For the past six years, I have spent quite a bit of time cataloging Tibetan texts, while at the same time growing up from a baby Tibetologist to a toddler Tibetologist. Throughout this period, my daily encounters with the TBRC website were not only an invaluable source of help, but also pure pleasure. Already then, Gene became my hero, and I asked everybody involved in Tibetan Studies I came across: “Have you ever met Gene Smith in person? What is he like?”
Even though the answers I got made it clear to me what to expect from Gene as a scholar, I was in no way prepared for Gene as a human being when I entered the TBRC mandala as an intern last September.
What I had in mind was a very important and busy person whom I would see maybe once a week – what happened was that Gene continously passed by my desk and dropped into my delighted ears just the information I needed or found interesting. Even less could I ever have imagined how much he cared for me as a person – he kept asking how I spent my weekends and seemed worried whether I got enough to eat. He made me feel that not he, but I was the important person, in a very positive sense. Among my most cherished memories are: an inspiring discussion which helped me to round off a term paper; his unshakable conviction that I can do something (which I did not think I could at that time) for the very simple reason that I want to do it; and the last evening before he left for India, when he treated a couple of us to wonderful food and fascinating conversations. I deeply appreciated his sense of humor and was at times quite challenged by his teasing nature – but happy to take the challenge.
And yes, sometimes he also scared me – on days of weak self-consciousness I wanted to disappear below my desk whenever he passed.
And yes, sometimes he also got me really upset by the things he said (all forgiven and forgotten now).
And yes, sometimes he also made me cry. But he also comforted me.
Anything less than the entire range of human emotions would have been insufficient for my encounter with Gene. But no matter what kind of feeling he would trigger in me, in the end I would come out of the situation with a big smile on my face and unable to get it off again for several hours, if not days.
With much love and gratitude,