How I got That Selfie with the Dalai Lama
I first got the invite to hear the Dalai Lama speak sometime in late November 2016. During those days I was a bit overwhelmed with work, and for some reason, completely missed the mail. It was just when people from Vidyaloke (a venture by Veer Singh of Vana) sent me a reminder that I realised with complete shock that I had missed out an email about the Dalai Lama’s private teachings! Giving myself a million mental kicks I quickly reverted saying that yes of course I was very interested.
Fast forward to February 3rd, the first day of the talk and I was nice and early at the venue. I got a wonderful seat in the third row, lapped up each and every word he said, making notes all the way. But more than anything I was hunting for an opportunity to meet him and take his blessings. If I had to something else with my time, I think being a stalker would suit me very well, as I was lurking around the main podium during each and every break. Unfortunately there were other well-honed stalkers who got to him before I did, so I didn't get my chance on the first day.
By day two I’d lost all hope, having been turned down twice, once during tea break and then again at lunch on the previous day. But that morning when His Holiness said it was time for tea I just stood up and shot straight to the stage like an arrow. The last two times there was a long line. But that morning I was the first, and by now his managers knew me as the stalker from yesterday. And before knew it, I walking up the stage and towards the 14th Dalai Lama. Shock. Disbelief. I was the first one that morning to get an audience with him. I tried handing my phone to someone from the audience, but everybody just stared back (including the guy who gave me his phone to take pictures yesterday). His holiness looked at me and raised his brows, and I realised the stupidity of my actions. Why was I wasting precious seconds trying to hand my phone when I could be with him? So I kneeled next to him and touched his feet. He held my hand and said, “Yes tell me.” Tell him what? My mind was a complete blank. I wasn’t expecting this - I was just trying my luck.
The best things in life always happen when you’re not looking for them. At that moment - when His Holiness was staring at me unflinchingly - I understood the concept of shunyata (zero) because my mind was a complete blank. All I could think was ‘his hands are so soft, his skin is so clear, he’s 82, but he looks like he is in his 50s, god bless him.’ I opened my mouth and out popped a question - completely unplanned of course. I asked him about anger and he poked my chin with his finger. “Why do you get angry?” he asked. He then went on to explain why anger is pointless and before I knew it someone tapped me on the shoulder and told me that there was a long line.
We finished the conversation and then asked if I could take a selfie. By this time my hand was already mid-air unlocking my phone, so I don't think he had much of a choice. I heard someone from the crowd say “Is she taking a selfie with the Dalai Lama?” But I don’t think he minded at all. I took just one photo because it would be so uncool to ask His Holiness for options. I joined my hands and thanked him, then breezed out with a big smile on my face. Later, during lunch, someone said that I had set a trend of sorts because afterwards everyone else also took selfies instead of asking someone else to click pictures.
His words about anger still reverberate in my mind. These days I try not to go batshit crazy. I still find myself getting pissed but then I remember what the Dalai Lama said: That anger is blind energy and it also makes you ugly. Do I want to look ugly? Well, obviously not.