ephel could smell the scent of old books and parchments. He glanced at the rows upon rows of scrolls that documented the humble history of the Tibetan people over a millennia. He decided to take one of the scrolls out and spread it on the wooden table between the aisles of the archives. As the document unrolled, it let off another strong scent of decaying paper. Much of the detailed scriptures were long since forgotten to Gephel, but he recognized the gist of it well enough.
As it happened, the document he had opened was a sort of short document written by one of the Lamas over a hundred years ago. It had an appropriate title... ‘The Path to Enlightenment’
Gephel smiled and shook his head. The path to enlightenment. Back when this document had been written, Tibet still enjoyed a sort of awkward protection with the British Raj in India. Its monasteries were free to pursue their theological and spiritual pursuits. This Lama author of this scroll was clearly pursuing his monastic ideals, unaffected by the happenings of the First World War on the other side of the planet. The mountains were pure back then, free of external interference except for the odd British mission or the wayward traveler in search of Shangri La. If only you knew what lay ahead...
“You are not supposed to touch these.”
Gephel turned his head to see a Lama staring at him from the entrance to the archives. He had the classic look of a monastery disciple. The bald head, the orange and yellow garbs and the peaceful serenity that seemed to envelop him like a halo.
Gephel carefully rolled up the document. “Sorry about that, I was simply absorbed by the moment.”
The Lama nodded but kept a stern face. He understood. Gephel was a fellow Tibetan living in exile in India, like every other free Tibetan still alive. The bond between them was strong. It had to be for their civilization to survive in these dark days.
Gephel finished rolling the document and placed it back in its place on the shelf. He faced the Lama again: “I am looking for Ngodup Sangyal.”
“He is here,” the Lama said and firmly but politely showed his hand towards a back door leading to a small garden behind the archives building. “Please.”
Gephel bowed gently and passed by the Lama towards the indicated door. The door led to some stone steps into the garden. A man in his late forties in a western shirt and trousers was waiting for him. His grey hair combed perfectly and he had an impeccable groomed look about him. The contrast with the Lama inside the archives was stark. Here was the Tibet of the twenty-first century mixed with that of the nineteenth century. A culture evolving within the same melting pot...
“Gephel,” Sangyal said as he put out a hand. “A pleasure to see you after so many years.”
Gephel shook Sangyal’s hand and smiled. “Same here. What has happened to you? Last time I saw you, you were still wearing a tongak
with your head shaved!”
Sangyal grinned and put a hand through his hair. “The new Tibet, my friend. The world changes, and we change with it.”
“I am not sure that’s a good thing!”
“Well,” Sangyal noted soberly, “what choice is there?”
Sangyal nodded his head towards a small path that went downhill. “Let’s take a walk.”
As the two men descended down the steps and entered the trees, the majestic Himalayas with their snow-capped tips towered in the background. The quiet murmur of the city of Dharamsala slowly died behind them. Gephel turned to see that the Lama that had escorted him out of the archives building now closed the door behind him. They were finally alone out here.
“So what’s on your mind?” Sangyal asked dryly.
“What is on everybody’s minds.”
“You came here to find out if we will fight the Chinese again,” Sangyal stated flatly. “Your friends in New-Delhi sent you here to ask us.”
the boys fight again?”
“Perhaps. You heard what Beijing is doing up there,” Sangyal said as he shook his head towards the Himalayas behind him. “But we can’t do it alone.”
Gephel took a deep breath and then looked at the majestic peaks that now separated him from his former home. After a few seconds, he turned to face Sangyal: “what do you need?”
“The usual suspects,” Sangyal replied. “Comms, explosives and intel are the highest priority items. Anti-vehicle weapons are the other major need. Can’t take on the Chinese without some ability to take down their legions of vehicles.”
“What about guns, ammo and food?”
“We have that in quantity. You would be surprised to see the kind of stuff that is available freely these days in the world market. The low tech stuff we have. The high-tech stuff needs to be obtained, preferably from your friends in Delhi.”
” Gephel nodded and then looked Sangyal in the eye: “Do you have enough to get things going or are you dead in the water?”
Sangyal recoiled at the insinuation: “oh
, we have enough to fight! With or without
your help!” Sangyal smiled: “besides, we still have quite a bit of supplies left over from the Pathfinder
Gephel raised an eyebrow: “you didn’t get rid of that stuff after all this time? You folks had explicit orders
to destroy the leftover stuff! Did you lie to us about that all these years?”
“We decided to hide it instead for a future time. Doesn’t seem so reckless now, does it?”
very reckless! It still
is,” Gephel responded angrily. “Even under today’s circumstances.” He then looked away and forced himself to calm down. He had underestimated the resourcefulness of his Tibetan friends. They were going to fight the Chinese. Gephel knew that for a certainty now.
“Right,” Gephel nodded after a few seconds of consideration, “you have enough to start a fire. But obviously things would go better if you were to get some support. What about manpower?”
“No shortage of volunteers there,” Sangyal admitted. “The youth all know what is happening in their occupied homes right now. They are itching to go if we can give them the tools.”
“Who’s leading them into Tibet?”
Sangyal smiled again: “Another friend of yours from the Pathfinder days.”
“And who on earth would that be? All of the men in my Pathfinder teams were accounted for ... except ... Major Ngawang
?” Gephel uttered abruptly. He received a silent nod from his Tibetan colleague. “Oh god!” Gephel cupped his chin with his hand and then proceeded to rub his face as well. Major Ngawang had been one of his officers during the original Pathfinder missions into Tibet a decade ago. He had retired from the Indian Army after the Pathfinder missions had been terminated at the end of the precipitous war with China that had followed their forays. Gephel knew that Ngawang had become embittered with India in the aftermath of that war. Tibet had not been ripped from Beijing’s hands. And unlike Gephel, who had continued to serve his new adopted nation’s military, Ngawang had disappeared from view entirely. Gephel had tried making contact over the years, but had never been able to trace him down. There were always some tidbits of news of him smuggling Tibetan families out of Tibet and into India, but never enough to pin him down. And yet, here he was, clear as daylight, leading Tibetan teams into Tibet to wage war...
“He was the logical choice,” Sangyal added. “The major had been leading teams into and out of Tibet through all the locations that the Chinese didn’t even know about. It was either him, or you. But you...”
?” Gephel interjected. “Too old? Working with the enemy?”
“You didn’t want to be part of the Tibetan struggle anymore,” Sangyal said soberly.
“Perhaps because there is no path to victory here,” Gephel replied. “All
the Chinese deaths we caused: what did it achieve? A nuclear war that devastated Bhutan. Tens of thousands of our fellow Tibetans tortured and executed in reprisals for our actions. Tens of thousands of Indian soldiers who died fighting the Chinese. And for what? Tibet remained with Beijing in the end.”
“And yet you chose to continue working for the Indians after all that,” Sangyal added. It was a verdict rather than a statement. A verdict that Gephel knew was shared by many others in his community here. Sangyal continued: “Ngawang was disillusioned by the Indians and came back to the fold. So did the others. You should have done the same ... but you didn’t.”
“I don’t have to explain my actions to you,” Gephel said as a wave of guilt swept up through his spine.
“Fine. Can you at least help us get what we need now?”
“I can make no guarantees,” Gephel added. “But I will convey the requirements. Before I leave, get me a detailed list of items and quantities you have on inventory now and what you will need.”
Sangyal nodded. “I will take care of it.”
“Good. What about Ngawang? Where is he now?”
Sangyal looked to the mountains behind them: “he’s out there. They have been out for almost ten days.”
Gephel was shocked. “You have already begun operations?”
Sangyal looked at Gephel: “Did you honestly think we would wait around for you and your Indian friends to decide the fate of our people? We have started with what we have on hand. If all goes well, you will be hearing about their actions soon enough.”