From Thondup, the current Dalai Lama’s elder brother, a personal perspective on the history of Tibet since the Chinese occupation.
Both proud Tibetan nationalists, Thondup and the Dalai Lama were decidedly separated at birth. The Dalai Lama was destined to “cultivate and practice love, tenderness, compassion and tolerance,” while Thondup has been well-versed in the grittiness of international political intrigue: “I do not care whether the people I work with are good or bad, whether I like them or dislike them. I just try to carry out my work.” Thondup tells his story to China specialist Thurston, who delivers plenty of her own opinions in the introduction and the afterword. Thondup doesn’t forgo family history—there is excellent background on the famed Kumbum Monastery and the Yellow Hat sect of the Gelugpa school of Buddhism—nor his latest incarnation: “I am known here as the noodle maker of Kalimpong.” But in between, the author chronicles a life of vibrant activity, which, depending on one’s political persuasion, was heroic or ill-advised, though not self-aggrandizing. What emerges from the tales of his diplomacy and interlocution, shuttling among Tibet, China, Taiwan and India, wherever he was needed; the scheming and plotting with the CIA (“My role with the CIA weighs heavily on my conscience”); and the at-times overwhelming detail, is that Thondup is a progressive Tibetan, a foe of the entrenched elite and a friend of the workingman—though he often found himself in the wrong place, with the wrong people at the wrong time. Additionally, elements of the story are hard to believe, most glaringly that the Dalai Lama had no knowledge of CIA involvement in Tibetan resistance, as well as the claim of foreign-instigation behind the recent riots (both of which Thurston notes).
A thorough but not always convincing story of foreign intrigue.