“Every individual is unique, and everyone can make difference if one works with pure intention and dedication,” says Tenzin Pema
Every first Saturday of the month, as a part of its shout-out campaign, DIIR’s Social Media Desk will be profiling a civil servant of Central Tibetan Administration. This week we are pleased to profile Ms Tenzin Pema, Joint Secretary at the Department of Education of Central Tibetan Administration.
Social Media Executive: Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
Tenzin Pema: Tashi Delek. I am Tenzin Pema, and I am 38 years old. I am a mother of three girls. I was born to humble parents who were school teachers by profession, and I am blessed with four younger siblings. Seeing my parents’ profession the best throughout my childhood, my all-weather aim was to become a good teacher like them. I did my schooling till Middle School in my hometown Mainpat and continued higher secondary in Dalhousie. Though not very deserving, received ‘Best Girls’ award’ twice from DoE in both the schools, where I carried out the responsibilities of girls’ school captain in Mainpat and house prefect in Dalhousie. After completing my schooling, I went to Darjeeling where my parents were transferred, and there, I did my bachelor’s degree at St. Joseph’s College. During that time, I was elected as the General Secretary of RTYC Darjeeling, from where I acquired a wonderful experience. When I was in the first year, we the five siblings became semi-orphans. Our beloved amala passed away at the age of 45 after a prolonged illness, which was indeed an irreparable loss to our family. But the loss ultimately taught me the biggest lesson of life, everything is impermanent though appears eternal. After my graduation, I went to Mundgod, where my pala was again transferred there from Darjeeling. While staying with my family, I taught Basic English and Tibetan languages to young monks of Nyingma monastery for a year, and surprisingly, there was only one Tibetan monk student in the whole class of around twenty. However, it was another enriching experience. Then following my dream to become a school teacher, I went to Loyola College of Education in Sikkim to do my Bachelor of Education.
Social Media Executive: Please explain your job description and how best does your work represent you or vice versa?
Tenzin Pema: After one-year training as a teacher, I applied for a teaching post in TCV schools, about which I had heard many encouraging and tempting comments. Luckily I received a very prompt response from the concerned office, which directed me to go to TCV School at Suja. Though I had never heard about the name of the place at that time but was overjoyed and excited to embark on my journey as a teacher. The school was indeed exceptional. The school atmosphere was so vibrant that none could sit idly. It was always a pleasure to all the teachers that students were so diligent and keen to learn that teachers happily spent extra time and energy in quenching their thirst for knowledge. Unlike the Nyingma Monastery, the entire students’ population of the school was Tibetan, especially new arrivals from Tibet. During my stay in TCV school Suja as an English and Social Science teacher for around three and half years, I am not sure how much I could have contributed to the school, but I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot with my students, colleagues and heads. Along with one of my colleagues, I have voluntarily initiated ‘Veg. Club’ which mainly takes care of all the stray dogs in and around the school. In other words, it was ‘compassion in action’. Additionally, the club began publishing ‘Nyingjey’ magazine, in which, students were encouraged to think, discuss and write on topics related to compassion. That was again an attempt towards developing a compassionate heart and reflecting on compassionate thoughts and actions. My journey as a teacher couldn’t last long due to my deteriorating health. Therefore, I along with my husband had to bid adieu to Suja and left for Dharamshala, the capital city of Exile Tibetan community.
Subsequently, both of us were jobless for a time being but were ecstatic to be in ‘Dharamshala’. Soon, I got selected to the post of a project officer at Khawa Karpo Tibet Culture Centre, where I deeply enjoyed with a new job, new environment and new people. It was always a joy helping my colleagues typing the received handwritten opinions to be published in Bangchen Tibetan newspaper, during which I learnt typing Tibetan keyboard for the first time. Meanwhile, we had our first child, who deserved the best of everything. Being inexperienced parents then, we kept on learning and understanding the best child-rearing ideas and ways, and during that process, we deeply felt that we ought to give a quality time to our child. But work at office and chores at home often hindered me giving adequate time to her. Therefore, to be fair to our little daughter and the second unborn child, I resigned from the centre after working nearly three years, and showered full time and energy to our daughter and then the second daughter as well. Those nearly two years were the most luxurious moment for me as a mother. Though I was unwaged again for nearly two years yet lived a very hectic and fulfilling life with my little daughters.
My journey as a CTA’s civil servant began in mid-2011. I have always had a very high regard to CTA and have always perceived its civil servants as the most educated people in our community. At that period of time, I was actually not very confident to appear for the recruitment test of CTA civil servants, let leave for the higher post, but was firmly encouraged to do so by my husband. That was in January 2011, I was present in the examination hall for the interview, where the majority of the male candidates were in shining suits and ladies in elegant attires having a conversation with each other. I was a little nervous at one corner as I knew none over there to talk with. Additionally, the PSC Secretary simply said that almost fifty per cent of the candidates were already civil servants, and that amplified my nervousness. Then the most awaited day came when the result was declared. I was astonished. I topped the entrance test for the post of Deputy Secretary and was initially posted as a researcher at the Research and Analysis Centre under Security Department, later restructured and renamed as the Tibet Policy Institute. During my stay in TPI, I was deeply interested to do research on topics related to the Tibetan Language and got ample opportunities to share my research findings. Due to my interest in language and education, I have been transferred to Education Department in mid-2017, and since then, I have been working in Education Council as an officer in charge of projects related to BEP and Secular Ethics.
I have a long-cherished wish to pursue further studies so that I could contribute more and better to my community. So once, opportunity knocked my door in 2014 when I took part in the interview and got selected for a short-term course at Oxford University under the Jai Mukhi Scholarship through Education department. The course duration was favourable to me for being a mother of two children, but regrettably, I was unable to avail the opportunity due to my insufficient service years in CTA that time. However, I didn’t stop myself there. I went to British Council in Delhi the following winter and took the course on ‘Advanced level in English Evolution course’ for nearly one and half months. But sadly, the quality of teaching there was below my expectation. Then the following year in 2015, I enrolled myself for IGNOU programme to do M.A. in Education. But again being elected to the post of PTA President of my children’s school in 2016, I seldom got time to study and prepare for exams. Hence, I couldn’t even begin the course to date, but still, I have kept my dream to study alive.
Social Media Executive: What inspired you to serve the Central Tibetan Administration?
Tenzin Pema: Though I wished to be a school teacher, my destiny was somewhere else, which has brought me here in Dharamshala, and consequently became a civil servant in CTA. What I believe is that CTA, then the Tibetan government in exile, was established with dual purposes to restore freedom in Tibet and to look after the welfare of Tibetans in exile, giving priority and more importance to the earlier one. In the meantime, CTA is also responsible to protect, preserve and promote the Tibetan culture. Hence the cause itself inspires me to serve CTA to the best of my ability. Undoubtedly, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s continuous efforts towards the cause of Tibet greatly inspire me to serve CTA. His visionary words and actions always deeply touch my heart and motivate me to continue my service. Not to mention the spirit of Tibetans inside Tibet who are always ready to sacrifice their own precious lives for the cause. Additionally, I had an opportunity to work under such a truly selfless, humble, dedicated and highly educated civil servant like Kungo Thubten Samphel that I often get inspired to work harder. The youngsters really need to learn these ethics from our seniors like him. Those nearly six years working under him were a blessing for me as a civil servant.
Social Media Executive: What does it mean for you to be a CTA civil servant?
Tenzin Pema: For me, it means a lot to be a civil servant of CTA. Certainly, it’s a great opportunity to be serving in CTA. Simultaneously, I sincerely believe that we at CTA have an additional responsibility to set examples to our youngsters and public on putting words into action. We are supposed to have a clear vision of our struggle, and therefore, we ourselves ought to be committed to what we say to others. We are at such a platform where we play multiple roles of leader, parent, teacher, healer, etc. In the process of nurturing children, how the parents and teachers model themselves in front of them. Likewise, CTA leaders and civil servants ought to do so in front of the public. Therefore, CTA has the biggest responsibility towards the cause. It is the sole driver to take the Tibetan movement forward, and also the sole representative of Tibetans inside and outside Tibet. Hence, every one of us at CTA should be a source of inspiration and hope to all the Tibetans in Diaspora and within Tibet.
Social Media Executive: How best do you think you could make a difference to CTA?
Tenzin Pema: Every individual is unique, and everyone can make difference if one works with pure intention and dedication. It doesn’t need to be a very big and visible difference, but that could silently be made without trumpeting every now and then. As far as myself is concerned, I am committed to serving my community as long as my life and health permit. I am sure I can make a contribution to the cause in many small ways.
Social Media Executive: Who is your role model and why?
Tenzin Pema: None can deny the fact that ‘Role modelling’ is the most effective strategy to teach and lead the world. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, my Amala was the closest person to my heart. Along with genuine words of advice, she has always exemplified everything through her actions as well. I have seen how she managed everything smoothly without a single complaint. At the cost of several sacrifices, she was exceptionally successful in raising her children, looking after her parents, old grandmother and uncle, doing all the household chores, supervising workers in the field, taking the responsibility of (RTWA)Regional Tibetan Women’s Association’s President for two consecutive terms along with her teaching profession, and always helped everyone who had come to seek her help. She has always been a ‘Superwoman’ in my eyes. Everyone who knows her will surely agree with me. And I have always remained grateful to her for showing me the middle path to work sincerely for the community as well as for the family. Nevertheless, if every individual is successful in sowing a seed of a happy and healthy family, it naturally reaps manifold contribution towards the society at large.
Social Media Executive: What is your piece of advice for young Tibetans serving or wishing to serve at CTA?
Tenzin Pema: Generally speaking, life is too short and we must use this life sensibly for a good cause so that we won’t have guilt and regret when we leave this world. But specifically for Tibetans, we have an inherent moral responsibility to commit oneself for the cause. At the same time, there is a sense of contentment and joy within while serving one’s own community during its hardest time. This is to rejoice to have many youngsters these days in our community possessing high qualifications in academic fields. Hence I call upon you all to return to your roots. Definitely, there are many doors of opportunity opened for you, but the undeniable fact is that your expertise is more needed to CTA than any other developed countries. Nonetheless, you will have an esteemed platform to shine and sharpen your knowledge as well as to accumulate more virtues for yourself. So let’s make a commitment to put our hearts and souls into realising our dream, dream to return home. Bod Gyal-Lo.