Indian Express

‘Poet in Exile, Prisoner of Conscience’
by Muhammed Wajihuddin
(Indian Express. January 17, 2002)

When Tenzin Tsundue scaled the 14 floors of The Oberoi today, he gave only a glimpse of his grit and steely determination. Neither did the police have any inkling of the lanky, bespectacled youth's courage.

As a poet, the 26-year old Tsundue, who is also the general secretary of the Friends of Tibet (INDIA), expresses a deep sense of homelessness, agony and embitterment for fellow Tibetans living in India. 'I may not employ the same method of protest in future, but I shall never sit back till I get my homeland back,' he said after his release.

Tsundue hit the headlines when he won the prestigious Picador-Outllok prize (non-fiction) for his essay My Kind Of Exile in March 2001. Born 'somewhere between Tibet and Shimla' while his parents were fleeing Tibet, raised in a refugee camp in Manali and educated at Dharamsala, Tsundue has never celebrated his birthday. 'Who had the time to record a child's birth when everyone were tired and hungry?' my mother says when I ask of my birthdate. It was only when I was admitted to school that I was given the date of birth. I have three date of birth as my birth was recorded in three different offices,' he says.

With a book of poetry Crossing The Border under his belt, Tsundue is now working on the history of Tibetans in exile in India. Poet Dom Moreas, one of the sponsors of Tsundue's project, says: 'No one has done this before. Tenzin is a sensitive poet and I like his style.'

Friend and co-activist Sethu Das, adds: 'Tenzin is the first Tibetan who joined the Friends of Tibet (INDIA) when we set it up in 1999. He has actively participated in our movement and has always led from the front.' A member of the Poetry Circle, a groups of poets in Mumbai, Tsundue has held many reading sessions. While cooling his heels in jail before being released, he might have found solace in his poem Exile House which says: 'The fences have grown into jungle, now how can I tell my children where we come from.'