Interview Age: 82
Date of Birth: 1934
Birthplace: Elhagyari, Utsang, Tibet
Year Left Tibet: 1959
Political Prisoner: No
Interview No.: 24N
Location: Kathmandu, Bagmati, Nepal
Categories: Resistance and Revolution
Keywords: army -- Tibetan, childhood memories, CIA training, Dalai Lama -- escape, refugee in India -- life as, servitude, taxes, tenant farmers, Utsang
Gyaltsen was born in the large town of Elhagari in Lhoka in 1934. Although his own family had been allotted land for farming by the Tibetan Government, his parents were too old to grow crops themselves. Without cultivating the land, they were unable to pay the taxes owed to the government. As a result, another family cultivated their land and Gyaltsen was obligated to work for this other family as a servant herding sheep, goats and horses.
Another tax obligation of families who received land was to send someone to join the army. Gyaltsen was selected by lottery and required to join the Tibetan Government Army when he was 18 years old. His was sent to Lhasa for training and enrolled in a unit called Drapchi Maga, where he learned how to handle guns and fight. Gyaltsen recalls the friendly manner of the Chinese that first appeared in 1950.
Gyaltsen was one of 250 soldiers selected to escort His Holiness the Dalai Lama from Norbulingka to India during his escape in 1959. Gyaltsen describes the route and the sad and final meeting at Tsona before they returned to Tibet and His Holiness continued towards Tawang in India. The soldiers soon abandoned the plan to return to Lhasa and also fled to India. Gyaltsen worked on a road crew and then joined the Indian Army in 1962. He served for 24 years as a parachute instructor and was involved in the India-Bangladesh war.
- Marcella Adamski (Interviewer)
- Tenzin Yangchen (Interpreter)
- Henry Tenenbaum (Videographer)
- Palden Tsering (Interpreter)