Standing at the Lufthansa ticket counter at the New Delhi airport, my change partner, Ida and I were looking forward to a restful overnight flight to Frankfurt. After showing our passports, the agent cheerily informed us that we had been upgraded to ‘first class.’ This was a first for us.
As we entered the plane the flight attendant escorted us to the front of the plane to row 2, seats A and B. As more passengers settled in their seats we noticed they were all on the left-side of the plane, leaving the right-side completely empty. So that’s how first class worked, I thought.
Suddenly, two Asian men in suits with single ear pieces entered the cabin and opened all luggage compartments looking for something that didn’t seem to be there. Then they checked under the seats and quickly left. In a flash eight monks in red and yellow gowns sat in the open seats. Ida looked over and motioning to seat 1 D, “Is that the Dali Lama?” It was and he was only six feet away from us – I could almost touch him. We couldn’t believe our luck and started secretly hand gesturing “Can you believe it?” signs to each other.
In the morning, we stood up but stayed at our seats knowing the Dali Lama would be walking past us. When he turned to leave he displayed the most peaceful half smile. Luckily the woman in front of me was an enthusiastic fan who couldn’t contain herself. She stepped into the aisle and said, “Oh Dali Lama, I think you are wonderful.” The Dali Lama stumbled over her foot and teetered into my arms. I couldn’t believe it. I smiled (I think) and he smiled and gave me a slight nod as I righted him. He walked past us into a throng of smiling passengers. I realized that everyone needs to be supported when they least expect it.