“WITH TIBET IN SIGHT: A TALE OF ONE MAN, HIS FLAG, AND THE DISPUTED TERRITORY THEY BOTH INHABIT”

Collection with 7 media items created by Andreanewilliams

20 Sep 2012 08:00

Nearly 14 000 feet above sea level, on the arid shores of Pangong “Tso” (lake), flies a lone Tibetan flag.

On occasion, travellers manage to make the 5-hour journey here from Leh during the short summer season, stopping at monasteries and roadside yurts along the way. And if they travel as far down the lakeside as possible - without stepping into Chinese territory - to the remote village of Spangmik, they will undoubtedly see it whipping about in the wind.

In democratic India, this flag's presence may seem benign - but on the opposite shore of Pangong Tso’s salty waters, lies Tibet; and just a few kilometers south of Spangmik, lies an army checkpost.

In such close proximity to Tibet, 68-year-old Tsering Dondup is literally flying the Tibetan flag in the face of China.

Pangong Lake sits on the Sino-India Line of Actual Control, with more than 60 per cent of its 134km length being under Chinese control.

Dondup, himself, first arrived in India in 1959 after his parents were killed in clashes with Chinese troops at the height Tibet’s occupation in the 1950s. Initially motivated to avenge the death of his parents, Dondup went on to join the Indian Army in Mussoorie, northern India, in 1968.

Fifteen years later, he met and fell in love with a young woman from Spangmik village. In 1989, they married.

He smacks his lips together and lets out a sigh, as he reflects on his relationship with his wife of 23 years. “My wife may be illiterate, but she loves me so deeply.”

Following his marriage, he became focused on creating a home - in plain sight of Tibet - with his new wife on the rocky banks of Pangong Tso.

But as a reminder of his past, Dondup flies a little piece of his history on the flagpole outside of his home, with the hope of one day returning to Tibet.

“I want to see the birds, the sheep, the horses. I want to see them again," he says. "Are they there, or not? I don’t know."

Tibet India South Asia Flag Pangong V Illage Army Villagers China Collection Photo Collec...

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WITH TIBET IN SIGHT
Pangong Tso Lake, India
By Katie Lin
20 Sep 2012

While Dondup’s desire to return to Tibet is strong and his nationalism clearly intact, he is also settled and content with the life that he has created in Spangmik village with his wife.
“Now absolutely I’m finishing my life,” he says. “I gave up my life [in Tibet]. I will stay here.”

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WITH TIBET IN SIGHT
Pangong Tso Lake, India
By Katie Lin
20 Sep 2012

Dondup is creative in expressing his allegiance to his former country – and to the cause for a free Tibet. Displayed atop clustered cupboards in the kitchen (and main living space) of his home, is a string of empty canisters, each painted with a bold yellow letter on its side. Lined up, they spell “FREE TIBET”.

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WITH TIBET IN SIGHT
Pangong Tso Lake, India
By Katie Lin
20 Sep 2012

The youngest of nine children and with no children of his own, Dondup's relationship with his wife is one that he cherishes greatly. “Love is blind,” he says, with a laugh. Indeed, love may be blind, but it was this woman's good looks that initially drew the young soldier's attention to her. The two married on December 10, 1989 - a particularly auspicious day for Dondup, as Tibet's spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on that day.

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WITH TIBET IN SIGHT
Pangong Tso Lake, India
By Katie Lin
20 Sep 2012

Both of Dondup’s parents were killed in clashes with Chinese troops during the occupation of Tibet in the 1950s, and, shortly after their loss, he found himself among thousands of Tibetans who fled to India during the mass exile of 1959. “I joined the army in 1968 because I wanted revenge,” he explains, of his reasons for joining the Indian Army.

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WITH TIBET IN SIGHT
Pangong Tso Lake, India
By Katie Lin
20 Sep 2012

Dondup came to live in this extremely remote region of India in 1989, after he married a Ladakhi woman from Spangmik. At the time, the village was only a third of the size it is today - meaning that it was comprised of a mere three households. The now nine-households-big village includes the home that he shares with his wife of 23 years.

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WITH TIBET IN SIGHT
Pangong Tso Lake, India
By Katie Lin
20 Sep 2012

Sitting at over 4200m above sea level, Pangong Tso is the world’s highest saltwater lake – but
it also sits on the Sino-India Line of Actual Control. Only 5 kilometers in breadth (at its widest point) and with more than 60 per cent of its 134km length being under Chinese control, Pangong Tso has long been a disputed area that requires strict security measures. These include “Inner Line Permits” for visitors and restrictions against boating.

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WITH TIBET IN SIGHT
Pangong Tso Lake, India
By Katie Lin
20 Sep 2012

“WITH TIBET IN SIGHT: A TALE OF ONE MAN, HIS FLAG, AND THE DISPUTED TERRITORY THEY BOTH INHABIT”

Nearly 14 000 feet above sea level, on the arid shores of Pangong “Tso” (lake), flies a lone
Tibetan flag.

On occasion, travellers manage to make the 5-hour journey here from Leh during the short
summer season, stopping at monasteries and roadside yurts along the way. And if they travel as
far down the lakeside as possible - without stepping into Chinese territory - to the remote village
of Spangmik, they will undoubtedly see it whipping about in the wind. 

In democratic India, this flag's presence may seem benign - but on the opposite shore of
Pangong Tso’s salty waters, lies Tibet; and just a few kilometers south of Spangmik, lies an army
checkpost.

In such close proximity to Tibet, 68-year-old Tsering Dondup is literally flying the Tibetan flag in
the face of China. 

Pangong Lake sits on the Sino-India Line of Actual Control, with more than 60 per cent of its
134km length being under Chinese control.

Dondup, himself, first arrived in India in 1959 after his parents were killed in clashes with Chinese
troops at the height Tibet’s occupation in the 1950s. Initially motivated to avenge the death of his
parents, Dondup went on to join the Indian Army in Mussoorie, northern India, in 1968.

Fifteen years later, he met and fell in love with a young woman from Spangmik village. In 1989,
they married.

He smacks his lips together and lets out a sigh, as he reflects on his relationship with his wife of
23 years. “My wife may be illiterate, but she loves me so deeply.”

Following his marriage, he became focused on creating a home - in plain sight of Tibet - with his
new wife on the rocky banks of Pangong Tso.

But as a reminder of his past, Dondup flies a little piece of his history on the flagpole outside of
his home, with the hope of one day returning to Tibet. 

“I want to see the birds, the sheep, the horses. I want to see them again," he says. "Are they there, or not? I don’t know."

Tsering Dondup, 68, fled Tibet when he was just a young boy and hasn’t returned since – and yet
he sees his country everyday when he steps out of his home on Pangong Tso, which occupies a
section of the border between India and Tibet. It is obvious that his relationship with his birthplace
is tenacious. “In India, it is a democracy – we are living very peacefully and happy,” he says of the
country which received him and more than 80 000 other Tibetans in 1959. “But I remember my
country.”