Saturday, November 04, 2006

Face to face with the Dalai Lama-22.10.06

At about 9am on the 22nd of oct 2006, i finally stood face to face with HH The Dalai Lama, the reincarnation of Avalokiteswara.

I got up at 6.30 pm, was cold and dark outside, painful and stiff me. I remembered all the times that I had been to Mcleodganj and had returned without having been face to face with HH Dalai Lama-14. This was an effective deterrent against any thoughts and temptations that my mind may have entertained of going back to sleep. Got out of bed in my shorts and was frozen stiff, well almost. And wonderfully so, there was no electricity-so no geyser no hot water. I was almost besides myself and justifiably so, this being a ‘luxury’ hotel changing good money. Got out of my room without any footwear to give a rant to the guy at the desk and in a severe case of undress only to find myself face to face with the Tibetan version of Greta Garbo, and not withstanding the frigid floor had what a friend of mine calls a “vacuous jaw dropped look”. Greta, as I will call her smiled, but that was probably a smile of amusement rather than concern. To save me modesty, I rushed back into the room to put on something more and when I got out, found that Greta was no longer there. My already crystallized dreams of a home in the mountains with Greta and fireside jaunts with bowls of tsampa died a quick death. All I could do was to vent my spleen at the guy on the desk who sent me back with a ‘shrug of the shoulders; kind of look. But I always knew I was made of sterner stuff so I had a bath with cold water, changed quickly and walked down to the temple sans my camera and mobile phone, feeling quite the vulnerable waif. Was attacked by a dog and a cow that refused to budge right next to the Chonor house which incidentally is where Richard Gere stays whenever he is in town.

Chonor House

The obstinate cow

Helping bilingual trespassers

Reached the temple about 7.30 am and was ushered in by the same muscular Tibetans who I had met yesterday who let me in through a metal detector that wailed loudly, no doubt irritated by the ‘ounce of steel where it counts’ in the button fly of my jeans and a body search. I got into the compound and looked around; it was already filling up with tourists and locals. What a mélange of faces, a portrait photographer’s dream come true, all sorts of people; old, young, in-between, fat, thin, arthritic, non-arthritic, tattooed and non-tattooed. Everything and anything that one wants was there. Tibetans age so beautifully, the lines on their faces are beautiful. I could only look and look. I sat on a bench in the courtyard, was joined by an elderly Tibetan man who took out a box of snuff and rather bashfully offered me some. Of course, like a good boy, I refused and watched him noisily snort all of that stuff into his nostrils and look up with watery eyes and a look of bliss. The light shone beautifully in his eyes. There was this lady with a rosary who was carefully stepping on each paving stone while she prayed. It was beautiful. There was Leila with a friend of hers standing at some distance. People were gradually filing in and taking their places alongside the railing where HH would walk. By half past eight, the whole place was filled with people and the muscular fellows started to ask people to come near the railings. Suddenly, there was an excited gasp as they started to tell people to get down, sit down. HH is the temporal and the secular head, the living Buddha, and there is a protocol. The getting down bit was pretty tough for several old, arthritic Tibetan ladies behind me and they oohed and aahed their way down. But eventually they did, and soon enough everyone was craning their necks towards the gate of the swarga Ashram. Shortly, about 8.43 am, accompanied by his entourage, walked in HH the 14th Dalai Lama. The first thing that struck me was the speed at which he walks a gently stooped posture and short, swift steps. The other thing was his expression, like an angelic, cherubic child, full of mischief and innocence. Beautiful, no wonder the world loves him. He stopped close by to bless a child, and I looked to see the reverence and the beseeching looks that his devotees gave him with folded hands and scarves, just for a personal blessing. As he walked past, I got up and he looked at me, I folded my hands and bowed before him; he raised his hands in blessing and walked up the stairs to the temple and to his prayers. And that was the end of the moment, and everyone was looking at me. Maybe, he doesn’t get to see big Sikhs standing in front of him with folded hands everyday, but that has to be a beautiful moment to go through.

Once his HH went up to the temple, the entrance to the temple was blocked by the policemen and the crowd started to drift away. Went down to have a cup of tea at the same chai wallah, there I met a naturally happy police man, again from Amritsar and since he smelled of drink at 9am in the morning, I was not mistaken for a long time. However, he was kind and considerate, paid for my cup of tea and bun and in a fit of bravado asked me to come up with him and that he would get me up close and personal with HH. I decided to take him on, and before he could wriggle out of it, met the police officer on duty there and introduced myself as a hot shot shrink and asked his permission to go up. He agreed and let me take Leila up to the temple where there was a ceremony going on. I could see HH presiding over the ceremony, on a raised platform and all manners of instruments were being played. I could see him over the sash of the windows but Leila being shorter could not. We were quickly hustled down and then we chatted around for some time about very many things. At about ten am, HH came down and got into a waiting car and was driven back to his residence. I bid farewell to my companions, and got down the stairs, celebrated with a sandwich made up of an omlette made out of 4 eggs and 4 slices of bread and walked back to the hotel. Midway, felt hungry again, had 2 paratahas, and 2 cups of hot, sweet tea in company of several Tibetan school boys who were smoking.

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