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Meeting the Dalai Lama

Woodcocks with Dalai LamaThe story of how George and Ingeborg Woodcock met the Dalai Lama in 1961 has been told by George Woodcock in his misleadingly titled travel book Faces of India. Its title refers to the three faces of Siva at Elephanta, representing Creation, Preservation and Destruction.

Published in 1964, George Woodcock’s memoir of India specifically states that they set off for India with every intention of finding Tibetan refugees. It also makes clear it was Ingeborg’s interest in Tibet, and her facility with languages, that chiefly propelled them to meet the Dalai Lama. At considerable length, he vividly describes how their visit to Mussoorie, one of the hill stations nearest to Delhi, resulted in their detour to Dharamsala in the winter of 1961-62.

When the Woodcocks first came upon some Tibetan refugees in the streets of Delhi, Ingeborg’s attempts to communicate with them proved incomprehensible and frustrating. But at All India Radio, after George Woodcock participated in a radio broadcast, they met a small man with a Mongol face and a slightly ruddy complexion, dressed in Western clothes. This was Lobsang Lhalungpa, a former member of the Dalai Lama’s secretariat in the high towers of the Potala, in Lhasa. He had left Tibet on a diplomatic mission thirteen years earlier, having correctly foreseen the oppression of the Chinese upon their incursions in 1949.

Lobsang Lhalungpa spoke English with only a slight accent. In India, he was dedicating his life to preserving the ancient wisdom and culture of his people. Having lived in the Indian border towns of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, Lobsang Lhalungpa had associated with Western scholars and published several books. He invited the Woodcocks to meet his wife Dekyi who, according to George Woodcock, “had the kind of ivory beauty, set off by jet-black hair, which characterizes the aristocratic women of Tibet.” Always keen to return hospitality, the Woodcocks would soon afterwards sponsor the Lhalungpas to immigrate to Canada.

The two couples socialized in Delhi where Lobsang played his recordings of Tibetan music and he found Ingeborg a Tibetan language tutor, a thin young man named Nyawang Lungtok. His name meant Castle of Meditation. “He had a bony, wizened face that in repose looked sorrowful and old,” George Woodcock wrote, “but when he smiled (it) became suddenly radiant and young.”

Much impressed by the translator’s elaborate Tibetan courtesies, the Woodcocks mirrored his displays of bowing and salaaming whenever they met. Although he was obviously very poor, Nyawang refused to accept any payments for Ingeborg’s two-hour sessions beyond “his meticulously calculated taxi fare to the other side of Delhi” from their hotel.

This man, who would later become headmaster of a refugee school in Northern India, had attended one of the monastic schools in Lhasa. Trained in calligraphy, learned in classics and religion, Nyawang had been one of the Dalai Lama’s personal attendants when His Holiness took flight in March of 1959 on his secret trek over the mountains to Assam. He was anxiously awaiting some news of his wife and children who had been imprisoned by the Communists.

“Until we met Nyawang,” George Woodcock wrote, “we had seen the tragedy of Tibet as something distant, a stylised pattern of events taking places on a remote tableland where the world’s last mediaeval civilization foundered under the onslaught of modern politics in its most ruthless form. Like everything connected with the Tibet of the past, even its fall took on in the imagination the emblematic form of a faraway legend.”

This connection with Nyawang, and the dignified sorrow he felt for his missing family, stirred the Woodcocks’ sympathies. He spoke nostalgically of springtime picnics, Buddhist festivals, yak meat, buttered tea and great coloured processions.

The Woodcocks’ affinity for the oppressed minority, the persecuted underdog, as prisoners of the state, was clear in George’s prose. “Tibet had once been a land without famine where even the poor never starved; now food was scarce, consumed by locusts of invasion.”

Sensing the sincerity of the Woodcocks’ curiosity in his people, Nyawang Lungtok arranged for the Woodcocks to have an appointment for tea with the Dalai Lama’s representatives in Delhi. After an interminable taxi ride, the Woodcocks found themselves in a suburban house in the far south of Delhi, invited into a semi-monastic enclave where Tibetans dressed in Hawaiian shirts and turtle-neck sweaters, and had English high tea.

They met the Dalai Lama’s head of Foreign Affairs and the Education Minister who was a tall, rugged-faced man named Kundeling who urged them to visit the nearest of the residential schools for Tibetan refugee children, at Mussoorie, in Uttar Pradesh. He also suggested they might like to visit a remote mountain village above the Kangra Valley, the place where the Dalai Lama lived, called Dharamsala. But George Woodcock was reluctant to go there.

“We had already decided to visit Mussoorie,” he wrote, “but I had firmly made up my mind that from there we must go on to Chandigarh, the city Le Corbusier designed as the new capital of the Punjab, and also to Amritsar, the sacred city of the Sikhs, with its golden temple. I was reluctant to abandon them for a trip to a distant village in the mountains on the uncertain chance that the Dalai Lama might be willing to see us. Inge was eager to the take the chance; even the slightest possibility of meeting and talking to the Dalai Lama seemed to her worth the effort.”

Ingeborg Woodcock persuaded her husband to take the uncertain chance. She succeeded, as he recalled, in “melting my obstinacy.” The story of their journey to Mussoorie and then on to Kangra and Dharamsala is best told in George’s own words. It is a lengthy account but the details are fascinating, allowing us to see vividly the situation of the Tibetans at this early stage in their exile and also how it was that the Woodcocks came to found TRAS, the first of their altruistic offspring.

He writes:
Soon we saw houses of Mussoorie, strung out along the highest ridge, six thousand feet above the valley, like the fragments of a broken ivory necklace scattered on the blue-green velvet of the distance. There were still twenty miles to travel, and the road toiled in loops into the hills, every curve seeming sharper than the last. The driver stooped low over the wheel and swung it with the flourish of a racing driver and the pride of a virtuoso, as if, after all the dull driving over the plains, this soaring climb back into his native hills was the feat that justified his day.

Now we were within the mountain world. A train of mules filed above us along a rough track that ran parallel with the main road, and a shepherd in a cloak of sacking came driving his flock towards the plains. There was already a touch of incongruity about the tall, dark saddhu [sic], with an athlete’s body naked except for the scantiest of loincloths, who marched arrogantly along the highway, flourishing a trident-headed staff, the emblem of Siva.

Like most Himalayan hill stations, Mussoorie has remained obstinately pre-mechanical in its transport; its streets and lanes are closed not only to automobiles, but even to riding horses. The buses and trucks stopped at a depot below the town, from which the goods were taken by porters who carried immense piles of trunks and boxes supported by headbands. As we got down from the bus the rickshaw men crowded round us, and before we were fully aware of it we had hired a massive, carriage-built vehicle with brass lamps and a monstrous black hood in which four men proposed to push us up and down the hilly road to the hotel, which we learnt with some perturbation was four miles away, almost at the western end of the Mussoorie ridge. No sooner was the deal concluded than our repugnance at the thought of being pushed around by human labour rose up again, and we stood there in hesitation.

“There’s nothing else. You’ll have to take a rickshaw.” A horsefaced Englishwoman in tweeds stood imperatively before us. “Don’t worry about them,” she shouted. “They don’t care. Glad to get a meal out of season.”

We looked at the four skinny little men in their flower-pot shaped Nepali caps, waiting barefooted before us in thin pyjama trousers. We did not have the heart to disappoint them by walking off with a single porter. So I signed to them to load the baggage into the rickshaw; we would tramp behind. The Englishwoman raised her eyebrows, turned away, and whinnied to her friends. An Indian clerk smirked. We were obviously being most eccentric. But in fact we had made the more comfortable choice, for the sunlight had already abandoned many stretches of the road to the hotel and the chill of a November Himalayan night was settling in; except that the change in altitude at first made us a little breathless, we enjoyed tramping along at the sharp pace of the trotting rickshaw coolies.

We followed the long, serpentine main street of Mussoorie, which coils sinuously according to the contours of the mountainside, rarely level, and rarely straight for more than a few yards, looping around knolls and hilltops, and constantly opening new prospects and vistas of the mountain world. Sometimes we looked with great swooping glances over the jumbled foothills and the golden valley of the Dun to the broken chequerboard of Dehra Dun and shaggy beast’s back of the Siwalik Hills, with the great Indian plains broadening like an ocean beyond them, still warm and golden in the western sun. Sometimes we glimpsed, through a gap in the trees to the north, the white flash of the great ranges beyond.

The narrow road ran through bazaars of open-fronted Indian booths, and down sloping streets of shops that looked as English as those of a town in Surrey except that the proprietors standing in the doorways were jovial, black-bearded Sikhs. Sometimes the mountainside steepened so that the road hung between the bluff above and the precipice beneath, and in some places the rocks were splashed golden with marigold, pink with wild cosmos, or overhung with the mauve blossoms of tree dahlias that clustered on the ledges wherever a little earth gave them sustenance. On the slopes above and below the road, among deodars and giant rhododendrons, lay the boarding-houses and villas and Norman-towered churches left from the British past.

The hotel was one of the town’s most gallant monuments to that era. A turreted Balmoral in white stucco, it stood on its own flattened hilltop, with a great double view, to the south of the plains and to the north of the dark shadowy valleys. Our arrival created a small stir, for the season in Mussoorie ends in October, and visitors are rare in November. The manager, a square-built Sikh in an orange turban, came out to welcome us personally, and we set off in a little procession, with the Anglo-Indian clerk and the Gurkha bearer, all wrapped to the ears in scarves, followed by the four rickshaw men humping our luggage on their shoulders.

Only an annexe was open. “We have a mere three guests,” remarked the manager apologetically. The view was magnificent, straight out to Nanda Devi and its attendant range, already turning peach pink in the evening glow, but the two rooms of the little suite into which the manager showed us were grimy and dank. “Have you nothing better?” Inge asked. “You shall have the suite for princes,” declared the Sikh in his rich, plumcake voice. “It is in the main part of the hotel, which is now closed, but we shall open it in your honour. The hotel is yours.” He bowed like a hidalgo, and off we marched, across the tennis court, into the hall that sprouted with antlers and up the stairs decorated with “The Stag at Bay” and “The Monarch of the Glen”.

“It is a historic suite that I offer you,” said the manager as we filed through the three enormous rooms, each large enough for a modest banquet, with their high coffered ceilings and deep-cut window embrasures which revealed the fortress-thickness of the walls. The bed was a vast carved structure of a bog oak; above it hung “The Soldier’s Return.”

“It is a historic suite,” repeated the Sikh, gently patting his well-coiled beard. “In these very rooms stayed His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he came to Mussorrie for the first time in 1954.” He waited to see the effect of his statement; Inge’s eyes lit up, and I suspected that she regarded it as an omen. “At the same time,” the manager continued, “came the Panchen Lama. He was in the suite on the other side of the landing. A grave responsibility was laid upon me.”

He went on to describe, with many flourishes and embellishments, how he had been responsible for seeing that the two dignitaries were treated with scrupulous equality so that there was no suggestion of precedence being granted to either of them. He energetically mimed out the whole procedure, how he had stationed men at each door, so that they could knock simultaneously at his signal, and how he led the two Holinesses down the stairs in such a way that neither entered the dining-room an inch before the other. “I flatter myself that I gave general satisfaction. Tomorrow I bring you newspaper cuttings.” And, filled with the emotion of his recollections, he bowed himself out and departed.

That first night at Mussoorie we learnt how cold, even at the beginning of winter, the Himalayan foothills can be. At sunset the temperature fell with precipitate abruptness, and our rooms became glacial. We ordered a fire—for which we later paid exorbitantly—and cowered hunched over the grate at one end of the bedroom, with our backs chilled by the penetrating cold that filled the rest of the enormous space. In the dining-room no fire at all had been lit, and we and the three other guests wrapped raincoats around our legs to protect them from the draughts that swooped along the floor.

When the fire burnt out in our own room, we huddled into the bed in sweaters and dressing-gowns, but all night long we were awakened by our own shivering, and rolled restlessly with the cold which the think walls conserved like an icehouse, we investigated the princely bed, and found that the springs had been replaced by thick plywood on which a thin horsehair pallet had been laid.

Yet despite the cold and the hard bed and the monotonous diet, with mutton curry for every lunch and tough chicken for every dinner, I liked the hotel. It had the melancholy charm that descends on holiday places when the end of the season leaves them deserted, when a deliquescent autumnal silence pervades the courtyards and the leaf-dank gardens where late tea roses bloom, and when the coming of the new guest who arrives after oneself is an event fraught with romantic curiosity.


The Tibetan school lay three or four miles back in the foothills from Mussoorie. The road looped around a series of steep hillsides, facing the snowy ridges to the north and divided by lush and ferny gullies that cut deeply down towards the valley and often left the land projecting in curious knife-edged promontories at the ends of which little wooden houses were perched like eyries. The hillsides were thickly shaded by oaks and conifers and rhodedendrons, under which the tiny bamboos and clematis vines formed a vividly green undergrowth. The trees were alive with noisy, white-breasted Himalayan magpies, and a company of grey monkeys swung about in the oaks, eating the acorns and throwing the shells on our heads as we walked beneath them.

It was still inhabited territory, the thinly scattered edge of Mussoorie where those who liked solitude and a closer view of the snow peaks had come. On the gentler slopes white villas had been built, with names like Sweet Repose and Mountain View and even—once—Eric’s Own; the personal names on the plates beneath always ended in Singh, for the Sikhs more than other Indians have taken the place of the British in Mussoorie.

On the first morning we went to the school, the hillmen from the villages which we could see faintly on the nearer ridges came tramping into town—small groups of tall, stork-legged men with narrow faces and aquiline noses. Some of them were charcoal burners, and carried their ware on their backs in egg-shaped wire containers; others were woodmen stooping under heavy bundles of logs which they intended to hawk from door to door int he town. They all dressed dingily, in tight black trousers and jackets and little dark skullcaps. Often they would greet us with a shy cordiality.

Eventually we left the main road and turned westward along a rocky track that dipped down past a tall balconied house from which a fat, goitred man in purple brocade trousers looked down silently at us. A Tibetan girl in a long-skirted dress came along a path through the bushes with a red-cheeked child on her back and a flowered milk jug in her hand. In answer to Inge’s question she nodded shyly that we should follow her, and we went on to another hillside on which stood two large wooden houses. The voices of children sounded from the field below as we climbed to the second house, on the top of the hill.

Long prayer flags blew out in the wind from tall poles that had been erected beside it, and on the verandah waited a middle-aged Tibetan woman with a sad, benevolent face. She spoke to us in slow, precise English, and introduced herself as Mrs. Taring, the wife of the principal. We handed her Kundeling’s letter of introduction, and she led us upstairs to a room where a group of people were sitting around a table laden with teacups—a Tibetan in a Harris tweed jacket, a hearty-looking American woman missionary, and a slender, talkative girl in a long dress of purple silk and a white cambric blouse that set off her dark, amused eyes and rosy freshness of complexion.

The girl with the amused eyes was introduced to us as Khando Yapshi. The man in the tweed jacket was Jigme Taring, the principal of the school. As a young man, full of fresh vitality, Jigme Taring figures in more than one book on travels in the Tibet of the late ‘thirties, for, when he was a high official in the Dalai Lama’s court and a general of the bodyguard, he was noted for his hospitality to the rare English who visited Lhasa. Now he had become a careworn exile, with a lined sallow face and a quiet, melancholy voice.

We sat and talked of the problem of the four hundred Tibetan refugee children whom the Tarings were trying, with a minimum of money and help, to bring up in a world so different from the mediaeval land they had left behind them—left behind in time as well as in space, for it is no longer on the map of the real world. The girl in purple silk entered animatedly into the conversation, and finally she said to us, “You must come to Dharamsala! You must absolutely come and see Uncle! He will be happy to meet people who are so interested in Tibet.” “But who is your uncle?” asked Inge, somewhat perplexed. They all looked at us in surprise. “But of course,” said the woman missionary. “How could you be expected to know? Khando is the Dalai Lama’s niece.”

The vision of the Golden Temple and Le Corbusier’s dream city suddenly faded. Yet I hesitated, though I realized how extraordinarily coincidence—or Karma—was placing in our way a chance that should not be rejected. Inge looked at me in silent challenge, and Khando went on talking persuasively. “We will send Uncle’s car to meet you in Pathankot. That is the end of the railway, and we are seventy miles away. Please do come!” Amritsar and Chandigarh fled completely from my mind, and as Khando stood with her foot on the step of the jeep that would take her to Dehra Dun on the first stage of her journey home, we made our arrangements. In four days Inge and I would arrive in Pathankot. “The car will be there. I shall not forget,” laughed Khando as the jeep began to rock away over the stony track.”

Now it was the noon mealtime at the school, and Mrs. Taring led us up to the trodden hilltop under the prayer flags where the children were sitting with their hands together and chanting in shrill voices one of the monotonous Buddhist prayers. As they sang I watched them. They were of all ages, from eight to eighteen, girls and boys, with black, straight hair and complexions that varied from ivory to copper-brown. Some of them wore Tibetan cloth gowns, and others cast-off Western clothes, but all of them were shabby and ragged, and many had no shoes. They were sturdy children, for the Tibetans are generally a rather big-boned mountain people, but they did not look well fed. And indeed they were not, for when the prayer was over servant women began to walk among the children with buckets—first of all buckets of soup which they ladled into the children’s bowls.

We went and looked at it; a few bits of vegetable floated in the almost clear water. The next series of buckets were filled with what the Tibetans called momos, a kind of steamed dumpling of mixed wheat and corn flour; there was nothing to accompany the momos or to give them flavour, but each child wolfed down hungrily the two that were given to him. The meal ended with weak tea. There was no meat, no milk, no fat, no fruit. The wonder was that the children still seemed to possess such stoical good-humour; their open and usually smiling faces made one understand the almost extravagant liking that every traveller who goes among the Tibetans seems to conceive for them.

On our other days in Mussoorie, Jigme Taring, and his wife, whose Tibetan name was Rinchen Dolma, showed us the other activities of their school, which the Dalai Lama had founded in 1960 when he became concerned with the problem of homeless refugee children. We would go in the middle of the morning when the children were taking their lessons, squatting in groups among the ragged old gardens where the volunteer teachers did their best to instruct with a few old schoolbooks that were carefully preserved and passed from hand to hand. For the children themselves there were no books at all, and they wrote on wooden boards, shaped like mediaeval hornbooks, using bamboo pens and an ink made from charred wheat grains.

The teachers were as untrained as their materials were makeshift; they consisted of an American missionary, two young English pacifists, and a handful of older Tibetan boys who had gone to the Literary Institute in Lucknow for a few months’ training. The tall young song of a former Prime Minister of Tibet was leading the younger children in a monotonous repetition of English vowel sounds. A round-faced grinning lama was showing a group of boys how to write the Tibetan cursive script. And the missionary’s wife was instructing a class of girls in hygiene; as she drew fleas, bugs and lice on the blackboard the girls scratched themselves and giggled, and a monitor standing behind the class tapped their heads in the traditional Tibetan schoolroom manner with a long bamboo switch.

The mornings were warm and sunny, and the whole scene of the great neglected garden with the groups of children sitting under the trees and the voices of teachers and students lecturing and chanting was charming and, at least in appearance, idyllic. But the open-air classes took place mostly because there was no room to teach the children under cover. Mrs. Taring led us into the two houses and showed us the rough wooden bunks stacked twenty and thirty in a room, with bags of straw on the floor for those who could not sleep above. She took us behind the building and showed us the taps which the cooks had to share with the three hundred boys who washed at them every day. She looked anxiously at the scene on the hillside. “What it will be like next month when the snows come, and the children still have nowhere to take their classes, we do not know.”

Work was actually going on, slowly because of the lack of money, on a new classroom. Three Tibetan workmen in trilby hats were squatting over wooden frames in which they were making cement bricks. One of them tamped with a wooden mallet, and sang in a penetrating falsetto chant projected in a series of rhythmic hiccups from the back of his throat and echoing strangely into the hills. Whenever we went past them the workmen would stand up and put out their tongues as far as they could. It was the most respectful form of greeting in Tibetan terms. Then they would sing again, and the air would be split by the plangent sound. Jigme Taring explained that it was an ancient classical music which the country people of Tibet had preserved. “We call it faraway singing,” he explained, and one could imagine those voices sounding as distantly and piercingly over the high plateaus of Tibet as the most ringing yodel in the Bernese Oberland.

On the day we left Mussoorie the clouds moved down over the long ridge, and autumn was suddenly transformed into winter, for within their crepuscular folds the temperature failed to rise very far above its noctural level, except on the rare occasions when a gap of light was suddenly torn in the fabric of the clouds and the sun illumined, never for longer than a few minutes, a small patch of the mountainside. By the time we left in the later afternoon the cloud mass had begun to shift westward, blown on a rising wind, and only the last skeins of vapour still lingered on the western end of the ridge, around the hotel, as we walked down behind our porters to the bus station.

The manager of the hotel, who had become extremely attentive as soon as he learnt that I was intending to write a book on my impressions of India, insisted on accompanying us. “You will find His Holiness an A.1 gentleman,” he remarked as we walked down. “God bless you. I value your friendship!” he said, shaking hands and bowing at the step of the bus. And then, having satisfied the claims of Western politeness, he paid tribute to his own double world by raising his hands before his face in the namaste gesture, and saying, in his richest baritone, “Come back to Mussorrie! My hotel is your home!” He still stood there, waving, as the bus started down the sharp quick curves into the warmth of lower lands and into the twilight through which the lights of Dehra Dun began to glitter in the plain below like the gold in a Benares sari.


During the night the train ran from the shadow of the mountains across the northern plains into the region of the great rivers that flow into the Indus, the region where Alexander’s armies turned back from the conquest of India and where in later years the Greek king Menander ruled. The landscape was so typically Punjabi that it was hard to find any features differentiating it from the country around Patti Kalyana, nearly three hundred miles to the south; the mud villages and the sugarcane fields, the brightly dressed women hoeing the earth and the wild peacocks feeding around them—everything seemed identical.

And through these dull stretches of land the train limped slowly, making long stops at every village station. There had been another derailment, and the whole transport system of the Punjab had been thrown out of order. By the time we reached the junction of Jullundar, we were already three hours late; when the train finally emerged from the low scrubby hills before Pathankot and we saw the white snowfields of the mountains bordering on Kashmir, we were almost four hours late.

We hardly expected the car which Khando had promised would still be waiting, and as we walked along the platform behind our coolie we were wondering where we would be able to stay in in this rough little frontier town. But then we saw a young Tibetan monk trotting along the platform, stopping the two or threat European passengers who were walking in front of us. He finally came to us and opened a little slip of paper. “Woodkuk?” he said. “Woodkuk?” We followed him into the station yard and found that the car was still there, with the Dalai Lama’s flag of state discreetly covered. The India chauffeur smiled gently and salaamed, unconcerned with his long wait; in this remote region time was evidently even less of a commodity than it had appeared to be in Bombay or Delhi.

Pathankot, the centre from which the passes branch out towards Kashmir in the west and the Kangra and Kulu valleys to the north, was Kim’s world almost unchanged, crowded with tough, un-Westernised Sikhs, and Gurkhas, and fierce-looking Dogras from the Jammu Hills. Packtrains of mules and camels were moving out into the country past the gaudy stalls of the bazaars, and the occasional trucks and jeeps that mingled with the more archaic forms of transport did not diminish the Kiplingesque flavour of the place.

Our route lay along the Kangra valley, running up into the western hills, and here the links with the modern world became even more tenuous. We drove through villages of wooden-fronted Himalayan houses, and past massive Rajput forts perched on the mountain bluffs. The pale-skinned women of the valley were barbarically magnificent; they wore full crimson skirts and shining necklaces of silver coins, massive gold earrings and large jewelled nose-rings like those in the old Kangra paintings. Heavily moustached shepherds tended their flocks in the meadows by the road, like Byronic bandits in their thick white tunics which were belted at the waist and jutted out beneath in a kind of short pleated kilt.

The season, it turned out, was locally regarded as auspicious for weddings, and we met several parties of men bearing red-curtained palanquins that carried the brides back to their husband to the shrill music of clarinet-mouthed marriage flutes. In the flatter parts of the valley the dark banks of rice paddies lay like a black net over the green fields; but soon we entered a country of moraines, spattered with great mossy boulders and broken by little romantic valleys down which the white, turbulent streams flowed from the wooded hills.

It was seventy miles to Dharamsala, which is an old military cantonment, dating from the 1840’s when the British took over this region from the Sikhs, who in their turn had seized it from the Rajput chieftains. Later Dharamsala became a minor hill station where the families of British officials in the Punjab would move during the summer. The lower town, five thousand feet up, is now a settlement of Punjabis inhabiting the shell of the old British community, with its bungalows, churches and administrative buildings still intact. Upper Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama and many of the Tibetan exiles lives, is almost another two thousand feet higher.

At the end of the long serpentine road through the rain forests of conifers and rhododendron we entered a setting that in the falling twilight seemed magically different from the prosaic little town in the valley. The place at the end of the mountain road was incongruously named Macleod Bazaar; it was a settlement of brown wooden houses which had been entirely taken over by Tibetan refugees. The driver stopped the car under one of the great old deodars that overshadowed the bazaar and went off to find where he should take us.

We sat there, inside the car, as the darkness fell like a curtain from the branches overhead and enclosed us from the scene before our eyes. The house opposite to us bore a roughly painted sign—Tibetan Restaurant—in both English and in the bold beautiful characters of Tibetan; from its door hung a yak-wool curtain, stiff with grease, which men with strange winged hats lifted up as they went into the dim, candle-lit interior. The letters of the sign faded out as women in the stalls began to light their hanging oil lamps to illuminate piles of vegetables and black lumps of brick tea. And in the growing darkness the long-gowned people padded about softly in their felt boots, and came to peer into the car and touch the doors with gentle cat-taps, so that we felt like caged beasts that some hunter brought into a remote mountain market.

After a wait that seemed interminable the driver came back with two young men in black Tibetan coats and high leather boots. They looked at us, at the car, at our luggage, and then went away. A quarter of an hour later a young Tibetan in sports coat and flannels looked in through the window. “A messenger has been sent,” he said in perfect English, and then vanished along a path up the mountainside. It was now completely dark, and as we sat waiting for these incomprehensible Tibetan arrangements to work themselves out we wondered whether it would not be wiser even now to return to the dak bungalow in the valley. At last the driver came back again.

We were to stay in the Nursery which Khando’s mother—the Dalai Lama’s sister, Mrs Tsering Dolma—had established in a group of old bungalows called Egerton Hall. The driver edged the car for a short distance along a rough, narrow track that hugged the mountain; on one side the lights revealed rocks and on the other only darkness. Then we got out of the car and began to scramble in the pitch darkness over wet mossy stones, forming a chain of hands with the driver as leader. In our light sandals we tripped and floundered up the steep, slippery mountainside, until we saw faint light jogging down the path towards us. It was one of the Tibetan servants from the Nursery, carrying a storm lantern. When he reached us we realised that we had been stumbling on the very edge of a precipitous cliffside.

At the top of the path, lighted windows outlined the low rambling shape of the Nursery against the darkness. The man with the storm lantern led us into a large room full of massive furniture, like the farmhouse parlours of one’s childhood, which served as the common room and dining-room for the Nursery staff, and became our bedroom while we stayed there. The only thing strange about it was the fact that the mantelpiece had been turned into a Buddhist altar; a red and blue thanka of the great sage Tsongkapa hung on the wall above a photograph of the Dalai Lama, which was draped with a ceremonial white scarf.

Before the photograph a silver butter lamp was burning, each flicker representing a prayer to Chenrezi, the Lord of Mercy. Seven silver cups, each half-filled with water, represented the seven sacrificial substances. And on each side of the altar, like the statue of an attendant spirit, stood a painted and chipped plaster cockatoo. Through the closed door on the far side of the room came the high-pitched chatter of small children settling down for the night like starlings.

A peasant girl came in with a large enamel teapot and a dish of sugary cakes, and gradually the room filled with people. Most of them were tall men who wore brown noblemen’s chupas with the long sleeves hanging below the hands. These were the Tibetan teachers at the Nursery; they greeted us with folded palms, in the Indian manner. Only one of them, Tensing, spoke any English, and he attempted some halting introductions. A man with a brooding secretive face of a type rare among the Tibetans was the principal of the Nursery; he had once been a rich landowner near Lhasa. He spoke no English at all.

And even Tensing’s English did not carry us very far beyond introductions so that a shyness of frustration set in as we sipped the strong tea and chewed the hard cakes. Suddenly the door of the room burst open as if a mountain wind had blow it, and Khando ran in, followed by a little olive-skinned girl—her friend Legjin Tsering. They had heard of our arrival and had immediately set off in their long heavy skirts to walk nearly three miles over the mountainside paths from the Dalai Lama’s compound to the Nursery. The atmosphere was transformed at once, for Khando combined her own personal warmth of nature with the energetic frankness of behaviour that is common to most Tibetan women, who pride themselves on the fact that from time immemorial they have enjoyed the freedom which Indian women are even now still struggling to win.

Khando ran into the kitchen, the cook was set to work, and in what seemed a few minutes dishes of noodles and vegetables appeared on the table. In the gusto of eating, which all the Tibetans enjoy, our mutual inhibitions vanished, and the easy relationship that is typical of this people, among whom the most serious mood exists on the edge of laughter, was quickly established. This kind of hospitable treatment—the touching generosity one so often meets among exiles—continued during our whole stay at Dharmasala. We were treated as if this were after all a real capital, not the refuge of an expatriate priest-king, and as if we were guests to be honoured accordingly.

Yet the sadness that underlay this gallant exterior was not far to seek. It existed in the rooms of the Nursery beside our own. I shall never forget the walk on which Khando took us through those rooms on our first night at Dharamsala. By the light of dim lamps we saw the children lying in the scanty bunks that had been put up for them. They lay crossways, because there was neither enough room nor enough bed clothes for all of them. Five children shared a single bunk under a single blanket in the December night at seven thousand feet. A boy turned over and twitched the blanket, so that it fell half away, and the children beside him whimpered in their sleep. Some of them lay on the hard cement floor with a thin pallet beneath and again a blanket for five. I shivered as I watched them, though I was dressed in a tweed jacket with a thick jersey underneath it.

The next morning we were awakened at dawn by the monotonous chanting of prayers from the rooms of the Nursery, followed by the noise of the children gathering to eat their breakfast on the ground beneath our window. I looked out and watched them. It was momos and tea once again. And the general routine at the Nursery was not very much different from that at the refugee school in Mussoorie. There were the three young English volunteers—Valerie, the handsome pacifist nurse, Diana, the sharp-tongued teacher who had come back nostalgically to the India of her birth, and Michael, the young journalist who had come for a day to write a story and had been so moved that he had stayed for two months to work with the Tibetans.

There were the Tibetan monks monotonously chanting words and sentences which their classes repeated by rote. And once again everything took place out of doors because there was no room inside the crowded buildings. Yet there was a feeling here of being much closer to Tibet than we had experienced in Mussoorie. Partly this was because the land was wilder and the most distant peaks that we saw through the gaps of the nearer ranges were in Tibet itself, while the mountains we had seen from Mussoorie were in Nepal. And partly it was because the children still wore Tibetan dress, as did most of the teachers. But what made one most conscious of the nearness of Tibet and of its tragedy was the presence of the suppliants, the peasants in long dirty coats and high felt boots who came in the middle of the morning to plead with Mrs. Tsering Dolma on behalf of their children.

Mrs. Tsering Dolma arrived with Khando just after we had finished our breakfast with the Tibetan teachers and the English volunteers. She was a grave, proud woman, with a broad, rosy-cheeked face and thick black hair which she wore in long plaits; she retained the Tibetan costume, the woman’s dress with its skirts sweeping the group and the striped apron, but she had abandoned, as all the Tibetan women in exile have done, the elaborate headdresses, encrusted with coral and turquoises, which all the noblewomen had worn in Lhasa.

But Mrs. Tsering Dolma was a woman of compassion as well as pride. We realised this when we walked around the Nursery with her and watched her receiving the people who had come with their children. There was one man with a deeply lined face and almost white hair, who looked sixty, though he was only forty; he had four children with him, and as he bowed low before Mrs. Tsering Dolma and pleaded with her to take this children into the Nursery, the tears ran down his cheeks and hung glistening in the wrinkles.

His wife was one of those who had died on the way out over the high passes. A man and a woman, in stained, ragged clothes, came with two children; they were working on the roads of the Punjab at a rupee a day each and they could not look after their children properly in the road camps where dysentery was rife. A thin, ragged Khamba man in a wolfskin cap had come a thousand miles from Darjeeling with a tiny girl a year old whom he carried on his back; her mother was dead, and he feared that he too would die and the child would be left without care.

All these people had come recently over the border from Tibet into India, for there was still a steady stream of refugees fleeing from the Chinese terror. Mrs. Tsering Dolma listened silently to their stories, quietly asked a few questions, and never refused to take their children. On that day alone she added eight to her already overcrowded Nursery. It was not only the children on whom she took pity. A tall, thin old man in polished boots and a coat that had obviously been splendid in its day, bowed and put out his tongue to us. “I remember him from Lhasa,” Khando said. “He was a servant of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, and now he has nothing. Mother is going to let him stay there and do what he can for his keep.”

Poverty and hardship are the fate of most of the Tibetan refugees in the Himalayan borderlands, just as poverty and hardship—plus an insufferable anti-religious tyranny—are the fate of those who have not been able to escape. But that night we were given a glimpse of the old traditional Tibet whose memory the same refugees have kept preserved as carefully as the Highland tribes remembered their traditions in the dark days after the Forty-five. Around Dharamsala have gathered many of the dancers, actors and musicians who in the past belonged to dramatic companies which the noblemen of Tibet maintained in much the same way as the Russian noblemen in the early nineteenth century maintained their house orchestras and personal companies of actors. These professional players have become the nucleus of a theatrical company at Dharmsala under the Dalai Lama’s patronage.

Khando had arranged for the company to give a special performance in our honour of a traditional Tibetan play about the great eighth-century king, Tri-Srong-Deutsen, and just after twilight we set out from the Nursery, cloaked in blankets for the sharp night air, with Khando, her friend Legjin and the three English volunteers. The young men in black chupas and high boots whom we had seen in the village the night before went ahead along the mountain paths with storm lanterns; they seemed to be part of an unofficial bodyguard for the Dalai Lama’s family. Soon we heard the beating of kettle drums, and then we saw beneath us the dark outline of the building from which the drumming came.

One of the guards called out, and a little group of men emerged from a lit doorway and walked towards us with their lanterns. As our spheres of dim light converged, two of them approached us, offering the white ceremonial scarves which accompany the traditional Tibetan greeting. One of the men, a gaunt old actor, was the producer of the player; the other was Thubten Ninjee, one of the Dalai Lama’s officials.

The theatre, an open-ended building facing out to the dark pit of the valley, had a little red-curtained stage, a space for the orchestra, and before the orchestra an area where the officials and teachers from the nursery were already sitting cross-legged on Tibetan carpets. At the back four chairs were placed, and on these we sat in conspicuous splendour with Khando and a tall courtly old man in a blue silk Chupa. He was General Khemey, the former commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army. A waist-high barrier closed off the reserved area, and behind it the peasant refugees in their rough coats and winged hats stood jammed together in the open air, glad of a chance to see the show, for Tibetans of all classes are very fond of theatrical spectacles.

As soon as we sat down tea was served, and the cups kept circulating at short intervals throughout the performance. The orchestra came in with its exotic instruments—bamboo flutes, Tibetan guitars and zithers, gongs and kettle drums, and peculiar two-stringed fiddles with little cylindrical sounding-boxes; the bowstrings of the fiddles passed between the strings of the instruments and produced a wailing, uncanny music.

The musicians began a slow, nostalgic overture, and then went off with a great banging of drums into a rousing martial tune, while the players behind the red curtain sang in chorus. Khando explained that it was the Tibetan liberation song. For a few minutes the mood was all militant nationalism. Then the anthem ended, a whistle blew in the wings, and the curtains opened on a tiny stage with a painted backcloth representing in Cézannish solidity the Potala and the dry hills of Lhasa. The peasants behind us gasped in enjoyment; we were transplanted into their lost world of mediaeval splendour.

It was one of those long oriental plays that can go on for hour after hour, far into the night, according to the taste of performers and audience; out of special consideration for us it had been trimmed to three hours. The kings in their robes of cloth-of-gold, the brocade-clad noblemen, the courtly ladies with their antler-like turquoise-studded head-dresses, moved with magnificent solemnity to the haunting dignity of the processional music; the monks and teachers went on their conventionalised journeys, outlined by symbolic gestures; the nomads and peasants, the people of Lhasas and Amdo and Kham, danced in local costumes the dances of their regions—dances with names like “The Discs of the Sun and Moon,” “The Ocean of Knowledge” and “The New Age of Gold.”

All the time, in the slow measure of the journeys, in the lilting rounds of the dances, in long verse speeches narrated in monotonous rhythms, the drama of the acquisition of true knowledge was enacted. Tri-Srong-Deutsen was one of the kings who established Tibet as a formidable military power in Central Asia, But his religious rather than his soldierly virtues were celebrated by the players, for the dance told of his bringing to Tibet the scriptures and the scholars that established Mahayanist Buddhism as the religion of the land. Shanta Rakshita came from Nepal to impart the secret doctrines of Indian Buddhism.

Padma Sambhava, the Tantric guru, followed him and engaged in a great contest with the evil spirits of the mountain land. A masked demon danced to the thunderous beat of the drums, and the triumphant sage performed the thunderbolt dance with the bronze dorje symbol in his hand. Finally the Indian philosopher Vimalamitra made his way through the Himalayas, accompanied by Tibetan scholars bearing the sacred treatises of Buddhism, and preached to the people of Tibet on the law of Karma and the Buddhism of the Greater Vehicle. And so, as the religious achievements of the great king Tri-Srong-Deutsen were brought to their grand culmination, the play drew to its end with the people of Tibet dancing and signing their homage to the king for propagating the word of the Buddha.

It would have been hard to conceive a performance more fitted to illuminate the traditional Tibetan outlook. It was a religious drama that did not even trouble to hide behind allegory; the searching and discovery of truth were plot and theme alike, and this fact gave the drama a certain basic austerity. There was no attempt to play on human passions, even as the vehicles for representing spiritual truths, and this was in accordance with the basic doctrines of Buddhism—that religion of renunciation which calls on men to free themselves of all passions in order to attain enlightenment and peace.

The agonies of Christian mystery plays were entirely absent; formalised conflict between the sage and the demons was remote from human strife; there was an overall lack of tension, in the sense conceived by European dramatists, that would have made the whole performance seem pedestrian in the extreme if it had not been compensated by the appeal to ear and eye, the vibrating call to the senses, which the Tibetan zest for life had superimposed on the austere religious intent of the play.

When the play came to an end, with wisdom triumphant, we went up to the stage to congratulate the players and to look at their musical instruments. The musicians demonstrated them very willingly, but obviously their personal interests lay elsewhere; as soon as courtesy allowed it, they went backstage and returned with a collection of English drums. The actor who had impersonated Padma Sambhava hitched on the big bass drum, and, with the moustaches of the Tantric guru still painted on his cheeks, began to beat out the rhythm of “Tipperary.” The flute players and the other drummers joined in, and with great brio they played on through “The Girl I Left Behind Me” and “The British Grenadiers,” filling the little theatre with a volume of thumping sound that seemed infernally barbaric in comparison with the subtle rhythms of Asian music to which our ears had become attuned during the past three hours.

When they came to “Auld Lang Syne” the spirit of the evening descended upon us as well, and, with Khando and Legjin, with Michael and Valerie and Diana, we joined hands and danced in a capering circle. Our performance was an immense success. The Tibetans stood around laughing and applauding, and a spirit of democratic geniality descended over the whole gathering, rather like that which must have prevailed in Tibet at the festival when masters and servants would play and dance together without thought of social distinction. When we set out again in our long convoy over the mountain—ministers and noblemen, lamas and foreigners, and servants with storm lanterns and torches, all walking together—we could hear the strains of “The Men of Harlech” following us into the distance. And then we began to sing, and continued all the way back to the Nursery, the Tibetans gargling their falsetto ballads and the Europeans signing English and Austrian folk songs. Our voices ran high and clear in the light, frosty air, and we walked over the rough, steep paths with an extraordinary exhilaration.


“Uncle would like to see you this afternoon,” said Khando when she came to the Nursery after breakfast the next morning; it was in this almost casual way that our meeting with the last Buddhist ruler of Tibet, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, was arranged. After lunch an elderly man in a corduroy robe with long sleeves hanging below his hands, and with a woolen cap framing his long, sensitive, aristocratic face, came to our room, accompanied by the young man who had looked so fleetingly into the car on our first evening at the Macleod Bazaar. The young man introduced himself as Thondop Kyibuk, otherwise known, even to the Tibetans, by the less Swiftian name of Ben. He told us he would be our interpreter that afternoon, and introduced the older man as Phala Thubten Wonden, a member of the formerly powerful Tibetan council of ministers called the Kashak. Phala intended to accompany us to the Dalai Lama’s residence.

The polite formalities were exchanged and translated, and then we set off with Khando and our new acquaintances through the woods of deodar and glossy-leaved evergreens. The smell of resin was thick and fragrant in the afternoon sunlight, and small white rhododendrons were already in bloom.

Here and there among the trees we began to see the roofs of scattered bungalows. Khando identified them one by one, and we realised that the whole mountainside had become a kind of shadow capital for a ruler whom no government recognised. At last we saw the green lines of prayer flags fluttering among the trees, and then the red roofs of the Palace and, on the other side of the valley, those of the house inhabited by the Kashak.

The Palace was merely the largest of the bungalows on the mountain. A Sikh sentry stood on guard outside the compound, and an Indian secret service man came out of a little hut to examine and register our passports. The Indians clearly had no intention of allowing the Dalai Lama to share the fate of Trotsky. Khando and her rmother had their own apartment in the Palace, for customs had changed since the days of Lhasa, when no woman was allowed within the Potala, and there we waited until Ben came to tell us that His Holiness was ready to receive us. We walked on to the wide verandah in front of the bungalow, with its great view plunging down over the forests to the white river in the valley. Lamas in maroon robes and noblemen in silk gowns waited outside the audience chamber. They bowed in greeting. By the door stood a gigantic monk, almost seven feet high; he was the Dalai Lama’s personal bodyguard.

Well-schooled beforehand, we flicked open our rolled scarves as we went into the chamber, and offered them on our extended palms, with the fringed ends hanging on each side. The Dalai Lama was standing just inside the doorway, a tall young man in fine woollen robes, with an intelligent, sadly humorous face. His hair was cut en brosse, and he wore heavy black-ribbed spectacles. He came forward smiling, took the scarves ceremoniously, and then shook hands and led us into the chamber.

There was a throne at one end, quilted in yellow silk, with a brocade canopy above it and a series of brilliant Tibetan thankas hanging on the wall behind. But in front of the throne, settees and easy chairs were arranged on a thick-pile Tibetan carpet; they also were in the yellow sacred to Buddhists. The Dalai Lama sat on one of the settees and we on another. The only other people present were Ben and a lama secretary, who spoke in the curious sucked-in whisper which Tibetans use when addressing their social or spiritual superiors. But there were other, invisible presences, for two doorways led out of the audience chamber to the rest of the house, and occasionally, as the wind moved the curtains, we would see shadowy figures standing behind them like listeners in a mediaeval drama. Every now and then, from an inner room, a cuckoo clock would call.

The Dalai Lama understood English almost perfectly, and would often answer in Tibetan before Ben could begin putting our questions, but except for a few interjected phrases like “For example” or “You see,” he spoke only Tibetan. He answered deliberately, sometimes slowly, seeking to frame an idea precisely, but never hesitantly. He listened with a slight smile, and occasionally would throw back his head and laugh unrestrainedly.

Our conversation, which originally had been planned for a quarter of an hour, went on for almost two hours, and we covered many subjects, from Buddhism to the future of Tibet, the plight of the refugees, and our own plans, which had been growing up in our minds ever since we visited Mussoorie, to found some kind of organisation for aiding the Tibetans as soon as we returned to Canada.

It was Inge, puzzled by the intricacies of lamaist doctrine, who asked most of the questions on religion; I noted the Dalai Lama’s replies in my diary immediately after the audience.

“Discussion of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama insists that there is no specifically Tibetan element in the religion he professes. All comes from India, except that Tantrism, secret in India, became open in Tibet. The Gods of Lamaist Buddhism are in some senses real, in others not. Real as objects of contemplation on the way to Buddhahood, or as projections of our own passions (in anger, for example, we may give substance to angry gods), but ultimately non-existent, sheddable by those who have gone far enough along the path of enlightenment. Asceticism. The Dalai Lama declares this is not necessary except for those who need its help in a stage on the way to truth. For the truly wise it is possible to do all things, since for them all things have ceased to be objects of desire. “It is possible,” he says, smiling gently at us, “to achieve enlightenment even if you are married.”

To G’s question on possibility of advancing towards Buddhahood by contemplating gods of other religions, Dalai Lama replies, with seeming inconsistency, that such contemplation will merely lead to a man’s becoming the god he contemplates. The Dalai Lama says that Hinayanist Buddhism (the Lesser Vehicle of the Ceylonese) is limited by its concentration on personal salvation. Hinayana may lead to the lower Nirvana, the release from rebirth. Yes, there are two Nirvanas.

The higher Nirvana is Buddhahood, total enlightenment; to this only Mahayana Buddhism, with its insistence on the need for the salvation of all living beings, can lead. Hence the Tibetan Buddhists, even when they follow Hinayanist practices, combine them with the Mahayanist philosophy of university compassion. But in the end each man must find his own path, the path that is proper to him. That is what the Buddha taught.”

When we talked of the future of Tibet, it was clear that His Holiness had no illusions about the strength of the present Chinese hold on his country; he remarked that it might be a very long time before he and his exiled subjects would be able to return. But he was convinced—partly because of his reading of ancient prophecies and partly from his knowledge of the Tibetan people—that the Buddhist religion would survive. Yet he realised—perhaps more than most of his followers—that the old, mediaeval Tibet was gone for good. Even if the Chinese departed, it could never be resurrected in its old form.

Throughout our conversation we were impressed by the apparent contrast between the broadness of the Dalai Lama’s views and the circumscribed and ceremonial life his office demands. His days are bound by the timetable of prayer and meditation, and are lived according to the strict ceremonial of a royal household, where chamberlains and food-tasters still have their place; on formal occasions the protocol is at least as elaborate as that of the Vatican. Yet within this pattern His Holiness clearly maintains live links with the modern world.

He reads the newspaper carefully each day, and he is passionately interested in the developments of modern science and mechanical invention; he has the reputation of being an excellent amateur photographer. Furthermore, he and his family show a liberalism of attitude which I suspect, from certain remarks I heard at Dharamsala and in Delhi, is not welcomed by all his advisers. One product of his attitude has been a plan for a “constitutional democracy based on the tenets of Buddhism” which the Dalai Lama insisted should be discussed by the refugees in their various camps before he promulgated it.

The constitution includes all the democratic features that are familiar to us but strange to Tibetans, such as independent courts of law and an elected legislature. It even allows for the deposition of the Dalai Lama himself by due process of law, and in Tibetan terms this is a positively revolutionary change, since it means that the Dalai Lama has quietly dropped the assumption of infallibility that traditionally goes with his office.

All this, the Dalai Lama insisted, could only apply if he went back to Tibet. But, whether or not that return took place, the Tibetans in exile would have to come to terms with the modern world if they were to survive, and the problem that seemed to concern him most—even more than the present well-being of the refugees—was the education of the young people who have come suddenly from the Middle Ages into the twentieth century. For this reason he told us that he wished to see something new in the history of Lamaist Tibet—an end to traditional isolation by sending as many young Tibetans as possible abroad, to take their pick of modern knowledge and then return and use it in the service of their people. There are no Tibetan doctors or dentists, no Tibetan engineers or agricultural scientists, and only a minute handful of Tibetan trained nurses and teachers. All these skills have to be learnt, in addition to the basic training being given to a minority of Tibetan children in residential schools like that in Mussoorie. In the long run, he thought, the best contribution that people of democratic countries could make to the cause of Tibet might be their assistance in creating an efficient educational system for refugees.

Late in the afternoon the interview ended. The Dalai Lama came with us to the door of the audience chamber, and there he gave us his blessing and handed back the white scarves we had presented. It was the ancient Tibetan courtesy to those who go on journeys.

We left Dharamsala on the afternoon of the following day. Before we departed General Khemey and Thubten Ninjee had invited us to lunch in a little mountainside bungalow surrounded by marigolds that rampaged in a golden hedge five feet high. They had borrowed the Dalai Lama’s cook, and the meal they provided was the magnificent gesture of exiles defying their own poverty. But our hosts were still apologetic. It was nothing, they assured us, to the feasts they would give us when they return to Lhasa and we visited them there.

There was another guest at this lunch, a stocky lama with a solemn, Sumerian face and impenetrable eyes which at times had a fixed expression like those of a man in trance. We were not told his name, but we realised his importance when we saw Khando bow towards him so that their brows touched lightly; he was the only person who did not speak to her in the sucked-in whisper of respect. Later we learnt that he was a high Incarnate Lama and one of the most influential of the Dalai Lama’s advisers.

For a considerable time he merely observed us, his face impassive, and I found his curiously dense stare difficult to endure with comfort. But his mood slowly softened; before we parted he had offered to give Inge guidance in the teachings of Buddhism whenever we returned among the Tibetans, and when we went out on to the terrace outside the cottage to take photographs of our hosts, he was easily persuaded to be included.

The view from his terrace was the most magnificent in Dharmsala. Our hosts pointed with affection to the foothills dense with their clotted forests that surged on the far side of the valley, and beyond them the great wall of the snow-covered range, shining and sparkling in the noonday sun against the clear sky of late November. “Beyond those mountains lies Tibet,” said the old general, and the other nodded gravely. We prepared to leave, and thanked them for their hospitality. “It is we who must thank you,” said Thubten Ninjee. “These days we are a sad people, unlike our true selves. But when visitors come to see us, our sadness vanishes, we no longer feel alone and we are able to laugh once again.”

At the Nursery Mrs. Tsering Dolma and the minister Phala had come to talk with us before we left. I sat with Phala, discussing the problems of the eighty thousand Tibetan refugees who were his peculiar responsibility—of those imprisoned by the snows and starving in the high valleys of Nepal, of those who had found such a hostile welcome in the primitive mountain Kingdom of Bhutan that they had fled a second time into India, and of the few who had gained some promise of a settled life in the land schemes of Mysore and Uttar Pradesh. Phala handed me letters to Tibetans in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, at the eastern end of the Himalayas, which we intended to visit in December. “Do not trust every Tibetan you meet in Darjeeling,” he warned me. “There are many spies of the Communists.”

We talked easily, and, though Ben acted as an interpreter, our thoughts ran together so admirably that we had no difficulty of understanding. “We have come to know each other very well,” said Phala at the end. “There can be only one explanation. We were friends in a past incarnation.” He said it in a quiet, matter-of-fact tone.

We all walked down the slippery path to the road where the Dalai Lama’s car was once again waiting. The servants loaded our luggage into the car, and Mrs. Tsering Dolma presented us with two magnificent scarves of fine silk. Khando rode with us a little way down the hill, to start us on the journey.

“Our Karma has brought us together,” she said, as she left us. And then the car went speeding down the mountain roads on the long drive into the Kangra valley, where the villages sprang out of the darkness like little fountains of light as we drove through them towards Pathankot and the Delhi train.

[Faces of India: A Travel Narrative by George Woodcock, illustrated with photographs by Ingeborg Woodcock (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1964)]