Darjeeling, Dec. 3: Nothing — the prospect of prosecution, the biting cold, the arduous journey and not even the death of his son — could deter Samso Galbo from fleeing Chinese oppression, embracing freedom and answering the call of the Dalai Lama.
Now a wrinkled man of 70, Galbo’s frail frame belies the fire that burned in him 25 years ago when he began his 15-day trek to freedom through the uncharted territories of Tibet with his three sons.
“Chinese atrocities were mounting and there was no freedom in my hometown. Saddened by the circumstances and yearning to meet the Dalai Lama, I decided to flee Tibet and come to India,” said Galbo, as he readied to catch a glimpse of the spiritual leader at the St Joseph’s College ground.
He pauses as his memory fails him when tries to remember the day he set out. Then, events indelibly etched in his mind find vent in words. “It was a pitch dark night when I left my village Tashikang in East Tibet. My sons, Nima, Chowata Tenzing and Dawa, were with me. We were unsure of what the future held in store for us, but it was too late to turn back,” he said.
“We had trekked through the barren terrain for almost a week when were realised that our rations were on the verge of exhaustion, just like us,” he said.
A moment later, his face is lined with grief.
“Dawa fell ill. We were weeks away from medical assistance and knew our best bet would be to pray and keep going. My son’s health kept deteriorating. I watched as he weakened and then, one morning, breathed his last,” he recounted. “But life goes on. We performed his last rites and kept going.”
Galbo did not know then, but his trek was nearing its end. After a fortnight they reached Nepal and then arrived at Kathmandu. After resting their weary limbs for a few days, they set out for Darjeeling, to the Tibetan Refugee Centre.
Galbo’s sons are now working and Galbo himself is a tailor.
They have never visited their homeland since. “We might still have some relatives there, but freedom is more precious and I do not regret having fled my country. Here we do not live in fear of being harassed and that is something I would never want to give up. Only someone who has seen the dark side of being ruled by oppressors can value his freedom,” Galbo says.
And what about meeting the Dalai Lama'
His eyes sparkle and his face breaks into a wide smile. “I have met him in Varanasi, Bodh Gaya and a couple of other places,” he says.
“That is another great thing about freedom. You can go where you want to.”