Fire destroys Dalai Lama’s elder brother’s Kalimpong noodle factory

Gyalo Thondup. (Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

(, May07’19) – The Kalimpong Noodle Factory set up by the Dalai Lama’s elder brother Gyalo Thondup in 1967 and still being run by him has been destroyed by fire on May 4 night. But his single-storey residence, located nearby, remained untouched by the raging fire. He was home at the time.

The Noodle factory, located at the 8th Mile houses, employed between 12 and 20 workers and produced 300 to 400kg of noodles every day, noted a report May 6.

A historic noodle factory in Kalimpong, owned by Gyalo Thondup, the elder brother of the Dalai Lama, was gutted in a fire on the night of 4 May 2019. (Photo courtesy: The Statesmen)

In a conversation with members of the local Regional Tibetan Youth Congress who had come to clear the wreckage next morning, 91-year-old Gyalo has said the workers should not worry – that the factory will be rebuilt after a few weeks.

He has suggested that a pile of woods near the main stove likely caught fire and engulfed the pillars.

“I bought this three-acre plot in Kalimpong in 1963 for Rs 7,200 and started the factory in 1967, and I have been making noodles as this is all I know,” May 6 quoted Gyalo as saying.

“With the fire, many (of my) memories of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Tibet, India and the rest of the world has gone,” he has said.

Gyalo, now 91, fled Tibet in 1952 and played a key role in establishing links between the Tibetan government in exile and the wider world, acting as the Dalai Lama’s interlocutor with leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Chiang Kai-shek, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping, the report noted.

He recently co-authored a book, The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet, with the American writer and researcher Anne F Thurston.

“I did not suggest the name, the publishers did. I have no complaints but I would have titled it ‘Blood and Tears’,” the report quoted him as saying.

Gyalo is the third among seven siblings, with the Dalai Lama being the fifth. Three of them have predeceased him.

Gyalo Thondup. (Photo courtesy: The Telegraph/PRASUN CHAUDHURI)


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