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Day 38: Dharamsala and McLeodganj

Michael Palin - HimalayaWe're at the Tsechokling temple in good time. The Dalai Lama is giving a public audience before he speaks to us and security is tight. A beagle sniffer-dog is led along the line by a Sikh policeman. In the outer office leading to the Dalai Lama's private quarters we're politely asked to sit and wait while our papers are checked. A poster on the opposite wall makes depressing reading. 'China's Record in Tibet' is blazoned across the top. 'More than a Million Killed, More than 6000 Monasteries Destroyed, Thousands in Prison, Hundreds Still Missing', and in big red letters at the bottom, 'China Get Out of Tibet'.

The Dalai Lama's bungalow is spacious but not ostentatious. A room full of the various medals, awards and citations he's been given from all over the world gives onto a long, cool, marble-tiled verandah, from which a few steps lead down to a driveway that snakes around an oval garden bed full of conventional roses and marigolds. A desk has been set up at the bottom of these steps, beneath the protective shade of bushy bougainvillea. A long line of visitors is being led in, at its head an Indian Catholic priest in white robe with a prominent crucifix around his neck.

Monks line the drive, a most benevolent form of crowd control.

At 12.40, dead on time, the man they've been waiting for appears and without fuss or bother he begins to greet them, going through all 700, showing interest in every individual, catching the eye, trying to avoid identical responses. Whereas a lot of the Westerners pass by quite briskly, like students collecting passing-out degrees, the Tibetan monks approach slowly, utterly awed, some bent double in their supplication. Though I have the impression that the Dalai Lama is not comfortable with too much respect, he listens earnestly and at length to their requests and has a nice way of rubbing his hand across their shaven heads and, occasionally, bending forward
to brush his lips against their foreheads.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 38: Dharamsala and McLeodganj
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: McLeodganj
  • Book page no: 84

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