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Monday, April 27, 2015

The escape of the Dalai Lama

March 1959
The cold winds rattled the wooden latticed windows of the Potala palace in Lhasa  .
it was dark and late in the night
The potala  was massive and foreboding in the darkness ,rain was drizzling and the howling wind  making its eerie music added to the somber  note.
The man tiptoed into the bedroom of his holiness softly treading even at this time with the reverence deserved by his spiritual master
The Dalai Lama was the spiritual head of millions of Buddhists around the world his lineage hailing from Ancient Buddha and the Sakyamuni themselves.
The deeply asleep  teenager with a shaven head his round spectacles lying behind the heavy tome he had been reading  hardly betrayed the greatness bestowed upon  him .
Yes it was troubled times, the Chinese were already inside Tibet and all the diplomatic negations attempted by his holiness were in vain,
the Chinese were bent on taking over Tibet and did not care a bit for the Dalai Lama or Buddhism,
Today they had fired two shells into his holiness palace and this was the final act of defiance before the decision was made to take the Dalai Lama away from Tibet .
 
The frowning silhouette of the Dalai  Lama slowly came awake as he was gently shaken by the assistant
Your holiness please
Wake up its time






Time to go
He had been told that these would be the words for which he would have to flee his beloved country
The sacred Potala where the spirits of his ancients roamed the dark corridors ,where the millions of butter lamps glowed with brilliance removing the darkness of human minds where the devoted came prostrating with utmost reverence to their living God a lanky shaven teenager with thick glasses and sad eyes  rose from his slumber to his destiny .
He was filled with remorse at the act of fleeing his beloved people leaving them to the vagaries of the invaders of his blessed land ,
Everything told him to stay back in this land of his but he also knew it was needed for him to exit to guard the faint flicker of hope he had for a free Tibet and it was his duty to do so .
Men of Gods never have it easy they face hardships as none of their human brethren’s can even decipher,
their minds are in turmoil and everything they do is with selfless love for humanity .
 
And so the Dalai Lama rose from his slumber and  quickly gathered his meagre belongings tied in a bundle and went behind the man into the dark corridors of the Potala ,
he went through small corridors flickering dimly in the glow of dying butter lamps he crossed vast halls where during the day sat monks soberly intoning mantras deep from their souls to huge Buddha’s gazing benignly at them but in the dark of the night it was all empty and hollow
He ducked below stair cases and stepped gingerly on narrow footholds to descend down the steep crevices of the Potala looming in the heights of Lhasa
Some said it  was all organised by the CIA .
 
The whole adventure was highly secretive and was known only to a selective few .
 
The Dalai lamas mother too was brought out, a small door in the back led to a narrow tunnel, they bent low while stepping into its wet interiors and walked long to reach an indiscriminate part of the town after walking long distances .
A pack of ponies stood snorting white fog into the cold night sky .
 
The Dalai Lama ,his  mother and brothers were quickly huddled covered from head to foot to look like poor travellers and were put atop sturdy ponies
Without much ado the huge ear ringed turbaned Tibetan men who were warriors in disguise and body guards who would not hesitate to kill if needed to protect their holiness whatever their religion professed ,walked briskly
Spies were all around and the Chinese had already suspected that something was going on
 They would never want the Dalai Lama to leave Tibet as they would be morally in deep trouble in international circles.
Slowly the caravan moved to the outskirts of the town without incidence the way was quietly being cleared by indiscriminate men who knew the path and were looking for curious eyes
the night was cold and dark as they slipped away from Lhasa .
Days of climbing treacherous paths mostly in the dark with the neighs and grunts of the ponies as the only sound followed
the howling winds and splutter of distant avalanches were their company
Breathless and tired and dirty they climbed steep hills barren valleys where wild yaks roamed around occasionally catching a glimpse of the red eyes of a snow leopard as it crouched for possible prey
the guards would light a fire to scare it away .they would bite into hard bread and sip salted butter tea dehydrated they would drink from sheepskins
shepherds catching a glimpse of his holiness would fall flat in supplication and would not rise till the caravan passed into the distant dust
Days of climbing would bring them to the tall passes more than 17000 feet above sea level with snow covering the earth and the sky the cold and the meagre oxygen would make them struggle for breath and even the hardy bodyguards had to plod tiredly

while the Dalai lama gazed with sadness at his men and his ponies struggling for his safety his mind would go out to his people and he would pray fervently for them .
 
Crossing the high passes the Khenzimane pass wading through the rushing waters of lakes and streams crossing the mighty Brahmaputra in shaky boats the tired entourage would reach closer to India as it shuffled towards the Indian border
After more than two weeks of hardy travel it would reach Tawang in today’s Arunachal Pradesh
( I was lucky to visit this beautiful place once )
 it was precisely here that the Chinese would overrun India in the 1962 war taking their revenge but that would be a decade later .
the Dalai lama would stay four days in Tawang recouping from a ravaging diarrhoea
 later he would move down to Bomdila and still later to Tezpur in Assam .he would then stay in Mussorie while his home was made ready in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh 250 km away from Chandigarh and more than 7000 feet in height .
Called Mcleod Ganj or upper Dharamshala this would become the Government in exile for Tibet with the Dalai lama and more than 80000 of his followers who would settle down here
Iam writing this because I visited Dharamsala and Mcleod ganj recently and went back in my imagination to write how I felt his holiness would have escaped the Chinese



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