A typically sunny, early-December Saturday transcended into a momentous morning for each of us present at the Ummeed Sneh Ghar in Mehrauli, New Delhi. The morning of 7th December 2013 brought with it a visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to our boys’ homes, where he met with, blessed and invaluably contributed to the lives of nearly 500 children and 400 guests, and members of staff of Rainbow Homes Program, Aman Biradari and the Centre for Equity Studies.
An added gift, apart from being in the presence of the Dalai Lama himself, was a personal memory that each of the attendees left for home with – a visual memento of that first moment when we saw Him; a lingering feeling of conviction upon hearing His simple, honest messages relayed with childlike-humility; and the unforgettable sensation of his soul-piercing stare for those fortunate enough to be looked at directly by Him.
The children included all those living in our Dil Se homes in New Delhi, 100 children from partnering homes for girls across India, and around 50 children from homes of other NGOs in New Delhi. Seated right across the stage from His Holiness, the children all listened intently to His words, translated into Hindi from English by Harsh Mander, Convenor of the Aman Biradari Trust. Upon arrival, He was accompanied on a round of the home campus to share with Him our Rainbow Homes model for Non-Custodial, Comprehensive Care homes for urban deprived children.
As the gathering fell quiet in reverence, His Holiness took to the stage to commence with his much-awaited interaction with the children. The children first expressed their loving welcome to His Holiness with songs and dances performed after hours of diligent practice. When He spoke to the children, addressing them directly in a crowd of nearly a 1000, all of us listening were touched by His gesture of establishing a heartfelt camaraderie with the children. His Holiness drew a parallel between each child’s previously homeless state of living, and His own journey into exile from Tibet, a life lived away from His home and His people, thus rendering Him homeless too. He shone his wisdom on the inner strength of ever child that sat there, for having already overcome a daunting level of adversity in their life, a testament to the tenacity of human spirit and belief in what is good within. This, He expressed, was a good path to follow, a belief in oneself and obedience to the guiding light within each of us.
Following His profound message, relayed with surprising lightness, humour and affability, His Holiness mingled with the guests and children, thronged on all sides by a crowd of people while He transmitted warmth to each person he looked at, somehow making them feel like they were the only person in a crowd of hundreds.
Our guests for the event included national and international dignitaries, supporters and benefactors of our organisation and parents of the children themselves, apart from select members of the press and our family of dedicated members of staff and volunteers across all homes.
It is not common for most people to ever meet or see a person that has had an actual bearing on the history of human civilization as we know it to exist today. It is exponentially rarer to be part of an audience with a spiritually exalted human being that has displayed exceptional tenacity in all that is good, peaceful, loving and compassionate about the human spirit. Our opportunity to witness the Dalai Lama, his memorable generosity and kindness towards the children, and the sheer sense of harmony, of shaanti, in the air that day will always live within us, frequently revisited in the archives of each of our memories.
Perhaps the most noteworthy legacy born of a few hours of being in His presence, however, is the lasting impact of his words and his affection on the children themselves. Upon discussing the event with the children after His Holiness left Ummeed Aman Ghar, several of the children repeated his words and recounted his message in their own voice, absorbing it permanently within as they did so. It is no wonder, and no surprise, that an exchange of sentiments between pure souls such as our children and His Holiness touched us all with a graceful glory which has in many ways prevented that day from ending simply by nightfall.