High Peaks Pure Earth is publishing the English translation of a poem written by Tashi Rabten (pen name: Theurang) and presented to his close friend Shokjang upon his release from prison.
Exile Tibetan poet Bhuchung D. Sonam translated the poem after seeing the above image of the poem on social media. Writer and poet Theurang hand wrote the poem for Shokjang on a piece of felt rug and presented it to Shokjang upon his release from prison on March 19, 2018. On the first and, to date, only photo of Shokjang after release that was circulated by their friend, Switzerland based Golog Jigme, Shokjang can be seen holding the scroll and Theurang is standing beside him.
Theurang and Shokjang were arrested in 2010 together and kept in opposite cells in a detention centre. They had both collaborated on a literary journal titled “Eastern Snow Mountain” (Shar Dungri) which was subsequently banned. Theurang was to go on to serve four years in prison for his writings. In April 2015, Theurang recalled how their friendship started:
We were in the same class in college. Initially, we had some online exchanges of views and disagreements. Later, incidentally, we became roommates in college, and then and there, we became very close friends. We helped each other in our works and inspired and encouraged one another in our aspirations. Over the years, we remained friends loyal to each other through thick and thin. I truly hold this friendship in high regard. Shokjang is not only a principled and dependable person; he is also a young, intelligent and spirited mind imbued with many dreams and aspirations.
Our heartfelt thanks goes to Bhuchung D. Sonam for the translation.
You Who Bear the Sins of Your Dreams
For my Friend Shokjang
It is not possible for the cold sun to give you warmth
Nor can it fill the crannies of your hardened bones,
In the dark of the night a bright light shines
You alone are that light –
After the turquoise locks are shorn, magnificent braids of fire
Grow on the crown of your sublime wisdom,
Where wings sprout on the branches of all senses,
A nation of activism gathers in your chest –
Just as space is vultures’ stronghold
That space is your fortress too,
Lifting the sun with your hands
The country in the rays follows your lead.
But today, you and your country reside in darkness
This darkness is the river you cut across, and
The throat of that river is clogged in your heart –
Sins of seeing the snowmountain from your birth
Have given you dreams of torture that cannot be waived,
Today, carrying these sins you write your destiny
Write it with radiance and darkness
Write it with the moving path of suffering –
This evening, I heard a song,
This evening, perhaps you are listening to a song too,
In the rising peak of the jungle of darkness,
The song spreading like the rays of the sun is Rangwang Gawa* –
Rangwang Gawa is the clear imprint of your spirit,
Your hands of your wisdom subduing the pain and sorrow,
Your song of vowels and consonants clearing the throats,
Your dreams of destiny that will remain even after your death,
The sun you etched in the heart of the snowmountain …
Translated by Bhuchung D. Sonam
* Rangwang Gawa, meaning “Freedom Loving One”, is the name of Shokjang’s son who was about a year old when Shokjang was arrested.
This post is also available in: English
Regarding the caption for the second picture, it is not a sheepskin scroll the poem is written on, but a piece of felt rug (phying pa).
Thank you for the correction, we shall amend the post! HPPE
I wonder about the cultural significance of felt, and especially white felt. Can you say a word on that?
Hi Dan, thanks for your comment. One view is that the white felt represents the purity of their friendship. Felt is produced traditionally by Tibetans themselves in that region. Hats, rugs and even chupas are made of felt. HPPE editor.