Asia | Nepal – Life Drawing
Word pictures … a boy and his father driving a herd of water buffalo like a sleek black thread through the traffic … taking the 14 rupee bus to Boudha, crossing two rivers along the way, picking up and leaving off people as we go … the running man with his fistful of rupees shouting ‘Boudha-Boudha-Boudha…’ as we roll to a stop, and then hopping back on and laughing and singing like he’s having the best time of his life … the clouds boiling over the mountains like a pot of chai running over on the stove … all of us hot and sweating in the bus, leaning out the windows to get a little relief from the drizzling rain … going home from work in Kathmandu.
I did three interviews today … with Kyiso, the teacher … then a Human Rights reporter … then a young man who graduated from the Tibetan Institute in Varanasi and now is the liaison for the refugee center to the Indian government, responsible for doing all the paperwork on new arrivals.
I got the package from the monk for his brother, and he also gave me a really nice book with pictures and a map of Tibet. Then someone brought me a nun who shyly handed me a letter for her uncle at the one of the monasteries.
The highpoint of my workday was meeting a 17-year old boy from Amdo whom Ill call Tashi. Hes a fantastic artist – purely by instinct. He never had any training. He said when he was a child he would draw in sand or dirt, or even water. Sometimes he would take a cup and just drip water patterns in dirt.
I’ve never seen any Tibetan artists doing this kind of natural shading in their pictures. He was drawing mountains, and then in great detail some people walking below he said they were nomads waiting for a change in the weather … and some he said ‘who are really strong and going up into the snowy mountains.’ The sun peeping over the mountains reminded me of the sun in the Tibetan flag. Tashi said in China, artists werent even allowed to draw the sun in school because it was considered a Tibetan political symbol.
In one corner, he made a portrait of a man. I asked who it was and he said it was his father, but from imagination, as he supposed his father might have aged. He hasn’t seen his father since he was 7. He thinks he might be in Nepal or India. His father got into trouble with the Chinese for something he said and he had to run away or be imprisoned.
The son too tried to escape from Tibet three times. He worked at the local monastery for awhile just making tea. His roommate and another monk there were caught with pictures of the Dalai Lama in their room. All were put into prison. The pictures of His Holiness were put on the floor and if they didn’t stamp on the pictures, they were beaten and given electric shocks. Every day the guards handcuffed them (or bound their hands) and hung them from the ceiling until night. Tashi had a one-year sentence, but he paid something like 50 yuan and got it reduced to one month.
Now Tashi says he will never be able to go back to Tibet because he will be put into prison immediately. I hope he will be successful in India. I will probably see him when I return to Mcleod Ganj.
Tashi was wearing a baseball cap backwards, his face and arms covered with purple spots where they’ve treated him for mosquito bites. He has beautiful brown eyes and a ready smile. I wanted to hug him. It was almost irresistible.