Dead People Talking (Collection of Poems)

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Item Code: IDL138
Author: Tsoltim Ngima Shakabpa
Publisher: Paljor
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9798186230601
Pages: 136
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5" X 5.5"
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Book Description

The tumult and the transformations of the 20th century marked few places on earth more thoroughly than they did Tibet. At the dawn of that century, the 13th Dalai Lama led a religio-political government dominated by nobles and incarnate monk officials. The declining Qing Dynasty of emperors based in Beijing had only scant influence over events in faraway Lhasa, and Tibetans saw the British Raj in India to the south as representing its most nettlesome foreign policy issue. Meanwhile, on the Tibetan plateau, a conservative monastic order and a population consisting mainly of nomads and village-dwelling farmers strove to maintain customary patterns of life that reached back centuries. As decades passed, the Qing Dynasty disappeared entirely, the British Raj became Tibet’s foremost ally, and communism came to Asian. By the middle of the century, Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army had seized Tibet, and within a decade the young 14th Dalai Lama had escaped into exile in India. Soon more than 100, 000 Tibetans found themselves in the difficult situation of living as refugees in underdeveloped nations, most notably India and Nepal. In more recent years, Tibetans from throughout the Himalayan region have found new lives in Canada, Switzerland, the United States and elsewhere.

This national narrative of a diaspora from the Land of Snows amounts to a personal story for the noble family called Shakabpa. Respected for the service rendered by its members to the Tibetan government over a period of generations, at the turn of the century the Shakabpas worked mainly as senior officials in the Treasury Department and in provincial administrations. Its most well-known member, Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa, was born in 1907. He was to follow in the footsteps of his father, uncle, and other kinsmen in serving at the highest levels of the government. In the 1930s, he was a member of the traditional committee that sought the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. He subsequently held the rank of Finance Minister (Tsepon), played a significant role in the Tibetan National Assembly, and served the 14th Dalai Lama in a variety of official capacities. Not only did he lead an international Tibetan Trade Mission around the world in 1948 and 1949, but he was also instrumental in laying the groundwork for the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile in India. He was either an eye-witness or an active participant in many of the most consequential moments of Tibetan history from the 1920s through the 1960s.

However, Tsepon Shakabpa’s most noble legacy is his landmark historical writings. His interest in Tibetan history was ignited in the 1930s when his uncle, a senior minister in the 13th Dalai Lama’s government, gave him a large cache of historical documents that had come down through the family. In the 1950s, in the wake of the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet, even prior to the 14th Dalai Lama’s exile in 1959, the latter asked Shakabpa to write the history of Tibet in order to present his country’s case to the international community. He published a narrative in English with Yale University Press in 1967 under the title, Tibet: A Political History. Even with the publication of that volume, the Dalai Lama requested that Shakabpa redouble his efforts and lay out for the world the full story of Tibet’s history. Hence, he returned to his study and began to multiply his researches. Ultimately, in 1976, he published the much-enlarged two-volume Tibetan language version of his history, a work I am presently translating and annotating for publication. In many senses, Tsepon Shakabpa provided both a public face for Tibet throughout the middle third of the 20th century and an enduring voice for posterity. He died in 1989.

Since then, a new generation of the Shakabpa family has stepped into the public light. The historian’s son, Tsoltim Ngima Shakabpa, popularly known as “T.N.”, was born in Tibet in 1943, was educated in India and the United States, served the government-in-exile in India, and enjoyed a successful career in banking. Serious medical difficulties in the 1990s left T.N. physically disabled, after which he retired to southern California. At the same time, he has come to provide a new voice giving expression to the human experience of the Tibetan people, whose are through the last century and more has been mirrored in the family narrative. Thus, T.N.’s poetry speaks to many of the most deeply felt dimensions of life that have characterized the paths of his fellow Tibetans. He passionately evokes the challenges of exile: sorrow at the loss of a birthplace, the painful struggle to find comfort in a new land, and the bifurcated feeling of being caught between a homeland and an adopted country. He calls forth the Tibetan quest for liberty and freedom with images of a nun in a Chinese prison, arresting visions of torture, and a protest against the recent construction of a railway line from Beijing to Lhasa. Equally, he conveys Buddhist ideas such as his embrace of the clarifying power of karma, the yearning for the “rhapsody of light” that is nirvana, and the tension between anger at China and the Buddhist value of compassion towards one’s enemy. And T.N. moves beyond a specifically Buddhist or Tibetan sensibility to the universality of the human condition when he speaks of hope in the face of old age and physical suffering. T.N. is able to turn his own struggle with the limitations of his disability into a feeling all people can recognize, the pangs that accompany the losses that mark all of our lives. A tone of sadness hangs over the poems in this collection, but there is also hope and a resolute determination to endure, to survive, and to transcend. Just as Tsepon Shakabpa served as a voice for Tibet in an earlier time, his son has found a way to capture many facets of the experience of exile, both the loss of a homeland experienced by Tibetans and the human experience of our exile from our own, more ideal past.

About the Author

Born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1943 and educated in Tibet, India and the United States, Tsoltim Ngima Shakabpa, known popularly as “T.N.”, served the Tibetan Government-in-Exile as a Managing Director of the Tibetan Industrial Rehabilitation Society, a simi-Tibetan government agency, and successfully resettled 7,000 Tibetan refugees in small scale industrial projects in Himachal Pradesh in India. Later, he established an outstanding career as a senior American international banker and was also Chairman and President of an investment bank in Texas until he was struck with a heart-wrenching stomach cancer, Followed by a debilitating stroke in 1999.

Not one to succumb to such crushing setbacks, T.N. became the President of the Tibetan Association of Washington and founded the festival “TIBETFEST”, which to this day is one of Seattle City’s most outstanding annual festivals attracting over 100, 000 people. He has sixth book, is mostly about his motherland, Tibet, and about his love of nature and other captivating subjects and is a prolific and sensitive poet who write genuinely from the heart. He began writing poetry in English in 1967 and is one of the first Tibetans, if not the first, to write poetry in English.

T.N. has received many awards, among which were a CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION in 2002 from the Office of Tibet in New York for “His Service to the Tibetan Community in the State of Washington”, THE EDITORS CHOICE AWARD in 2005 from the International Library of Poetry for “Outstanding Achievement in Poetry”, and the MOST DISTINGUISHED ALUMNI AWARD in 2007 from the prestigious school, St. Joseph’s School, North Point, in Darjeeling (India) for “His Achievements and Service to His Community”.

Further, T.N. was featured in the book, THE BEST POETS AND POEMS OF 2003, and in the book, THE INTERNATIONAL WHO’S WHO IN POETRY, published in 2004.

T.N. is the Executive Director of TSEPON WANGCHUK DEDEN SHAKABPA MEMORIAL FOUNDATION, a non-profit organization established in memory of his late father, who was a world-renowned Tibetan historian, educator, statesman, freedom fighter and former Finance Minister of independent Tibet.

T.N. has two grown children, Wangchuk and Pema, who have established successful careers and continue to follow in their family’s legacy of fighting for Tibet’s freedom. He lives with his supportive wife, Vilma, in California.


Foreword xi
The Question of Autonomy For Tibetxv
Torn Between Two Countries1
Buddhist Philosophy2
Karmic Forces3
The Nun5
American Soldiers6
Old Age7
Time Is Ripe10
I See A Light13
At The Risk Of Life14
Tibetan Speak15
Yes, I Can!16
The Pearl Of Tibet18
The Rain19
Forgive Them, O Lord21
I See22
To My Countrymen Of Tibet23
Life’s Meaning Lost24
Precious Jewel25
River of Life26
Colorful Lies27
Freedom Slogan28
Forever Indebted29
Free As A Poem30
A Dictum For A Victim31
The Freedom Train32
My Tibet, My Tibet33
The Smoke34
Animal Talk35
An Ant’s Life37
The Iron Horse38
The If In Life39
Life And Death40
Sad World41
The Coming Of The Red Hawk42
Wedding Wishes43
Made In China46
The Freedom Train47
The Case You Forgot48
Sitting In A Chinese Prison52
Quotable Quotes54
China’s Agony56
A Plea To Save The Chinese57
A Relative Question58
A Simple Monk59
Upside Of Downside60
Haiku - 261
Red China62
Tibetan Burden63
Create Something Out of Nothing65
Telling The Truth66
Master Chef67
Cuddles, My Precious Partner68
The Soul Of Tibet70
Food For Thought71
Be Servant73
My Wife76
Quotable Quotes - 278
Om Mani Padme Hum79
Beatitudes Of Platitude & Multitudes of Gratitude82
Vision Of Death83
An Angel In My Life85
The Cigarette Smoke Or The Politics Of China86
The Red Volture87
Just You And Me88
The Weinrebs – A Life In Color89
A Stroke Victim’s Ambition90
Clock On A Wall91
The Old Man And Chenrezig92
Belly Of The Beast93
Dual Functions94
Just A Poet Am I 96
Lost Tibet97
The Eyes of Tibet99
Girl Next Door100
Dead People Running102
The Dark And Long Night105
Fr. G. Van Walleghem, S.J105
My Family106
I Pray107
I Feel Hopeful108
What Hath Communist China Wrought?111
PEMA: My Daughter, My Lotus Flower113
Eye On Tibet115
An Apple, Not An Orange116
Dead People Talking117
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