Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
Okay, you Gereheads and groupies. I know I promised the photos of His Silverheadedness Richard Gere last week.
Well, I finally uploaded them today! See Gerespotting, below!
Feringhee: The India Diaries: Gerespotting
Today's installment really isn't a blog. It's a political op-ed piece. Robert will hate it. But, I feel it's important. All over town the Tibetan Women's Association and others are gearing up for the Panchen Lama's birthday, tomorrow. Here is the piece I published about it, on Newsvine.
At right is the only available photo of the Panchen Lama, taken when he was six years old. Today, he is eighteen. He has not been seen for twelve years.
Imagine, as a six-year-old, being recognized by the Dalai Lama as the incarnation of a revered Tibetan lama.What a great honour! Your family is so proud. Your whole community celebrates!
Then, a few months later, imagine being kidnapped (along with your parents) by a communist government, known for its brutality to its own citizens. You live the next 12 years under house arrest, and don't know where your parents are.
The months run into years. Perhaps you don't even know that it is your 18th birthday.
If only you could know that across the world, particularly in India, people are pasting up your photo, shouting your name, holding protests and candlelight vigils.
The only photo ever released of you - as a ruddy-cheeked five year old with a shock of black hair - adorns walls, stickers and flyers all over Delhi, Dharamsala, Bhopal, and other cities.
You spend your 18th birthday in silence and solitude as thousands, far away, chant your name.
Tomorrow (April 25) is the birthday of the Panchen Lama.
Gendun Chokyi Nyima, aka the "Panchen Lama," was, at the time of his disappearance by the Chinese Government, the world's youngest political prisoner. His only crime is that he was recognized as the incarnation of an historically powerful Tibetan lama - one who was traditionally instrumental in identifying successive Dalai Lamas. Therein lies Gendun's worth to the Chinese government.
Traditionally, only the Panchen Lama can truly identify a newly incarnated Dalai Lama. This is their way of preventing the lineage of Dalai Lamas, and thus, genuine Tibetan Buddhism itself, from continuing.
Remember "Free Nelson Mandela"? Eventually it worked, didn't it? Why can't we at least try to do the same thing with the Panchen Lama - the world's youngest political prisoner?