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Taking Tea with the Dalai Lama

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Taking Tea with the Dalai Lama | story.one

What’s a really poor excuse for not taking up an invitation to have tea with the Dalai Lama? Mine was I had a drama class.

After university, I had the chance to stay at a school in the Himalayas. A friend had been a pupil at the international (so that’s Western) school perched high in the foothills of the mountain range which crossed the Indian-Nepalese border.

I had finished my degree, I had no job to go to, a fair bit of time, not a great deal of money and so three months in India sounded like a grand plan. The intention was to stay one month teaching at the school, then travel to Delhi and finally on to Goa for a month of sun and beach.

The school followed the Christian faith and meant we had some interesting activities and excursions. One morning, we got up (seemingly straight after we went to bed) and trekked up the mountains to watch the sunrise over the Himalayas. It was a fantastic spectacle, the sunlight bleeding over the summits, then splitting the darkness across the sky as light filled the valley – accompanied by the shouting of my evangelical companions, praising the lord.

But, to pay for my stay at the school I had to teach a class. And, because I had an English A Level, the slightly misguided assumption was I could teach drama.

I may not have been the best drama teacher on the planet, but I had the best fun. Imagine Jack Black in School of Rock. It was that level of education these pupils were in for.

The kids were enthusiastic (so was I), it wasn’t a laborious subject and we managed to rehearse, learn and put on two performances for the entire school. Well, we just managed to put on two performances before the school was evacuated. My time as a drama teacher coincided with rioting across India after Hindu activists demolished a mosque which forced us to evacuate the pupils and end that December term early.

It was imperative we got the children out, but it also felt (at the time) imperative we put on those two plays. The pupils had worked hard to learn lines, arrange the scenery, work the lights and come together to perform in front of their fellow pupils and teachers.

We’d had three classes a week to prepare the performance, one of which was a Wednesday afternoon. It was one Wednesday, not long before our only performances, when a fellow student teacher asked if I wanted to go with him and two others for tea. They had been invited by the staff of the Dalai Lama to meet him as he was travelling close to the school.

Would I join them? Well... I had a drama class to teach, we were nearing our performance dates and I – genuinely – had no idea who or what the Dalai Lama was, his spiritual significance or what a unique chance I had passed up.

Still. It meant we got an extra rehearsal in and the play was all the better for me sacrificing the chance to take tea with the Dalai Lama.

© David Granger 2021-04-21

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