Friday, October 29, 2010

The Dalai Lama Gives In To Temptation

Many years ago, I was on a plane from Hyderabad where I had gone for work. In those days, I hardly ever flew anywhere (no one did then, at least in India) and I was feeling chuffed because the trip had been paid for (by the National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped) and I was therefore a VIP.

The man sitting next to me was a Tibetan Buddhist monk and we got to chatting. When I told him where I had been he was very interested and when I told him where I was going, he was even more so.

"The Dalai Lama has just started a school for children with mental handicaps in Dehradun!" he said, astonished. "Maybe you could help train our teachers!"

I gave him my card when we landed and he said he would be in touch. But when I reached home the next day, I found his teachers were quicker than either of us. They had already discovered our Early Intervention Centre and had brought several children to Dr Linda for assessments. Manju and Paula arranged training sessions for the staff and a wonderful little sister relationship was established which was endearing in its devotion to everything Karuna Vihar did.

When the Dalai Lama himself came to meet the children of Ngoenga, we were thrilled to be invited to the very small gathering. Linda, Moy Moy and I were the ones to go - and at the last minute, I asked Ravi to join us.

Ravi is - as you can see from the photo - an arresting figure. Grave, venerable, his eyes are deep and mysterious, as if they contain the wisdom of the ages.

That morning, he looked particularly fetching in a bright red kurta with a Himachali shawl and his trademark colorful hat and the newspaper photographers waiting for the Dalai Lama to arrive entertained themselves by taking pictures of him as we walked into the hall.

We were given seats of honor on the centre aisle where he would be passing and we could feel the excitement mounting among the children and the staff as word spread that his car had been spotted.

Here's how close we were. We would have been elated just to be able to see him walk past, but something made him stop to greet us. We assumed it was Moy Moy who had mesmerized him (it always is) and took it in our stride when he paused to bless her. The woman beside him explained at length in Tibetan who we were and though I couldn't understand any of it, "Karuna Vihar" was mentioned so often I guessed he was learning about how much we had helped them with training and medical advice.

Later, during his talk, his eyes kept returning to where we were seated and again, we assumed it was Moy Moy's magnetism.

But we learned the truth when the event was over. We were summoned to be in a photo with him and one of his aides placed us right next to him (that's me looking dazed in the green jacket with Linda beside me). Ravi is barely visible in the photo, but what happened next put him front and center and I still regret not having my own camera with me that day.

The Dalai Lama finished the photo-op and spun around on one heel, surprisingly agile for a man his age. As he turned, he seemed to be searching the crowd. When his gaze fell upon Ravi, it stopped. They locked eyes and stood looking at each other for a few moments. Then the Dalai Lama, eyes sparkling, reached out and pulled on Ravi's beard, like he had been waiting all morning to do just that.

Both men burst out laughing and hugged each other like old friends, deep calling unto deep.

Look at this picture and ask yourself: If you were the Dalai Lama, could you resist giving that soft white beard a little tug?


Anonymous said...

Jo You are as amazing as ever ! I just love your wonderful positive attitude about everything. This is a fabulous story and I'm going to send it to a number of friends.
Love, Jan

chicu said...

and kudos to the Dalai Lama. He went ahead and did something I and the other PSI-wallahs have been itching to do for ages