Towards the last two months of my last visit to India in the spring of 2012, I encountered the Tibetan community in exile in India experiencing painful news of their people self-immolating in fire one after another in China-occupied Tibet. My experiences in the past visits in India (drawing a cremation site in Varanasi, documenting fire pits, cremation alters, and contemplating on life and death around fire) synchronized with this particular movement, an extreme way of ‘offering’ their bodies to ‘fire’ for asking freedom and peace.I could not help drawing large and small drawings as emotional response and with a sense of mourning.

After coming back to Vancouver, the self-immolation kept happening and I felt that my personal and professional task is not finished.

I have come back to India to continue to document and draw under the same theme.

6 October 2016

Small sketches for Eyes Water Fire 1 - Walking in Flame

While I was drawing this, a profile of a monk whom I saw in Dharmsala in the fall of 2012 merged from my memory.  He, Karma Ngedon Gyatso, self immolated on August 6 2013 at sacred Boudhanath stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal.  

I remember  vividly seeing him 'walking'  with his arms using two wooden blocks, dragging his paralysed legs on the slope of Temple Road to the main temple in Dharamsala. I also happened to stand near him while there was a vigil ceremony after the all day protest on November 13th 2012. 
I was stunned to see the serene and pure look of his profile shone by brim light of the sunset.  I took a picture of him without him noticing me.  It was that very profile that came up in my mind while drawing.  

Despite the severe disability, before he left Tibet for exile, Karma Ngedon Gyatso went on pilgrimage to various sacred sites in Tibet.  He reached Dharmsala. The source says he was in Dharmsala in 2011 but I believe he was there in 2012 as well because there is a photo of him in my hand.  Then he must have gone back to Nepal to carry out his non-violence protest. When I heard the monk's self immolation in Kathumandu,  did it take me for while to realise it was the same person whom I met in Dharmsala.  Then I cried for the second time. 

I think of his life.  He devoted his life in Dharma. He kept walking. Such sacred, but hard and long journeys. He never surrendered no matter how harsh his given life was.  Then he decided to offer his life in the most painful way for dignity of others.