In 1959 when the Dalai Lama escaped from Tibet, he treaded the hostile Himalayas with a caravan consisting of soldiers and countrymen who dexterously guided the Tibetan spiritual leader to India. One of them was a young soldier belonging to the Assam Rifles, a jawan named Naren Chandra Das who met the Dalai Lama during a recent session in Guwahati, Assam.
The Dalai Lama was visibly emotional when he thanked the retired soldier who held his hand amicably. “Thank you very much…. I am very very happy to meet such an old member of the Assam Rifles who guarded and escorted me to India 58 years ago,” he said.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, not a stranger to harmless quips, said to Das: “Looking at your face, I now realise I must be very old too.”
Chandra Das, who had joined the Indian force in 1957, was called in to escort the Dalai Lama out of Tibet just two years later when the Chinese invasion of Tibet took place. Now 76-years-old, Das recalled the time when he was chosen to escort the Tibetan leader. “Guards of Assam Rifles Platoon no. 9 had brought the Dalai Lama from Zuthangbo and handed him over to five of us at Shakti. We brought him to Lungla from where he was escorted on his onward journey to Tawang by another group of guards,” he said.
Asked about whether conversations had transpired during the brief journey, Das said that he was not allowed to talk or interact with the Dalai Lama.
Das was presented with a silk shawl and expressed how overwhelmed he was by the Dalai Lama’s embrace.