My friend Gail and I chatted in her den this morning. We watched the pouring rain through the patio doors. Indoors it was warm and cosy and I hugged a mug of tea. Gail leafed through my book about India. She reminded me about the time in 2001 when I was preparing for my seven-day visit to Jaipur and Dharamsala.
Out of the blue she told me that my story and what happened to me was a bit like the 1998 film Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltro and John Hannah. In the first few minutes of the film we see the ‘heroine’s’ life split into two. And throughout the rest of the film we are to-ing and fro-ing between what would have happened in each version of her life. Her whole life changes in a split second when, after being sacked from her PR job in London, she misses the Tube-train to take her home. One part of the film follows her catching the train and seeing the consequences of getting home and finding her bloke in bed with another woman – the other part, when she misses the train, shows how she gets mugged before landing a lowly-paid waitressing job.
Gail’s assessment of my life was fascinating. What if I hadn’t been to the fishmonger in Bookham that winter’s morning in 2000 to interview him for a possible story? What if I hadn’t crossed over the A246 Leatherhead Road at the exact time that I did? After all, the Buddhist monks only stood begging for food outside the supermarket until midday when they went off to eat. If I had crossed the road a few minutes later I would have missed them. Timing is everything.
I came home from Gail’s in wondering-mode about 2000, and about our conversation.
What if I had never met Tenzin Josh, never learnt about meditation or the Dalai Lama, never visited Dharamsala, met Tibetan monks or the Tibetan Children’s Village?
Twelve years on from that chance meeting with two Tibetan monks in our village I wonder what I would be doing now…