My brief but special meeting with the Dalai Lama
The monk has a sense of humour.
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I call it the "calling".
I don't understand his native tongue, but he comes across as a father figure who left me moved.
Of all my assignments in the one and a-half decades I have spent as a field reporter, meeting the Dalai Lama holds a special place.
The security cordon would not let you move even an inch towards him, but it was more than answers to professional questions that I was seeking from "His Holiness".
A physically-fit octogenarian, with the kind of contentment exuded by the Dalai Lama, is rare to find.
Interestingly, it was not the first time I was seeing him in person, but the first time I was interested in knowing him more.
The Dalai Lama's schedule was fixed months ago and the controversy surrounding his visit to Arunachal Pradesh's Tawang had broken out.
Finally, I travelled through the bumpy terrain of the hill state to reach Diraang, where I met him. There's something about the Tibetan spiritual head that makes him larger than life.
Tenzin Gyatso, or the 14th Dalai Lama as the world knows him, has an impeccable sense of humour that connects with everyone.The contentment exuded by the Dalai Lama is rare to find. Photo: Reuters
From cracking a joke with former United States president George Bush by asking him which is the best cookie on the table, to pulling the ears of Barack Obama, another ex-US president and powerful icon, he has done it all.
Yet, being the bold, uninhibited journalist I am, I had a unique moment with the monk when I met him and sought his blessings at the Thupsung Dhargye Ling Monastery in Diraang.
It was sans camera and equipment. I was nearly shown the door because I was a media person, but it was in lieu of my personal life that we were allowed inside the monastery with a handful of others.
As he entered, few women began to cry, holding his hand, some overcome with sadness that he would soon be ending his visit, others sharing the agony of living away from their home country Tibet.
As he walked towards us (my partner in crime, cameraperson Tapas Bairy and I), we were prepared for the celebrity selfie, which I forgot to click after meeting him.
I held his hand and said, "I am madly in love with you and your personality!"
He looked at me, smiled and then burst out laughing. Seconds later, he lightly tapped my cheek, and touched my head with a blessing. In seconds, he moved on.
Our next encounter would happen in Tawang, at a press conference.
After more than an hour-long wait, he came to address the media persons, who were ready with a volley of questions.
As he stepped onto the dais, he stopped and like a mischievous child, asked how many of us were hungry.
No breakfast or lunch till now, we told the Dalai Lama, in unison.
What he said next was unexpected: "Don't worry. I am full and happy. So will talk at length!"
And so he did. From political questions to diplomatic rivalry, he answered every query with poise and ease. I attempted a second question when he gave me the chance.
He said, "Yes... go ahead... lady with a beautiful nose!"
I went blank for a moment, unable to decide how to go ahead with a tough question on China but managed it, albeit with a blush.
It was perhaps his sense of humour that gave me the strength to ask him the next and the last question: "What is the secret of your fitness at this age and this glowing skin?"
No two ways about it: like the Dalai Lama, he said, "Stress-less sleep and karma!"