Book Review: A Home in Tibet by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

TibetA tender, haunting and lyrical memoir of going back to one’s roots, says Sumana Mukherjee in The Mint

In The Lunchbox, the movie du jour, one of the protagonists, Saajan Fernandez’ throwaway lines to his pen-amour Ila can be substantively translated thus: We forget things when we have no one to tell them to. Reading Tsering Wangmo Dhompa’s A Home in Tibet a book as low-key, as philosophical and as acute as The Lunchbox is as a film Saajan’s observation comes back, amplified many times. What happens to a culture when there is no one to communicate its facets, nuances and histories as lived experiences?

Tibet has been an enduring subject of fascination for Western writers, usually pitched as adventures or travelogues. From Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, have come stories of oppression and escape. But, to my knowledge, there have been few if any stories narrated in English by an author of Tibetan origin who can straddle the tiny Tibetan town and the big global city with equal ease (or, perhaps more correctly, unease). Tsering, who was born in India 10 years after her mother fled from Tibet in 1959 in the wake of the Chinese invasion, and brought up on Buddhist principles and tales of all that was left behind, is thus uniquely placed to be able to “return” to the Tibet of her inherited imagination and simultaneously see it with the eyes of the world citizen.

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