Sunday, April 15, 2007


Celebrity cameo!
Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh

I just met Richard Gere and he is really cool. He and Robert Thurman (Uma Thurman's dad) were here for a scientific conference with the Dalai Lama and 11 top neuroscientists, cosmologists, astronomers, physicists and psychologists. The conference is called "The Universe in a Single Atom," which is the name of one of the Dalai Lama's many books. The Dalai Lama has always maintained a keen interest in science. It was a pretty amazing conference, covering the confluence between Buddhism and its traditions of "mind training" and modern science's technological manipulations of consciousness.

Richard Gere had just walked out of the Dalai Lama's residence and was having coffee at Ten Yang, my regular hangout, with Matthew Ricard (a French Buddhist monk and Tibetan translator) and Jeremy Russell (another Tibetan translator).

My friend Victoria had sent him some material about her current project, "Stand For Tibet." So we boldly went up to the table at an opportune moment and asked whether he had a chance to review it.

Amazingly, he had read the whole thing and gave Victoria very valueable, detailed feedback about her project. He lamented the relative uselessness of the United Nations regarding the Tibetan issue ("They won't do anything - I mean, they won't even let me be an International Ambassador for fear of offending China") and suggested that, since "face" and "honour" mean so much to the Chinese, that an appeal to their global-image-conscious side would be an effective approach.

Richard then graciously posed for photos with the Ten Yang coffee shop employees, who are Tibetan. When a few excited westerners started snapping his photo, he smiled at first, then gently said, "Okay, enough. I'm trying to talk with friends," and smiled.

The Gere Foundation literally paid for all the paving and sewage and drains on Temple Road here. He is quite the local patron saint/hero.

In case you're wondering, he looks great in person, with a huge crop of thick silvery hair, glasses, and somewhat pinkish (sunburned?) complexion. I have a photo I snapped of him walking down the street with 2 friends and promise I will post it tomorrow!

--A week later: Okay, the photo is here, you Gere-heads!!! and in case you can't get enough, here are 2 more random ones...he is a normal person who walks
down the street dodging garbage and cows (we are in India) like everyone else!

Bad looks = Good luck
Looking like hell must be my good-luck charm for meeting famous people. As luck would have it, this morning I tumbled out of bed with no time to brush my teeth or hair or even wash my face. Naturally, this would be the day I would meet Richard Gere in a coffee shop. The first time I shook the Dalai Lama's hand, I hadn't showered and was wearing an inside-out shirt (!), and when I met Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakya lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, I had not showered or even looked in a mirror all day.

Maybe unpretentiousness attracts good fortune, and auspicious beings....


Shinu Mathew said...

Richard gere is famous in India too, for his Awareness about AIDS campaign. a very philantropic guy!
I am awaiting the snaps tomorrow. You didn't get any of you & your friend meeting him?
About the tibet issue, even India washed their hands off! In response China practically gave Arunachal claim up! And UN is nothing but a white elephant, evident from it's failure in iraq, Afghanistan and all the other places.

The Bananafish said...

Sorry for my ignorance and negativity, but what can Gere et al realistically achieve? Isn't Tibet already lost? There are now more Han than Tibetans in Tibet, and the Chinese have no intention of giving it up. Didn't HHDL even admit as much a year or so ago? I wish it were different, but freedom for Tibet appears to be impossible. Are there other, more reasonable expectations?

Ashini said...

So, Richard Gere walked out graciously and did not try to kiss the Dalai Lama? :-)

byron aihara said...

Gotta have a lotta love for Richard Gere. Here's a guy who's rolling up his shirt sleeves and and trying to make a difference.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

For Ashini: This was just a couple days (literally) before the Kissing Shilpa incident! Amazing.

People have said all kinds of excoriating things about Gere since then. I think he just underestimated India mores and decorum. At the conversation in the coffee shop he reached out and rubbed my friend (a fifty-plus retired schoolteacher)'s shoulder to tell her "you did a good job." I think he is just a naturally demonstrative guy - no offense meant to Indian Womanhood!

AlterinG Abhishek said...

well dunno reality!!
u never know reality..
am i right Siren?

I am sure ur experiance is as interesting as it is..
and life to each one is as it IS to EACH one only!!

( WIsh to meet you sometime in life.. and just hear u talk about what all amazing things u have been doing!!)!!


Claude Renault said...

very interesting blog you have.. I can't wait to be back to Katmandhu, in 2 months..

Lekshay said...

I just read all your interesting dairy on ure stay at Dhasa. Very interesting. Til recently I was in Dhasa and was infact born and educated there. As for the his Holiness audience is concern, I want to make a clarification. whether its a group or individual, they have to fill up the form and show their passport to the Indian security personal guarding the Private residence of His Holiness. If you snick into the group without their prior notice, the securities will not allow to enter. It's a security measure.

Hope to hear more on dharamshala.

my photographic blog is

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Hi Lekshay. Yes, you must fill out a form - I think I mentioned that - and show your passport. However, sometimes people manage to join a group they are not actually a member of (Russian for example) and they get waved in, among the rush. They still have a form and a passport.

PC Hilfe said...

gretings from herisau