Conversations with Samten

As I flew back from Dharamsala to my home, several stories flew with me as well. (Thanks to the airlines that they yet don’t charge extra for mental baggage) Yes, I said ‘home’ because I couldn't wait to get back and put pen to paper. There were so many stories that hovered around in my mind for a long time, one of which was of Samten. But there was something unique about it; it hovered in my heart.

So easily I used the word ‘home’ in the above paragraph and I am sure most of you read it just like you would read any other word.  Perhaps because we know we can go back home at the end of the day, cuddle up in a warm blanket and stare at the ceiling fan confining our world within those four walls. Only because we ‘can’.

Conversations with Samten is a linear narrative of a series of conversations with a monk who was one of my students in the English conversation class in Mcleodganj. There were students of all age groups, genders and backgrounds that came every evening to the volunteer centre and interacted with travelers from across the globe. The conversations went on for an hour every day after which some of the travelers would accompany their students and explore the town. Through Samten I discovered a different world in which Tibetan people were living in their own land under the Chinese rule. He metaphorically represented those thousands of people who came to Dharamsala to follow one man and his teachings, The Dalai Lama. These people have been living in exile in Dharamsala and have tried to make a home there ever since.

Samten has been applying for his passport at the Chinese embassy in New Delhi for the last three years but they haven’t approved it yet. With watery eyes he took me through the photographs he clicks in his free time and I was touched to see how he compared every landscape in Dharamsala with his homeland, Tibet.

When I was traveling to Delhi from Dharamsala, an American teacher who also volunteered there said to me, “It’s unfortunate that the children in the US are absolutely unaware of what is happening in this part of the world!” I smiled and replied, “We Indians are equally unaware of it despite of been in such close proximity of this land.”

This appeared in The Mint last Friday and was published by Manta Ray Comics, the finest and most sensitive storytellers I have worked with.

Have a homely week, we are half way through this week but anyway. 


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