Weekend reads: 'An Officer and His Holiness' explores historic escape journey of the Dalai Lama

The documentary ‘Never Forget Tibet: The Dalai Lama’s Untold Story’ is based on renowned journalist, Rani Singh book 'An Officer and His Holiness'. Photo: amazon.in, IANS

Sensing an imminent crackdown by China on Tibet, the 14th Dalai Lama, along with his family members and aides embarked on a gruelling escape journey to India in 1959. He was escorted to a safe location in India by a carefully planned operation, thanks to the grit of an Indian army personnel named Har Mander Singh in the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) who successfully managed, with limited resources, against a treacherous terrain and many external threats, the safe journey of the Dalai Lama to the Indian territory.

In the book ‘An Officer and His Holiness,’ Har Mander Singh's niece and renowned journalist, Rani Singh, documents what happened between the Dalai Lama and her uncle through extensive research, travel and interviews with the Dalai Lama, his brother Tenzin Choegyal and her uncle.

On reaching India after a three-week-long and treacherous journey, the Dalai Lama first took up residence for about a year in Mussoorie in Uttarakhand. On March 10, 1960, just before moving to Dharamsala, which also serves as the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan establishment, the Dalai Lama said: “For those of us in exile, I said that our priority must be resettlement and the continuity of our cultural traditions. We, Tibetans, would eventually prevail in regaining freedom for Tibet.”

Currently, the government-in-exile is based in Dharamsala, a town in Himalayan foothills where a community of Tibetans lives in exile with the Dalai Lama, hoping to sustain their struggle to secure complete autonomy in their Chinese-ruled homeland, Tibet.

As a mark of reverence, on the 89th birthday of the Dalai Lama, a documentary, ‘Never Forget Tibet: The Dalai Lama’s Untold Story’ directed by Jean-Paul Mertinez, was released worldwide on July 6. The documentary, inspired by Rani Singh's book, explores details of the Nobel Peace Laureate’s incredible escape into exile for the first time in his own words.

Featuring the Tibetan community in exile and those with historic ties to Tibet, the film explores the Dalai Lama’s compassion for a world seemingly in crisis today and seeks to find out what can be learnt from his inspirational life story, Tibetan culture and its ancient spirituality.

The film is narrated by British acting legend Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey, Paddington) and features music from Grammy-nominated artist Anoushka Shankar.
In 1959, the occupying Chinese troops suppressed the Tibetan national uprising in Lhasa and forced the Dalai Lama and over 80,000 Tibetans into exile in India and neighbouring countries.
(With inputs from IANS)

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