girls being raped and men tortured to death
Echo in my mind, so do the cry of Thupten Ngodup [3] doused in fire.
My fist shakes with anger, but I see the prayer beads on my wrist
A picture of injured Jampa Tenzin [4] makes me furious, but the Dalai Lama calms me down.

Wiping the teardrops I walked off the train and moved slowly towards my daily life. I paused to look at the passing train and smiled at the people inside, a farewell lucky ones. They disappeared.

Then I looked around and found myself alone in the dimly lit platform. And once again my heart asked — When can I return home?


  • [1] Tenzin Kunsel’s first music video is online at
  • [2] SFTTV can be viewed on
  • [3] Thupten Ngodup self-immolated on April 1998 in India as a demand of freedom for Tibet.
  • [4] Jampa Tenzin was in 1987 pro-independence demonstrations in Lhasa which led to his subsequent arrest and death.


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