Jhunkyang: the last dream

Guru T Ladakhi | February 8, 2016

It’s midwinter and soon time for Losar,

time also to cast aside our failures and regrets

and propitiate the deities for the New Year.

O take me back to my land of tall mountains and broad skies,

of serene valleys of rice and trees heavy with oranges.


But alas! You cannot hear me

nor can you read these words of silence

for words have always beguiled me

even as I lie here with a hole in my throat,

gazing across the window, the evening

casts giant ugly shadows distorting facts in this dying light.

O noble Sakya, holder of the white lotus,

how true are your words on impermanence.

In this final hour I find no greater comfort

than the truth you have spoken.


What a maze of life the years have been,

from the sunny stills of childhood,

the wild abandonment of youth

to this dismal hour of separation and pain.

But hear me my gentle people,

though we may be at the ends of the world

and fate unkind to us,

loving you has been my privilege

and would you believe me if I told you

I’ve lived these final years lonely for your love.


The first glimmer of neon returns the night to me

and I try to fade into the corners of darkness

winding spools of memory.

Tonight, the air is dense with a fragrance of home

and I taste once again the cool springs of my hills

and hear your mirthful laughter rise clear above this clinical commotion.

Farewell, doe-eyed children of the mountains

remember the promises of our ancestors bound in blood

and may peace be your pillar of hope.


Look, the dawn is already breaking

and I’ve carried the night hard on my shoulders.

Now will you let this old man unburden quietly

for he too must sleep the mortal sleep

though bitter and broken in an alien land.



Chogyal Palden Thondup Namgyal ruled Sikkim between 1965 and 1975. He was deposed and his kingdom was annexed by India. He spent the remainder of his life fighting a solitary battle. Unable to speak because of throat cancer, he breathed his last in a New York hospital on 30 January 1982, succumbing more to sadness than cancer. In recent years, his former subjects have come to acknowledge his patriotism and today, institutes and parks have been renamed in his honour. He was fondly referred to as “Jhunkyang” by his family, friends and subjects.



One response to “Jhunkyang: the last dream”

  1. Shahnaz Rustomji says:

    I was deeply moved to read this poem; memories of uncle Thondupla, as my sister and I called him, remain a treasured part of our lives. He was my father’s dearest friend. Your poem captures his dream for Sikkim and the tragic end of his life.

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