Monday, 8 November 2010

Too Soon

Remembering Tsewang Norbu-la

Monsoon 1989. The sky was lavish sending millions of raindrops wearing boxing gloves, as my friend Tenzin Tsundue puts it. The playground was a brown sludge. Yet we continued the football match. Almost through the half time, a goal was scored. While we were recovering from the defensive lapse, the scorer ran to the middle of ground and performed an antic that would have done Roger Milla, the Cameroonian football star, proud.

Tsewang Norbu-la was born, raised and educated in exile — initially in Bhutan and later in India at Tibetan Children’s Village School. He was one of the eighteen first-batch students who successfully graduated from Lower TCV in 1990. Later, he completed his undergrad from Punjab University and almost immediately started working for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.

As a student in TCV, Tsewang-la did extremely well both academically and in extra-curricular activities. His gift for language was visible even in school as he regularly scored top marks in language classes. His Tibetan calligraphy skills were near legendary in the school. The first time when I witnessed it was during a class activity when he did a big poster in flawless dutsa, an ornate script that left even our Tibetan teacher speechless. In 1991, Tsewang-la won the first prize for Tibetan calligraphy competition organized by the Department of Education as a part of the International Year of Tibet activities. It was no surprise.

Tsewang-la’s work at the Department of Information & International Relations can be defined by the difficulties that we will have in finding a suitable replacement. He aspired to give his best towards which he was persistent in his effort and meticulous in his method. He would often say the late incomparable Tendar-la, who passed away a few years ago, had had a big impact on him. ‘Tendar-la dhampa de ngai genla ngo-ney rey.’(Tendar-la was my real teacher.) He often said. It is truly tragic and a terrible loss for the exile government to lose two outstanding civil servants in too short a time.

But as it is said in the scriptures that death is like a lightening in the evening sky. No power on earth or heaven can change the course our lives. Death is, perhaps, the only thing that every human being has to confront — rich and poor, princes and paupers, presidents and servants and even the great lamas must face it one way or the other. Death is watertight. There is no escape. The rich cannot buy it. Magicians cannot do tricks on it. Hence, we must quickly recover from this tragic loss and find our footing. Time is running out for Tibet.

Five days before Tsewang-la’s untimely demise, he had met with many of his classmates after many years. They spent a good part of the night recalling little details about their lives. In hindsight, this class reunion proved to be a final parting goodbye.

He was a warm human being, an amazing classmate and an exemplary colleague. May he rest in peace, May he be reborn in the Land of Snow. Tsewang-la is survived by his wife, two sons and his parents.


  1. It was saddened me of loosing such an outstanding civil servant. I don't know him and also never seen him before but I heard about him later from my colleague as he is also a ex TCVian.

    I want to express my heartfelt sympathy to his family, his friend and all of his colleagues.

  2. his holiness would be speaking at the Hindustan Times leadership Summit 2010 at New Delhi on the 19th November.
    Live web cast would be available at: