Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

'It will become Tibet again'

November 8, 2007

Globe and Mail
November 2, 2007

TORONTO — Fresh from a prayer meeting, three burgundy-robed monks file into a west Toronto Tim Hortons and take a corner table.

As the bald-headed holy men pass, Tsering Samdrup and his wife, Yeshi Dolma, send warm smiles from their seats a few metres away.

The iconic Canadian coffee shop seems an unlikely place to find Tibetan culture, but after fleeing Chinese occupation as children and spending most of their lives
stateless, Mr. Samdrup and Ms. Dolma are glad, at last, to be citizens of somewhere.

"It's very, very, very difficult," Ms. Dolma, 46, says of the rootless feeling that defined life as refugees in India, as entrepreneurs in Nepal – where bribes were the
price of hassle-free existence – and as newcomers to Canada, a bustling, stressful place with more obstacles than the immigration brochures ever let on. "Until you
become a citizen, you always worry."

Tsering Samdrup and his wife Yeshi Dolma, are seen here at their temporary residence in North York where Mr. Samdrup is training to be a property manager. The
two Tibetans moved to Canada in 1996, have two daughters, and permanently live in Kitchener, Ont. Tim Fraser/For The Globe and Mail

Tsering Samdrup and his wife Yeshi Dolma, are seen here at their temporary residence in North York where Mr. Samdrup is training to be a property manager. The
two Tibetans moved to Canada in 1996, have two daughters, and permanently live in Kitchener, Ont. (Tim Fraser/For The Globe and Mail)

Earlier this week, the Kitchener, Ont., couple and their 18-year-old daughter, Rinchen, were among 5,000 people, virtually all of Canada's Tibetan diaspora, to file
into a former warehouse in Toronto for an audience with the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader-in-exile.

Make the most of your opportunities in the West, he told them – educate yourselves, work hard and aim high, but always, always maintain your Tibetan culture.

It's a safe bet most would rather have discussed a return to their homeland, but in the absence of Chinese concessions to the Dalai Lama's "middle way," a
conciliatory plea for Tibetan autonomy, rather than full independence, this would have to do.

"He wants Tibet back," Ms. Dolma says, adding that she agrees with His Holiness's approach, "but at the same time, it's getting hopeless."

Hope for their two daughters drove the couple to Canada in 1996. To that point, they had managed to make their lives materially comfortable by central Asian
standards, although never entirely secure, given the turmoil that trailed them from earliest childhood.

"It's a very faint picture," Mr. Samdrup says of his memory of Tibet. His best guess is that he was born in 1955. Birthdays are not big in Tibet, unless you are
important.

Four years later, in 1959, the Dalai Lama led an initial exodus of 80,000 refugees out of the country. Two years later, Mr. Samdrup's family followed, from a hamlet
in the southwest, near Mount Everest.

"In the night we travelled," he says, recalling how yaks bore their belongings for the one-week trek into Nepal. "In the day, we hid in the rocks."

Ms. Dolma was born in western Tibet that same year. When she was a toddler, Chinese soldiers came to their home and took her eldest brother, age 12, for
"education," she says, "but they never brought him back. We never knew what happened. That's why my parents decided to leave that place."

Her family then made the same risky journey as her future husband's had.

Mr. Samdrup and a brother wound up in a refugee camp in northern India, not far from the Dalai Lama's home-in-exile at Dharamsala, and attended Tibetan
boarding schools while their father went off to work on road construction. Their mother, meanwhile, had gone back to Tibet from Nepal to retrieve belongings, but
was prevented from leaving again, and would remain cut off from her family.

Ms. Dolma's family, meanwhile, settled in a Tibetan camp in southern India.

The couple met as adults in New Delhi, married and moved to Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital. There, they built up a successful carpet-making and export
business, but their good fortune and lack of official status made them vulnerable to extortion, and kept them on edge.

They applied to immigrate to Canada in 1993 and were approved three years later.

Today, Ms. Dolma supervises at a Tim Hortons, while her husband trains as a property manager. Their daughters are doing well in school, and they smile, as the
Dalai Lama does, at their good fortune in spite of past hardship.

And, with tentative hope, they wait.

"It will become Tibet again … ," Mr. Samdrup says, "because everything has a circle."

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank