India has been a much sought after dream destination of mine for a ridiculously long time and this year I put it down on paper that I would make it there for the summer. I decided at the beginning of 2010 that I wanted to complete a Yoga Teacher Training Course this year and what better place to do it than in India. The origin of yogic philosophy goes back thousands of years to Indian Mythology.
I booked myself a course and soon after had my flights sorted. Getting the Indian visa was my biggest problem. The Indian Embassy in Doha, Qatar simply could not understand why I wanted to go and study yoga in India. Eventually after much teary eyed pleas they gave in and handed me over my shiney visa to paradise.
Arriving in Delhi airport with a 6 hour wait ahead of me, I whipped out the itouch to keep my self entertained. Eventually sleep took over then it was time to hop on my plane to Dharamsala. Earlier, as I had been sitting around the departures lounge, I heard so many conversations about planes being cancelled due to fog and bad weather, so I was a tad worried but it was all systems go.
I boarded what looked like an old rickety tractor of a plane. I was sitting on it about 30 minutes when I was gazing out of the window. I saw a very official black car pulling up beside the plane and a group of Tibetan monks hopped out. Then all of a sudden, the driver was making this massive fuss. The last person getting out of the bag of the car was none other than himself HH The Dalai Lama. I was beyond exhaustion at this stage and I was convinced that my eyes were playing tricks on me. I kept rubbing my eyes and looking out of the window. Eventually he came on the plane and found his seat 4 seat in front and on the right. Then this couple got on and it turned out I was in their seats, woops! So when I figured out where I was sitting I changed seats. Turned out I was 2 seats behind HH The Dalai Lama. It was surreal. There was a Japanese couple in front of me that were taking his picture non-stop through the whole trip. I felt it was so intrusive. After we took off, the no seat belts sign switched off and up they got. They were only about 25 people on the plane and one by one, I’d say half of them approached him. He was so kind and open to each and every person. He blessed beads and said Tibetan blessings. When people settled down a bit, I looked at him. He was gazing out the window, watching the world go by. So peaceful. I almost felt this cloud of tranquility descend upon everyone on the plane. It was a weird but magical feeling. The plane soon began to descend and when we arrived at Dharamsala airport, HH The Dalai Lama and his fellow monks were the first to get off their plane. As he was passing by me, I said ‘I hope you enjoyed your flight’ and he put out his hand and said a small blessing, smiled and nodded his head. Overwhelmed by this, I burst into tears. The whole morning felt like a dream. As soon as they got off the plane, the yellow umbrella was whipped out and in the blink of an eye, he was gone.
And that was the beginning of my adventures in India.
A week later on July 6th, I attended HH The Dalai Lama’s birthday ceremony at his Temple in Mcleod Ganj. It was a massive occasion. Tourists, monks, nuns, media crews and students filled each nook and cranny of the outdoor space for the ceremony. Cameras, phone or electronics were strictly forbidden. After a small parade by some local Tibetan dancers, he ascended the podium and listened to prayers and speeches from monks and other locals. He spoke and the whole crowd was in awe. It was a very impersonal affair. Someone made a comment that this kind of event is exactly what HH The Dalai Lama does not enjoy.
It was definitely a different experience from my meeting with him on the plane to Dharamsala.