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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Opinion: Moustache in freedom struggle

August 20, 2010

Tenpa Dhargay Gapshi
August 16, 2010

Is it just me or does it not seem like most of
the prominent Rangzen activists almost always
spot a nice thick moustache, a Tibetan version of
Tom Selleck look if you will, that is rather
legendary in its own rights? Lets go by the
number, shall we? Andruk Gompa Tashi, the last
commander general of Tibet, and the leader of
Chushigangdruk, had a striking one. Lhasang
Tsering la has one as we all know which he has
nicely complimented with a beard giving him the
Ho Chi Min look. Jamyang Norbu la has one and it
created quite a stir during the recent Toronto
Tibetan film festival and I will come back to
that one later. Tenzin Tsundue has one and
although it is not as robust and well conditioned
as the aforementioned legends of our movement, it
is inevitable that through the years it will also
harden and develop into another enviable one. I
think Tendor is just bidding his time and waiting
for the right occasion to make a big entrance.
Before everybody starts stammering and protesting
with the "but. but. Lhadon," I am going to have
to stop you there and let you in a little secret:
Lhadon also has a nice moustache hidden somewhere
in her purse and it is made out of fine Yak hair.
Rumour has it that she puts it on at night to get
energized and centered. Now I am not necessarily
naive enough to believe that such facial hair
could embue a person with remarkable eloquence,
insight, and passion, but it is a tantalizing thought nonetheless.

Physically, it lends the bearer a certain level
of purpose, a seriousness in intent, gravitas if
you will, especially when it bristles in anger
and refuses to move with the prevailing wind. It
was no accident that men proudly embraced it as a
sign of manhood leading to bizarre and bold
displays of moustaches throughout the ages with
remarkable levels of exaggeration. Have you seen
pictures of the 13th Dalai Lama? People say it
was those piercing eyes that created the aura of
invincibility and majesty around his presence but
I suspect it is actually the moustache that sort
of stops the observer's gaze from dipping below
the lips and the pointy Salvador Dali trajectory
help direct the attention back to the eyes, thus
creating the mystic around those eyes. Now you
know. It may appear comical in this day and age
but then again one day teenagers in the future
will laugh at the low hanging pants of today. It
is relative really. Maybe, it adds extra pressure
on the upper lips and naturally when the bearer
struggles with this extra weight and speaks at
the same time, it does something to the words and
sentences, and instills in them with the quality
of the ongoing conflict, which as we know
animates it further and the audience somehow,
without knowing why, identifies with it on a sub conscious level.

Artistically, it creates another level of
complexity to the person, another level of
mysteriousness and divides the face into proper
sequences and gives the artist something to work
with. My friend Dorjee the photographer or as I
endearingly called him Dorjee Parpa, who is not
only the best Tibetan photographer around but
also one of the sexiest man alive (his words, not
mine), had a great time taking Jamyang la's
portrait yesterday because of that unique appeal.
It is especially helpful when your hair is
receding and gives the observer somewhere to stop
when they look at you. Otherwise, the face keeps
getting longer and longer with the passing years
and your speech adopts the forlorn nature of the
countenance itself. As an observer you keep
getting lost in the plainness of the visage and
end up not paying attention to what the person is
actually saying. And that is definitely not good
for our kind of activism where we have to fight
for media spots and public support.

Emotionally, I believe the bearer finds comfort
in its presence and as long as he believes in the
immutable powers latent within the hair
follicles, he is never alone as he sips his
morning coffee or the let the Jack Daniel linger
a little longer on the edges of his lips or when
he stokes it gently for further deliberation of
an idea. Although, it is not scientifically
proven, I definitely believe constant vibration
created through the gentle stroking sends signals
to the brain and creates extra neural pathways,
which will somewhat explain the powerful
personages who spot them. Now, that begs the
question as to whether the man makes the
moustache or the moustache wags the man? I say as
long as it results in a person of impeccable
fortitude and vision, who really cares.

Whatever it maybe, it definitely has an effect on
people. Now, it isn't something that I had been
thinking about for a long time because that would
be rather silly and a complete waste of my time.
I just happen to notice this phenomenon at the
end of the Tibetan film festival yesterday when
it hit me in an aha! sort of way. At the end of
the screening for Tenzin and Ritu's impressive
film, 'The Sun Behind the Cloud' (A must watch
film), Jamyang la had just finished a rather
'exciting' Q & A session as part of the
conclusion for Toronto Tibetan film festival,
when SFT members and their junior volunteers
wanted to take a picture with the man of the
hour. What made it hilarious and caught me by
surprise was that each one of them had adopted a
paper moustache in his honor. Although Jamyang la
was besides himself with pretend outrage and
claimed he was being lampooned, he was in reality
grinning from ear to ear and quite proud to be
surrounded by the youngest of the freedom
fighters and the future leaders of our nation -
the reason why the Tibetan flame will never die.
And in a surreal sort of way, I observed the
quiet passing of the Rangzen torch down to the
youngest generation and nothing was more apt then
the symbolic Rangzen moustaches. I wouldn't be
surprised if it started popping up in Tibet
itself and becomes an unspoken banner of defiance
for the meaker part of the population who instead
of hoisting a flag and drawing unnecessary
attention toward themselves, simply carry instead
a rather ostentatious moustache in its place. The
fairer sex could utilize their thump and index
finger over their mouth to indicate where they
stand whenever foreigners happen to pass by or
start taking pictures. Now, I am not saying one
wouldn't be an effective Rangzen activist if one
fails to grow a sufficiently lustrous facial hair
or that one just needs to spot one and
immediately one becomes a leader overnight
because that would be ridiculous. What I am
saying though is all things being equal it
definitely wouldn't hurt to have it in your back
pocket. And yes, I know I don't have a moustache
but I have put in an order for a nice one from
the same place Lhadon purchased hers. It will have to do for now.
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