Tenzin Jampa, is a Tibetan student born and raised in India. Currently an undergraduate at MIT, Cambridge, US shared his pain of being stateless in the world of nation-states.
“There is one question that I dread with every new meeting that comes and that is the question of Where do you come from?” said Jampa. Sharing his pain to Tibet Rights Collective (TRC), Jampa said that he gets jitters while answering that he is a Tibetan refugee living in India.
He says that they might say “Oh then, do you come from Tibet?” “No, not really. I was born in India but my parents fled Tibet when they were in their teens.” “Oh, then are you an Indian citizen?” “Not really, I am stateless.” “Oh…”
Tibet is a prime example of this 21st-century phenomenon of statelessness in a world of nation-states.
Jampa says that he had so many conversations like this that occasionally his mind has an auto-pilot nature to it when fending these questions.
Sometimes it seems almost like a script out of a boring sitcom of a scene where the strange but charismatic (incredibly specific, I know) young stranger greets the main family and is questioned about his ancestry, says Jampa.
Jampa says that fending these questions off is not what he fears, “I fear the fact that I will be reminded once again that I have no solid answer to the question of Where do you come from?”
What is someone’s national identity? And how can one feel it so strongly yet have no proof to show for it. Is it just a common land, a common government, a common birth that hands you your identity? Is it an invisible collar that is tied the moment you are born?
What is it and where does it come from? Someone calls themselves American, Indian, Chinese.
Jampa says that if he calls himself a Tibetan, a question arises that Tibet is no more regarded as a country.
Americans have America, Britishers have their UK, so do Indians, their India but what do the Tibetans have? We have nothing but empty talks and legends of a prosperous and free past, says Jampa.
“I feel sad, dejected, and hopeless. I grieve though I don’t show. I cry but rarely through my eyes. I break down but only in my heart. I know, at least, that I have a right over these emotions. I own these emotions and they rise through me. So then can my grief attest to my Identity? This grief. This unending illness.
This ever prescient spectre of hopelessness and disappointment. This is my pain, a pain entirely mine over my fellow suffering Tibetans,” said Jampa.
Jampa lamented over the fact that sociologists have their theories, anthropologists have their conjectures, and philosophers have their thoughts but none of them has been able to quench this thirst of mine (which state he belongs to).
“If it was as simple as a piece of document, I would abandon my Stateless situation as soon as I can, pledge to a proper country and sleep happily,” said Jampa.
“Sociologists have their theories, anthropologists have their conjectures, Philosophers have their thoughts but none of them has been able to quench this thirst of mine (or at least for now). If it was as simple as a piece of document, I would abandon my Stateless situation as soon as I can, pledge to a proper country and sleep happily,” added Jampa.
He said that the status of Tibetans matches that of refugees.
“We have a saying back in the exile community that we are born with the letter R (for Refugee) engraved on us. I don’t know the origin of it nor from whom and exactly when I heard of it. As a kid, I never really paid much attention and thought that deeply of it. But as I grow, I understand it more and more. It seems to me, as I think right now, to be a remarkable insight, packaged in throwaway sayings, of our exile condition. Almost like a birthmark, a natural tattoo, this letter R will be invisible but will persist with you for ages to come. No one will naturally see it but you will look in the mirror and see the inked R,” said Jampa.