Three poems of longing, despair, and hope from Tibet that tell the inner stories of its people

An anthology of new poetry from Tibet reveals astonishing voices.

Farewell Prostrations

Khawa Nyingchak

Evening wind burns the sun’s braids

Fingers of darkness guide the night wings
And on its lap I alone sleep –

Only the thoughts of you striking my mind
You have left and moved to a faraway place.
I am where I was, waiting.

The springtime has returned again
Stretching the eyes of hope wider and wider.
Though the flock of birds has returned from Mon
You’ve left permanently never to come back,

The gait of time hits against my eyelashes

Wails of the heart fall on my palms,
I am left staring into the blue skies

Teardrops languidly rim my eyes,
Letting this life fade to its closing stages
Wishing to reach the shores of the life beyond.
Wings of the heart stretch across the space
Where the strong wind howls in its borders.
I stand stiff near the river alone

Raising my hands high to signal
That if in time I do not go back,

I’ll sleep forever in this riverbed

Where my flesh and bones become offerings

To nourish budding trees and blossoming flowers.

(Note: Mon, the birthplace of the Sixth Dalai Lama, is located in Arunachal Pradesh.)

Lhasa Diary

Chen Metak

In a day, cold wind may blow,

A colourless and intangible wind

Rising through the openings in your stones,
On the walls of your house and iron fences,

Making hundreds of holes for spiders and scorpions to sneak in,
Fangs of darkness crowding in the dark holes will

Cut your sunrays into pieces,

Bringing the second black night
That even the lamps of your history cannot extinguish.

In a day, it may rain
Teardrop-like rain falling from your golden canopies
Hues of your white and red colours may turn

Into long bloody footprints left by scorpions,

Each imprint turning to a document,

Your emperors and princes will have

No stone pillars for their final testament, only elaborate tombs.

One day, from the walls of your water tombs
Yellow ducks will fly out in terror,

Singing you a skeleton-coloured poem

With a tiny little hole in it, and
Through this hole

You may be able to see once the world in which you live.

One day, a tongue of flame may shoot up from the crown of Iron Hill

The flame may hear the laments of your chained sunrays,
It may taste the sour air coming and going across the stone bridge,
Furthermore, it may feel the hunger of birds and fishes of Yarlung Tsangpo
It may see the sons and daughters of aristocrats decked in corals and turquoise.

One day, it is possible that I will see the white walls of Tsuglakhang

Hidden behind the garden of willow with its smooth walls,
It is possible that I will see the low terraces of the stone houses,
Seeing them I may have to follow your pointing finger to
A valley of history where the sunlight does not penetrate.
On a day like that

Silently I may call your name one more time.

(Note: The Yarlung Tsangpo, aka The Tachok Khabab, is the highest major river in the world, rising from a glacier near Mount Kailash in Western Tibet. The 2,900 kilometre-long river flows through the heartland of Tibet, including the Yarlung Valley, hence the name Yarlung Tsangpo. Yarlung Valley was the citadel of Tibetan civilisation and Tibet’s capital from about 127 BC to 630 AD. The river is a lifeline for Tibetans who farm along its banks.
 As it descends, the surrounding vegetation changes from cold desert to arid steppe to deciduous scrub vegetation and, ultimately, to a conifer and rhododendron forest. Sedimentary sandstone rocks found near Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city, contain grains of magnetic minerals that record the Earth’s alternating magnetic field current.
 The Yarlung Tsangpo flows in the world’s largest and deepest canyon, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, which is more than twice the depth of Colorado’s Grand Canyon. It flows into India and Bangladesh to become the mighty Brahmaputra river, finally emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

Do You Know The Tales Of Our Forefathers?

Dhi Lhaden

To my niece Gangzum,

Before the sun’s rays hit the smiling peaks
You are ready to hit the road.

Following the hooves of yak singing a sad song

With the day’s provisions stored in the fold of your chupa,
This is when my heart turns weak like the tunes of your song.

If you have to spend your life
On the plateau like animals in the wild,

I never want to say “Farewell” and leave.

Instead if I can turn you into a student holding a book and a pen
Will you be a girl in the service of our country?
Will you be a woman who loves her people?

Let me ask you:

Do you know the troubled tales of your forefathers?
Did you see their footprints in the mountains you roam?
Do you recognize the mountain peak

Where your forefathers’ vital blood dissolved?

Write this single word called “Freedom”

On the mountain peak where your forefathers have

Shed tears for livelihood and
Sacrificed their lives for their rights.

This will be your first proof to be with the people of the world
On an equal footing.

All poems translated by Bhuchung D Sonam.

Excerpted with permission from Burning the Sun’s Braids: New Poetry from Tibet, Blackneck Books.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.