By Dr. Bhagwan Dash
It was somewhere in 1970, I was instigated by a professor of Delhi University to learn Tibetan. In search of a primer to learn Tibetan language, I went to meet a friend in American Library of Congress which was located at that time in the upper floor of Sheela theatre building in Paharganj area of Delhi. It was lunch break. In the empty working hall, I saw an American still working. I stood before him but he didn’t notice my presence. After sometime, he raised his head and enquired about the purpose of coming there. I explained to him that I am in search of a Tibetan primer called Bhota-prakash and my friend working there has agreed to get me a copy. After a smile, I was directed to go to the canteen attached to the office. I was coming back when he enquired if I got the book? I told him of my disappointment. Then he enquired about the purpose for which I needed that book. I introduced myself as a student of Ayurveda and my purpose was to work on Tibetan medicine. He informed me that the book has long gone out of print. Then on my request, he gave me the addresses of six persons in Delhi who could help me in getting the book. I met each of them. All of them echoed the same voice and also suggested that it was he (Mr. E Gene Smith) who can help me in learning classical Tibetan. When I telephoned Mr. Smith again, he said he had no time. Two days later, I received a phone inviting me to a dinner. I readily agreed. I helped myself with a coca cola but when the food was served, I could find only rice and butter to eat. When Mr. Smith came to me and enquired of my not eating, I told him that I am a vegetarian. He profusely apologized for not knowing that. When I came out of the dining room, he opened the door. At that time, my question was “when are you going to teach me Tibetan?” He repeated his earlier statement that he had no time. After another week, I had his phone call again inviting me to another dinner. This time, the invitation was accompanied with an assurance that a Brahmin cook has been recruited to cook vegetarian food for me. I told him that I am a vegetarian no doubt but the cook can be of any caste or religion for which I have no reservation. My food was served in a separate small table in the corner of the dining room. After I finished, Mr. Smith opened the door for me to come out. At that time, I confronted him with the same question about his teaching Tibetan to me and his reply was the same which was “no time”. I informed him, serving food to a Brahmin should always be accompanied by a dakshina. He understood the implication of dakshina and enquired from me how much he owes to me? I informed him that this dakshina should be in kind and not in cash. I told him that the dakshina should be “to teach me Tibetan”. At the door, he exclaimed loudly “Doctor Dash you are a leech”. I confessed that that I am a leech not to suck the blood but to beg for milk. He was in a fix. He called me again after 3 days and we started our Tibetan.
Unfortunately, because of my touring job in health ministry and his official engagements, I could not get enough time to take advantage of the benevolence shown to me.
Three days before his final departure from India, I received a phone call that Mr. Smith wants to meet me. I readily agreed to go to his place of stay but he insisted on meeting me in person at my house. He saw my academic activities and being impressed by the proof copy of my book “Pulse examination in Indo-Tibetan Medicine” he agreed to write a foreward to this book. He took a copy of the manuscript and promised to send his foreward by email from America. Instead of getting his email, after 4 days, I received the information about his nirvana and I became an orphan.
Dr. Bhagwan Dash