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 Mr. Thinley Umawa, Terminology Section of Department of Education,CTA.
Social Media Executive (SME): Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
Thinley Umawa (TU): I was born to a middle-class family in Phenpo, Lhasa, Tibet. I am the second youngest of ten children. As a young child, after finishing my elementary school, I was admitted to a (Chinese) government-run boarding school one mile away from my home. That school has not been a healthy environment for me. Because I was the youngest and smallest boy in my dormitory and I remember I was frequently bullied and made fun of by the older inmates. So, I often skipped classes or ran away. Each morning after my escape attempts, my dad would drag me by hand back to the school. I remember, one day as we were walking back together, I walked a few steps behind my dad, who was preoccupied, fingering prayer beads in one hand and saying mantras. I stopped walking. He did not notice and continued towards the school. I turned and ran. All of a sudden he snapped out of his trance and yelled after me, but I did not stop or look back. Afraid to go home and face my punishment, I spent the whole day hiding around my home before finally being lured back by the comforts of hot food and a bed. I got a slap from my mom; but my dad never said a word to me. Such memories are many.
In fifth grade, I made the decision to drop out of the school and that was a major turning point for me. Afterwards, my parent sent me to Lhasa for monastic education under the supervision of my eldest brother who was already there as a doctor. It was in Lhasa that I began to understand that Tibet was occupied. Oftentimes the younger students would talk about the occupation secretly in small groups with only some surface knowledge of it. I also saw Hindi movies for the first time and was transfixed by the beauty of the landscape and the apparent happiness of the people there. These factors increased my dissatisfaction with China. Occasional demonstrations in Lhasa alerted me to the Tibetan freedom struggle as well. The first time I saw a Tibetan national flag was during a protest at the main square in front of the Jokhang Temple and I did not know what it was until someone explained it to me. It was hanging high above the main gate of the temple in such a way that the Chinese police were having a lot of difficulty getting it down. Meanwhile old people were glancing at the flag with a long look, secretly and silently praying and circumambulating the temple. I watched from a distance as the police yelled for the protestors to stop and then dropped tear gas. I saw many children lost their parents in the resulting confusion. Some tear gas came towards me and I fell to the ground, unable to open my eyes. One of my elder brothers also participated in the 1989 uprising in Lhasa and got imprisoned.
Bored and dissatisfied with the unstable life, I sought other forms of entertainment in the surrounding city. I often would escape secretly from my class and go roller-skating with other friends. I developed a passion for it and became quite talented. It was at that time that I was trapped into the environment of smoking and drinking in Tibet as alcohol and cigarettes were very cheap there due to Lhasa being almost a tax free zone for such products. According to a sight witnessed by my own eyes and felt by my own curiosity, there were roads of attracting brothels and ball rooms run by girls from China where one can get a flesh of his choice like a butcher selects sheep in a sheep pen, and there were also many free soft corners where some Tibetan young little girls hook their customers to boost their carefree daily life. Deadly gang fights were a kind of fashion in the then Lhasa. When I look back now, the loose restriction for such things in Lhasa is a bad and visionary policy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) missioned to ruin the life of Tibetan youth there. Now I think that the CCP doesn’t care and worry much about other things except political issues.
In mid-December, 1996 I escaped to India with a guided group. This has really been a milestone in my life. (To know more about my escape into exile, tap the link here: THE ESCAPE: A MILESTONE IN MY LIFE )
Upon reaching India, I was enrolled in TCV Suja in 1997. For the first few years in India, I was unable to get in touch with my parents. They only knew I was alive because a pilgrim who lived near my family in Tibet had tracked me down and told my parents that I was okay. Needless to say, the first phone conversation which occurred in the eighth grade was emotional.
That same year I received an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a privilege granted to all the new-comers from Tibet. It was something special. I couldn’t look up…I cried a little, most of the guys in our group cried. It felt like a dream, both happy and sad moments at the same time. Sometimes I feel so unlucky that I am in exile, getting older and older in exile without a single family member with me for decades is mentally so tough and bitter. But, that time I felt very lucky, because I am the only person in my family who could see His Holiness in person.
In 2003 our batch was transferred to TCV upper for our further class 10 studies. After getting my AISCE class 10 result, I decided to take arts stream as my career study, because I am interested more in languages than science and commerce. I joined TCV Gopalpur for my class 12 AISSCE certificate. Being a keen language learner, I thought it would be good for me if I could learn at least two languages with a standard height and found my way to the College for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah through entrance exam. After four years, I was honoured with a mtho rim rig gnas rab ‘byams pa (མཐོ་རིམ་རིག་གནས་རབ་འབྱམས་པ།) degree in Tibetan Language, Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan history, and poetry. At the same time I took Correspondence Courses at Delhi University in English, world history, education, and political science. I completed my college life in 2010 and volunteered to serve RTYC Dharamshala for one year after being elected as the Public Relation Officer.
In 2011, I sat in the civil service exam and got selected. For the first two years I was assigned as the in-charge of the Tibet Museum through which I gained a lot of experiences in public speaking and got opportunity to visit almost all over India during our travelling exhibition programs.
In 2013, I was transferred to the Department of Education and I served in the counselling section for another two years.
At the end of 2015, I came to know that there was a staff recruitment open examination for the Terminology Section and I jumped at the opportunity and got selected. This is my 6th year at my present post.
SME: Please explain your job description and how best does your work represent you or vice versa?
TU: My job can be explained in four parts as follow:
- To search generally used and modern terms, translate their definitions and prepare drafts for the High-level Tibetan Terminology Standardising Committee Meeting held thrice a year, members of which are nominated and assigned by the Kashag.
- To give light to the old and extant terms in the Buddhist text (Kagyur and Tengyur) and make extensive use of them accordingly.
- To combine and edit the standardised terms and publish them in the yearly publication “Glossary of Standardized terms”.
- To give outreach awareness talk on the importance of Tibetan terminology and its standardising process by visiting different Tibetan settlements, schools and institutions.
Every day, I am learning something new from my work and every morning of the week days. When I go to my office, I always think as if I go to a school to learn something new. To be honest, I started learning the best from the day I practically started working.
SME: What inspired you to serve the Central Tibetan Administration?
TU: Our tragic history, the hardships shouldered by His Holiness and our older generations, and the love and care I received from the CTA and TCV have pushed me up to serve the CTA. What I am now is all because of CTA and TCV. So, it’s my moral responsibility to give something back.
SME: What does it mean for you to be a CTA civil servant?
TU: For me, being a CTA civil servant is a big opportunity to serve our community and build up my capacity as well. I am so happy for that I could serve the CTA for the 10 best years of my life so far.
SME: How best do you think that you could make a difference to CTA?
TU: Doing my job with sincerity and looking at the things with a positive thought could make a difference to CTA.
SME: Who is your role model and why?
TU: All those who help others without any expectation in return are my role models. Because their love and action are unconditional and unbiased.
SME: What is your piece of advice for young Tibetans serving or wishing to serve at CTA?
TU: For those who are currently serving CTA, I would like to suggest them not to stop learning. In my observation, I saw some staff stopped reading and writing after getting a job and settling down with a family. I think this is not really nice.
For those who wish to serve at CTA, I would like to suggest them do not come to CTA if they want to earn only money. However, if they want to serve and get satisfaction, then I think CTA is a good platform for them. Once they joined the CTA, I request them to serve it at least for five years with sincere dedication.