May 30, 2020
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Hard Truths

A powerful book which will anger the Chinese and Tibetans

Hard Truths
The Dragon In The Land Of The Snows
By Tsering Shakya
Pimlico, Random House Rs 395; Pages: 574
Forget the hype, hoopla and hysteria. The mystery, myths, magic and myopia. For all those with a rose-tinted vision of Shangri-la, it's time for a reality check. And this is the book to start it with. The title of this 574-page book, and the fact that it's written by a Tibetan, is bound to annoy the Chinese. But this isn't just another attempt at dragon-bashing by a Tibetan. If anything, Tsering Shakya's tome is likely to antagonise as many Tibetans as the Chinese. In fact, this book could just as easily, and justifiably, have been called "Everything you ever wanted to know about Tibet, and then some."

For all those remotely interested in Tibet, -modern-day activists who (sometimes blindly) espouse the Tibetan cause, historians, academics, and particularly those second-generation Tibetans in exile, who've grown up on grandmother's tales about an ancient and peaceful civilisation that's being brutally mauled by the rabid Chinese-this book should be an eye-opener. For here, Tsering's tried to burst the "political myth-making" by both sides which nowadays masquerades as different versions of history.

Tibet was no land of perpetual peace and happiness before the Chinese invasion, but nor was it "the hell on earth ravaged by feudal exploitation" of Chinese propaganda. And it's this "denial of history" that Tsering attempts, ruthlessly, to correct. In the process, he spares no one: Tibetan collaborators, the Chinese, the British, and later, the Americans and the Indians, who still use Tibet for their own short-term political ends.

It's also a book that disproves the popular notion that any book on Tibet written by a Tibetan would obviously be full of deep-rooted biases and prejudices. For Tsering has obviously taken great pains to ensure that his perspective is as balanced, well researched and holistic as possible. Add to that the fact that despite being written by a Tibetan, there is an amazing lack of rancour, and you have a book that is as definitive as one gets on the subject.

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