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Himalaya

Day 38: Dharamsala and McLeodganj

Michael Palin - HimalayaIt's a sober, realistic, pragmatic message, implying, quite clearly, that the past is past. He has accepted the fact, if not all the practices, of the Chinese occupation. It echoes the mix of Buddhist spirituality and 21st-century savvy that characterizes the operation here in McLeodganj.

Meanwhile we have set up our cameras and lights in the audience room, hung with thangkas with a finely modelled shrine to the Buddha at one end, but as our time comes round, the secretary appears, eyebrows raised apologetically, to tell us that a group of local worthies have to be accommodated, but his Holiness hopes to get them through in five minutes. It sounds as if he'll be exhausted.

At 2.25 we are advised that he will be coming. I arm myself with a katag, a thin white scarf, which is a mark of greeting and respect among Tibetans. Try not to dwell on the fact that I am about to embark on a 40-minute talk with the spiritual leader of one of the great religions and can't remember a single one of the questions I rehearsed in my room last night. The only warning I am given is to avoid asking specific questions about his current relations with the Chinese. Two of his closest advisers will sit in on the interview, to help translate, they say, but I know they're there to keep an eye on us.

The 14th Dalai Lama, born Llamo Thondup, the son of peasant farmers, confirmed as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama when only two years old, arrives without fuss or fanfare, entering the room unescorted and looking pretty good for a 68-year-old who must have shaken a thousand hands already today. His presence is powerful, but in no way intimidating.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 38: Dharamsala and McLeodganj
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: McLeodganj
  • Book page no: 85

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