MCLEOD GANJ, India, 24 December 2012
You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.
— Winston Churchill
Although Churchill’s words hold good for me, and I am one who acts on that sentiment, I feel compelled to bring out some of the facts behind a video made by Mr Mark Gould, and the remarks by one of the Miss Tibet 2011 contestants.
It all started like this: Mark Gould, an Australian from Sydney, had been wanting to make a documentary about the Miss Tibet Pageant for a few years. But there wasn’t a Tibetan contestant from Australia, for him to present his idea and eventually get buyers from Australian TV stations.
In 2011 Mr Gould recruited Ngodup Dolma from Melbourne to participate in the Miss Tibet Pageant 2011. Mark Gould’s team consisted of two other persons: Lara Damiani handling another camera, and Jamie Williams as photographer.
Mr Gould covered Dolma’s journey expenses, and trained and groomed her. He filmed all these preparations with the idea of a dream pageant with a fairy-tale ending, where she would be crowned winner.
When Dolma was not crowned, Mr Gould instead made a reportage covering the Pageant in a negative light, and accusing the Director (myself) of forgery, and overlooking the high qualities of the winner Tenzin Yangkyi.
On 5 June 2012, Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Foreign Correspondent programme broadcast the reportage. In it, Dolma says that the Miss Tibet Pageant is a platform to talk about Tibet, and a celebration of the modern Tibetan culture. But then when she didn’t win, she showed another side of herself.
On the next day after the finale night, Mr Gould wanted a video interview with the Director.
My statement in the video about losing the marksheets is true. After the finale event, I put the folders containing the marksheets in my bag backstage. Later that night at the studio, I found them missing. The only people who had been backstage that night were my staff members, the contestants … and Mr Gould and his team.
During the interview Mr Gould asked many questions — but none of them were really about the Pageant. They all circled around why Dolma didn’t win.
When we were wrapping up the interview, Dolma and Tenzin Sangmo appeared at my studio to complain. What a coincidence that Mr Gould was interviewing me and they just happened to come! Mr Gould kept recording the whole time Ngodup Dolma complained, and I was aware that he was doing that. As I didn’t have any misgivings, I wasn’t afraid of the recording.
The accusations about the Director having the maximum say is done in a voice-over commentary, but without any evidence. The judges were there in McLeod Ganj after the pageant and available, but Mr Gould didn’t interview them for more details about the marking.
Sangmo’s family members also insisted that she was the winner. Her brother threatened to kill me for not having crowned her.
How many people know that three days later Dolma came with a group of people to attack me and my staff members late in the night. She attacked our chaperone, and another accomplice waited in the darkness to attack me with a huge stick. Had I not run, a strike could have been fatal.
However, even after such an act as this, we have not stripped Dolma of her first runner-up position, because the Pageant is about empowering and encouraging young Tibetan women.
It’s only unfortunate that the Miss Tibet Pageant, a strong political statement and a celebration of Tibetan identity and culture (in Dolma’s own words), becomes abominable and obnoxious in Dolma’s view moments later when she doesn’t win the crown.
While in McLeod Ganj, Mr Gould threw his weight around a bit. I obliged him, thinking that since he came all the way from Australia, he deserved some leeway. He asked me to change the intro music, because of his fear of fees being levied by the copyright holder, which I did. He brought a “sound engineer” to be DJ, overriding my choice. He even demanded that the sound system be brought earlier than the scheduled time, for which I had to pay extra money.
The DJ gave himself an electric shock while handling the equipment, and also fried my laptop which he was using. Following this the DJ asked me to cancel the show that night — with thousands of people in the audience waiting. The show did get delayed by an hour. Mr Gould never offered to replace the laptop.
The most important thing to Dolma seemed to be, that she didn’t win. For me, Tibet won. There was a new Miss Tibet in Tenzin Yangkyi. A true Miss Tibet is not only beautiful outwardly, she is beautiful from inside. She is passionate about Tibet, Tibetan culture and the Tibetan cause.
With these qualities, Tenzin Yangkyi represented Tibet in the Miss Asia Pacific Pageant in South Korea, where she fared well and won the People’s Choice award. Also she made friends with one of the most beautiful women on earth, a former Miss Universe, Sushmita Sen.
Ngodup Dolma was Mr Gould’s “Miss Tibet”, and she makes herself out to be the best and the winner even before the pageant started, as was clear in Mr Gould’s video.
She only danced to the tunes of Mr Gould, and it so blinded her that it was no more about Tibet or the Tibetan cause. Thousands in the crowd appreciated and celebrated another win for Tibet after Tenzin Yangkyi was crowned, but Dolma only missed the point.
As for Mr Gould, it seems quite clear that he was not filming the Pageant to support Tibet, the Tibetan people, and their culture, as I had originally believed. It seems he was only there to make a film for making money from the Tibetan cause.
I also remember that Mr Gould was asked for help by one of the survivors of the infamous Nangpa la shooting, seen hiding in a mountaineer’s tent in Mr Gould’s successful documentary film “Murder in the Snow”. Mr Gould totally ignored this person’s requests, and never provided any financial support, even though he made money himself from this film.
I can’t agree more with 20th-century Tibetan scholar Gedhun Choephel’s “Beware of yellow-haired monkeys”.