Pico Iyer, my ultimate favorite travel writer, has a new book out Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Whenever I see Iyer’s name, it’s like a laser beam calling me to read it.
The book chronicles Iyer’s 30 year history with the Dalai Lama that that began when he first met him. This was back before fame struck either of them. As he told in an interview with World Hum, Iyer got the idea for the book five years ago after the war in Iraq started. Then Iyer began to look into the patterns of the Dalai Lama’s life and travels and Iyer’s own. From my understanding, the book is mostly about the Dalai Lama with Iyer’s presence dipping in and out of depending on the chapter and theme.
The idea sounds fascinating to me. I do think there are people who come into our lives at particular times that are turning points for us. Certain world events offer a backdrop or a heightened sense of awareness in our own day to day meanderings. The book also intrigues me because of my own chance encounters with both Iyer and the Dalai Lama that left an impression.
In Dharamsala, in the courtyard of the monastery where he lives, the Dalai Lama walked right by us as he made his way to address the audience who had crowded in to hear him talk. It was the day before the U.S. went into Iraq. I remember how beamy he seemed when he walked by right where I stood leaning against a fence of the courtyard. Being with people from all over the world at an audience on the day before the U.S. went into Iraq is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s an unusual happening at an unusual time in an unusual place kind of thing.
As for Pico Iyer, I had no idea he was in New Delhi when I sat down in my living room with a cup of coffee and the newspaper one morning. There his name was under a things happening today type section. At a writers conference. “Pico Iyer’s at a writing conference!” I sputtered out, spewing coffee. “Pico Iyer! Today, as in now,” I moaned. “Oh, why do I find out about these things so late?”
“Let’s go then,” my husband said, grabbing our then one-month old and the diaper bag. He didn’t want to be left stranded for who knows how long until I returned. So there we were, hustling for a taxi. We sat in the balcony of the auditorium during the panel discussion that Iyer was moderating.
Afterwards, I went downstairs to say hello and hand Iyer a short odd little creative non-fiction piece I wrote about him. He shook my hand, seemed pleased, and sent me a thank-you post card later. And that’s my Dalai Lama/Pico Iyer global journey story. I’m not sure what turning point I had in my life as a result of seeing either one of them. I think I’m still waiting, but the encounters make me smile when I think about them, so perhaps, that’s enough. [via World Hum]