Let me say that loudly: FREE TIBET.
Why did Tenzin Tsundue -- that's his name, this passionate fellow -- do this, and why at the Oberoi? Because the Chinese premier, Zhu Rongji, was in town. He and his entourage were guests at the hotel. "In no time," Tenzin told MidDay, "every window on the entire floor had a Chinese face looking at me. I was proud to show them the Tibetan flag. That one moment was worth it all."
Some of Bombay's finest eventually dragged Tenzin off the scaffolding and into custody. But Tenzin had made his point. He had reminded the Chinese premier, his entourage, and those Indians who cared to notice, that Tibet will not be swept under some bland Chinese carpet, forgotten forever.
Yet what drives a man to take a risk like that to make a point like this? After all, the most familiar response to mention of Tibet, or to incidents like this one, is indifference and a certain scorn. Far easier, you see, to disparage commitment like that than try to come to grips with the cause it represents. As Tenzin himself wrote in MidDay: "We know we are fighting a losing battle, with the world having given up on us." (Note that that didn't stop him from his climb).
Why should the world have given up on people like Tenzin? Why should India?
Well, partly because of a breed that likes to call themselves hawks. You know, those fellows who mouth profundities such as "jis ki lathi, us ki bhains" ("he who has the stick owns the buffalo"; or, as MS Golwalkar once told us, "a not-so-graphic translation into English would be, 'might is right'"). Apparently the rest of us should nod our heads at such ditties, recognizing that they capture the essence of that thing called "realpolitik" that drives the working of the world. China has taken over Tibet, it has now built a spectacular railroad in there, it is a powerful country, so why waste time considering the plight of a few hundred thousand Tibetans?
And yet, for all their knowledge of how the world works, the hawks forget the innumerable lessons of history, of a thousand struggles for freedom and justice. Of our own Indian struggle for freedom, the battle that defined us as a nation.
After all, the British definitely owned all the lathis. Where would we be today if the hawks had surveyed the scene, announced that might was right, and convinced such Indian heroes as Azad, Lala Lajpatrai, Bhagat Singh and Tilak -- not forgetting Patel, Gandhi and Nehru -- to give up the fight? To give up because what they were doing was, given the ownership of the lathis, futile?
Luckily, they didn't. Despite the lathis, India won freedom.
And that's why I admire people who climb scaffolding.
It is convenient these days for us Indians to deal with China, open passes for trade, welcome its assorted leaders when they visit, admire its progress and development. And hey, they recognize our accession of Sikkim, we recognize theirs of Tibet, simple. Realpolitik all over again, quid pro something or the other. Besides, we are desperate to emulate China's progress -- seen the "10 Wonders of the New China" message that's making the rounds? -- so we prefer to gaze at that, whatever it is. Tibet? What's that?
Only, the world really doesn't work that way. So again, that's why I admire guys who climb scaffolding and unfurl banners.
Say it with him today, World Tibet Day: