We’re glad we bumped in Pantso and she agreed for an exclusive interview with The Millennial Daily. So grab a cup of your favorite beverage and read a piece of her heart, till the very end.
Please share a brief background of your childhood in Tibet.
“I was born into a regular family. We were four siblings. My mother had a tiny homemade, organic Tibetan cheese shop. My father worked alongside my mother until he passed away. I lost him when I was five years old. I have a blurry memory of my family and home. The memories of my father are particularly blurry. Unfortunately, even these vague memories are not the fondest of memories.
The memories are not vague because my brain is impaired but because I’ve had a very fascinatingly hard life.“
What were some of the important events in your childhood back in Tibet?
“I remember One fine afternoon my mother abruptly announced I would journey with her to Lhasa. I was only seven, but I vividly remember that for a young child from the village of Labrang in Amdo, travelling to the capital city of Tibet, Lhasa, was the equivalent of flying to New York from any remote area of the world.
To be honest, at that time my whole world consisted only of Tibet. I knew no other country.
Concepts such as ‘state’, ‘nation’, ‘citizen’, ‘refugee’, ‘stateless’ and ‘displaced’ were absent from my understanding and vocabulary.
Unaware at the time, the country I identified to be my motherland had in actual fact not been recognized as an independent country for decades by most foreign governing bodies. Ignorant of China’s 1959 invasion and subsequent occupation of Tibet.
I was therefore in fact born stateless.
So, what exactly happened in Lhasa?
“I journeyed from Amdo to Lhasa with my mother and younger brother We lived in Lhasa for two months. I had a good time there. I saw the Potala Palace for the first time too, without knowing the real essence of it.
My mother’s pampering became excessive, much more than I was used to. She would buy us treats whenever we asked her. She was behaving very differently from the way she would behave back home in Amdo.
After two months in Lhasa, my mother took me along with my younger brother on another trip to a place which I had never heard of. It’s called Dam. It’s the the buffer zone Which between Tibet and Nepal.
There, we were staying with a friend of my mother. The friend owned a restaurant.
There were children of similar ages to my brother and I who would play with them.
When did you leave for India from Lhasa?
“I left Tibet in October of 1997. Since this story began twenty-three years ago, the two main characters, the mother and daughter haven’t been seen each other or reunited to date.
One day while we were playing hide and seek on the bus. I was hiding wisely somewhere and to my surprise a young Nepalese lady who worked at the restaurant ushered me away with her. She already had my brother; she was clasping his small hand tightly. She took my brother and I inside the restaurant and she set about preparing some meals for us. Meanwhile my mother’s friend dressed us up.
I could hear my mother making unusual sounds from her nose which resonated to the sound of loud weeping. The noise was coming from the kitchen her dear friend consolidating and calming her.
In the hours leading up to our departure from Dam, my brother and I were blissfully unaware we would never see our mother again. My mother on the other hand was fully aware of the situation, she maintained her composure the entire time in front of us and had she let just one tear slip out in front of us, a monsoon would have surely followed.
‘Ama’ (mother in Tibetan) assured us that our life would be much better in the country we were heading to. She did not mention the name of the place, but it was India.
What is your memory of journey to India?
The Nepalese woman from the restaurant exchanged some words with two men briefly, then to my utter shock she forcefully handed us over to them. It was dusk when we departed from the river.
My brother, the two Nepalese men and I journeyed into the forest, adventures unfolding before us. Filled with the misappropriated naivety of an obedient child, neither my brother nor I questioned our present predicament or tried to escape and return to our mother or homeland.
Instead we followed the men in complete silence. Unfortunately, the silence did not penetrate. The entire journey took approximately a month. We went through some tough and harsh nights in the forests.
I must admit the people we met on our journey were warm hearted and all inclusive. We were offered drinks which were made from milk using a local recipe. We shared crackers which were our sole source of substance. We stayed hydrated by drinking from natural sources of water.
Opposed to our food, which was severely lacking in nutritional quality, the water we drank was pure and enriched with minerals, providing me with enough stamina to see the journey through. I did not succumb to illness once on the journey.
To avoid border police, we adapted to the rhythm of a nocturnal animal. During the day we would seek refuge in nearby villages and rest.
After arriving at a Tibetan school and meeting hundreds of children like me, I immediately realized that my story is not unique or special. But rather the same narrative was stuck of a repetitive loop for countless other children fleeing their motherland. There would be slight variations in stories, but they were all basically the same.
What were some of the most challenging moments of that journey?
The last leg of the journey I remember clearly.
We were to make a harrowing crossing across a very dangerous bridge. Once over we would have crossed the border into Nepal. The bridge was very narrow and rickety. It was the breadth of a standard ladder and was made of rope. The rope was thick.
We were crossing the bridge in single file and as carefully as possible. I was wearing a pair of white shoes. I was very attached to these shoes, they connected me to home, to my mum.
While crossing the bridge one of my feet became caught between the rungs. My desperate attempts to free my foot with my shoe still attached were in vain. My shoe fell prey to the river below, devoured by the rapids.
How has been your life after reaching India in 1997?
“Once we reached Kathmandu my brother and I were graciously received by a Tibetan reception center for new arrivals from Tibet.
Then we were sent to India after staying in Nepal for few days. There are seperate schools for Tibetan children under His Holliness the Dalai Lama’s care and protection.
Me and my brother were enrolled into one of these schools in Northern India and we ended up completing our schooling from there itself.
I was distance adopted not legally by an Italian father who supported all my education.
In 2015, I moved to Europe, Italy to be with my Italian father and studied Italian language for a year in Milan.
In 2016, I have received a partial scholarship from Central European University in Budapest and my father as usual supported me financially to do my Masters in International Relations.
What has been your driving force behind pursuing International Relations?
“The driving force behind my special interest in International Relations was mainly because of my own life experiences and that I have been trying to seek an answer to some few fundamental questions regarding my identity and political and social situation of my home country of Tibet.
After completing my second Masters in Europe, and my experience through my life journey, across countries, cultures and social and political realities have contributed to the expansion of my values and passion and fed the will to become involved in the work of United Nations.”
What has been last memory of your mom, back in Tibet?
“I believe my mother to be an extraordinary woman, who is exceptionally strong and the sacrifice she made for me by sending to exile to have better education and life.
After coming to terms and seeing a different world, encountering people from different cultures and walks of life, I realize that nothing is greater than a mother’s love for her child. No value is higher than that which we have for family.
My last image of Ama was of her blotchy swollen face, puffy eyes and runny nose (the tell-tale signs of excessive crying).
I can’t even recall a goodbye kiss. Our last kiss is when we were in Lhasa. My life has never been the same since that day.”
What message would you like to convey your Ama (Mom) through this platform?
“I hope someday we shall meet in person and I could tell you all the challenges I have faced and small achievements I made. I will someday share you all my smallest secrets and fears.
My very first time period, my first infatuation towards a boy in school. In nutshell, I shall show you my world through the window I saw and experienced which shaped my outlook towards the World. I shall be the best listener to your journey of life in my absence in Tibet.
I may not say that you had powerful influence on my physical and mental well-being but spiritually, we were never apart
I felt your love in many kind people i met along the way. I cannot imagine what you have been through all these years and the unconditional love exhibited by sacrificing me from your physical world to have better life for me in a foreign land has taught me how to be an independent emotionally and mentally on early life, and for that ‘’Thank You’’ and I am grateful to you. I love you immensely and dream about you every now and then.
Your message to Women on the occasion of International Women’s Day?
“The crosscutting cultural symbol of matching women with men is the Relationship between a lock and a key but the women have to be aware that women process the wisdom of the entry code impairment to the body, heart and intellect. Therefore, we, as women should celebrate it by not letting devalued it in any circumstances. Happy women’s day.”