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The Strange Case of Rangzen Moustaches

Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010

(© Toronto Tibet Film Festival)

Is it just me or does it not seem like most of the prominent Rangzen activists almost always spot a nice thick moustache, a Tibetan version of Tom Selleck look if you will, that is rather legendary in its own rights? Lets go by the number, shall we? Lhasang Tsering la has one as we all know which he has nicely complimented with a beard giving him the Ho Chi Min look. Jamyang Norbu la has one and it created quite a stir during the recent Toronto Tibetan film festival and I will come back to that one later. Tenzin Tsundue has one and although it is not as robust and well conditioned as the aforementioned legends of our movement, it is inevitable that through the years it will also harden and develop into another enviable one. I think Tendor is just bidding his time and waiting for the right occasion to make a big entrance. Before everybody starts stammering and protesting with the “but… but… Lhadon” I am going to have to stop you there and let you in a little secret: Lhadon also has a nice moustache hidden somewhere in her purse and it is made out of fine Yak hair. Rumour has it that she puts it on at night to get energized and centered. Now I am not necessarily naive enough to believe that such facial hair could embue a person with remarkable eloquence, insight, and passion, but it is a tantalizing thought nonetheless.

Physically, it lends the bearer a certain level of purpose, a seriousness in intent, gravitas if you will, especially when it bristles in anger and refuses to move with the prevailing wind. It was no accident that men proudly embraced it as a sign of manhood leading to bizarre and bold displays of moustaches throughout the ages with remarkable levels of exaggeration. Have you seen pictures of the 13th Dalai Lama? People say it was those piercing eyes that created the aura of invincibility and majesty around his presence but I suspect it is actually the moustache that sort of stops the observer’s gaze from dipping below the lips and the pointy Salvador Dali trajectory help direct the attention back to the eyes, thus creating the mystic around those eyes. Now you know. It may appear comical in this day and age but then again one day teenagers in the future will laugh at the low hanging pants of today. It is relative really. Maybe, it adds extra pressure on the upper lips and naturally when the bearer struggles with this extra weight and speaks at the same time, it does something to the words and sentences, and instills in them with the quality of the ongoing conflict, which as we know animates it further and the audience somehow, without knowing why, identifies with it on a sub conscious level.

Artistically, it creates another level of complexity to the person, another level of mysteriousness and divides the face into proper sequences and gives the artist something to work with. My friend Dorjee the photographer or as I endearingly called him Dorjee Parpa, who is not only the best Tibetan photographer around but also one of the sexiest man alive (his words, not mine), had a great time taking Jamyang la’s portrait yesterday because of that unique appeal. It is especially helpful when you hair is receding and gives the observer somewhere to stop when they look at you. Otherwise, the face keeps getting longer and longer with the passing years and your speech adopts the forlorn nature of the countenance itself. As an observer you keep getting lost in the plainness of the visage and end up not paying attention to what the person is actually saying. And that is definitely not good for our kind of activism where we have to fight for media spots and public support.

Emotionally, I believe the bearer finds comfort in its presence and as long as he believes in the immutable powers latent within the hair follicles, he is never alone as he sips his morning coffee or the let the Jack Daniel linger a little longer on the edges of his lips or when he stokes it gently for further deliberation of an idea. Although, it is not scientifically proven, I definitely believe constant vibration created through the gentle stroking sends signals to the brain and creates extra neural pathways, which will somewhat explain the powerful personages who spot them. Now, that begs the question as to whether the man makes the moustache or the moustache wags the man? I say as long as it results in a person of impeccable fortitude and vision, who really cares.

Whatever it maybe, it definitely has an effect on people. Now, it isn’t something that I had been thinking about for a long time because that would be rather silly and a complete waste of my time. I just happen to notice this phenomenon at the end of the Tibetan film festival yesterday when it hit me in an aha! sort of way. At the end of the screening for Tenzin and Ritu’s impressive film, ‘The Sun Behind the Cloud’ (A must watch film), Jamyang la had just finished a rather ‘exciting’ Q & A session as part of the conclusion for Toronto Tibetan film festival, when SFT members and their junior volunteers wanted to take a picture with the man of the hour. What made it hilarious and caught me by surprise was that each one of them had adopted a paper moustache in his honor (picture provided for your enjoyment). Although Jamyang la was besides himself with pretend outrage and claimed he was being lampooned, he was in reality grinning from ear to ear and quite proud to be surrounded by the youngest of the freedom fighters and the future leaders of our nation – the reason why the Tibetan flame will never die. And in a surreal sort of way, I observed the quiet passing of the Rangzen torch down to the youngest generation and nothing was more apt then the symbolic Rangzen moustaches. I wouldn’t be surprised if it started popping up in Tibet itself and becomes an unspoken banner of defiance for the meaker part of the population who instead of hoisting a flag and drawing unnecessary attention toward themselves, simply carry instead a rather ostentatious moustache in its place. The fairer sex could utilize their thump and index finger over their mouth to indicate where they stand whenever foreigners happen to pass by or start taking pictures. Now, I am not saying one wouldn’t be an effective Rangzen activist if one fails to grow a sufficiently lustrous facial hair or that one just needs to spot one and immediately one become a leader overnight because that would be ridiculous. What I am saying though is all things being equal it definitely wouldn’t hurt to have it in your back pocket. And yes, I know I don’t have a moustache but I have put in an order for a nice one from the same place Lhadon purchased hers. It will have to do for now.

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  • avatar jordhen says:

    Tenpa, great piece on Jamyang Norbu la’s awesome visit to Toronto for the TTFF. It also really brings to light Jamyang la’s charming, playful and amiable side.

    By the way, the Jamyang Norbu fan club aka The Rangzen Mostaccioites craze (which I must confess, I had a hand in helping start… sorry Jamyangla) is really picking up and spreading across the continent, I’ve starting seeing pics on facebook of several people growing mustachios who have never done so before and of women wearing fake ones.

    I don’t know how far this will go, but could there be a day when two mostaccioed Tibetan strangers might acknowledge each other from across the street by giving each other a slight knowing nod and a twist to the tip of their moustaches? Or will kids and women run up to you and hold their finger across their upper, as sign of solidarity? Who can say, but Tenpa thanks for helping spread the word of the locomotive train that is the Rangzen Mostaccioites!
    Though you can’t grow one yourself and can’t become a full fledged member, we will always consider you honorary member.

  • avatar Tenpa Gapshi says:

    funny thing is there were some people talking about moustaches at the impromptu dinner at Tibet Kitchen last night. It would seem certain tribes or in certain provinces in India, especially south India, social necessity of manhood is to grow a nice moustache. I would have been so screwed. And yeah, I came to know of your hand in this mostacchioites later from other people. Where is your moustache, Jorden?

    Honorary member will have to do. :)

  • avatar Tenpa Gapshi says:

    And as somebody mentioned in Rangzen Alliance facebook comment section, I missed one of the most prominent Rangzen fighter, probably the Godfather of Rangzen movement, Andruk Gonpo Tashi. For that slip and severe transgression, I am willing to undergo 50 lashes.

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