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Obituary for Pema Tashi

May 13, 2008

tibetanuprising.org
May 11, 2008

A few days before his death, Pema Tashi told his best friend, Leki Dhondup, that "Tibet has given me so much and I want to give back to the cause. If necessary, I will contribute my life to the struggle.” On May 10, Pema drowned in the Kosi River at Kakri Ghat, Uttarakhand, during the March to Tibet.

Born in Arunachal Pradesh to non-Tibetan parents, he decided to become a monk by the age of six. Pema delighted his parents with his decision and journeyed down to Sera Mae Monastery to take his vows of monkhood. When he saw the announcement about the March to Tibet, he said, “I was happy because I had always wanted to see Tibet. I have lived in a Tibetan community for a long time and have always viewed Tibetans as compassionate people and this motivated me to join the march. Since I have made up my mind to go on this march, I am fearless.”

When arrested with the other 100 Core Marchers at Dehra, Himachal Pradesh, Pema said "I felt the agony and the status of a homeless refugee." Once released from house arrest, Pema rejoined the march only to develop problems walking. They allowed him to switch to the tent building crew where he earned the reputation as a hard worker and a joker. In fact, everyone knew of Pema’s infectious joking and his friend Leki said, “he couldn’t be quiet for a minute.” He eventually got the nickname “Man of the March.” Other marchers would never refer to him as Pema. In fact, most didn’t even know that name. They simply called him "the Man." It was said that without him on the march, there would be no joking.

As they approached what was to be Pema’s last campsite, he marveled at "the beauty of newly entered hills and felt a sensation of coming to his homeland." After building the tents at the campsite, Pema jumped into the cold and cloudy water of the river, apparently hitting his head on a rock. He spent too long underwater and passed away a few hours later at the Almora Hospital. The entire march spent several hours in prayer for his soul and a team of monks stayed up all night praying over his body. His body was cremated the next morning with a mountain of katas.

To a hard worker, a lover of jokes and a warm person with a brave heart who died before he reached his home, everyone on the March to Tibet sends our prayers with you, Pema.
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