Monday, January 10, 2011

Travel to Varanasi

I embarked on the historical journey to accompany Tenzin Namgyal Tethong la on his visit to the various settlements across India from Dharamsala on the 8th of January, 2011. Dharamsala had been getting colder and colder and I thought maybe Delhi would provide some relief but sadly it was colder in Delhi. Atleast in Dharamsala I was able to enjoy the sunlight during the day but in Delhi it was just foggy all around and recent news of trains getting delayed or even cancelled was another reason for me to worry. I was concerned about whether I would be able to make it to Varanasi on time to prepare for the concert.

The freedom concert has been going on in the Tibetan community for a while and when our team thought about doing a concert in Varanasi, we felt that youth for TNT could be a co-sponsor for their concert if they decide to a concert in Varanasi. This is how the idea for the concert came into being. Freedom concert, advocating rights for jailed Tibetan Artists Tashi Dhondup and Dhondup Wangchen is a solidarity movement by the Tibetan Artists in Exile for their fellow artists imprisoned inside Tibet.

While in Delhi, I had the opportunity to meet a number of TNT supporters and it was a source of immense encouragement to see so many dedicated supporters.  And the individual efforts taken by the supporters in my opinion is a true testament of our Democracy.

While in Manjnu ka Tilla, I made a couple of calls to the Indian Railway Helpline at 139(so any of you travellers out there, use this number for train enquiry in Delhi, not sure whether it works in other parts of India) and surprise, surprise the train was on time. I guess there must be someone higher up there that is looking out for me. (Just some humour, didn’t mean to imply what the gods have decided for the upcoming Kalon Tripa).

Reached the station around 5:30pm and the train was scheduled for 6:30PM and what do you know? It didn’t arrive on time. Anyways, it came around 7:30pm and I was pleasantly surprised as I saw a Tibetan from Switzerland who had waited for the same train the day before and was kept waiting for about 12 hours only to be told that it was cancelled, so I felt lucky that it was only an hour late. It was not the case as the train stood on the platform for another 3 hours before it finally moved.

Arrived in Varanasi around 2 pm, a mere 5 hours late. After haggling with the taxi driver about the price, just part of the whole process, proceeded to Sarnath where I met Tenzin Gyalpo la AKA Michael who has been instrumental during the whole planning of the concert.

Had an informal meeting with him in regards to the concert and how youth for TNT can assist them during the concert. I have never really dwelt into the life of a Tibetan Musician and how they are able to survive in our exile community and this was my first insight into the life of an Exile artist.

I shared a room with all the artists from the concert on the evening of the 10th and I learnt a couple of things. One, the Tibetan artist I met namely Jhola Techung la, Michael la, Chodak la, Gompo la(Thukje Katrin Fame) and the others is that music might be their passion but at the same time, they believe strongly that what they do plays an important part in maintaining the culture of Tibet.

The conversation shifted between various forms of music and some Jam sessions (I wish I had taken some short clips of that but I couldn’t bring myself to impose on their Hospitality.) and mostly about how pirated copies are the bane of their existence.

I was surprised to find out that it is not an easy life as they have to make a living based solely on their art and since we are a really small population in exile, it is an uphill battle. And with such rampant piracy of CD’s in our community, maybe we can take a step towards preserving our culture for our future generations.

So, my request to all you fellow Tibetans is that if you like the music, buy the original CD of the artists. It does go a long way in preserving our culture.