The French news magazine L’Express have just published an assignment I made for them in February on Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, the seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama in Sarnath, northern India. The Karmapa is head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and predates the Dalai Lama’s lineage. This particular incarnation is disputed however and another candidate, Trinley Thaye Dorje has also been proclaimed and enthroned in another part of India. There’s a reasonable discussion on the succession issues here.
In any case, the assignment gave me a three-fold opportunity.
Firstly, I had the pleasure of meeting the Karmapa, a shy and I thought rather melancholy figure – a bird in a gilded cage if ever there was one – whose keen interest in photography was restricted to photographing the outside world from his window. The child of nomads, he ‘escaped’ from his Chinese hosts first to Nepal and then to India from where he was supposed to conduct a european tour this summer only to be thwarted by the refusal of the Indian authorities to grant him an exit visa. Which has of course nothing to do with Chinese pressure.
Secondly, I had the chance to go back to one of my favourite cities, Varanasi – one of its many names – I think the most intriguing of all north Indian cities.
Thirdly, I had the pleasure to work with Marc Epstein, the charming Foreign Editor of L’Express with whom I managed to put the world to rights over long walks along the ghats of a city we both hadn’t visited for a couple of years. I managed to explain the relative intricacies of cricket to a Frenchman who was curious of all the sporting activity along the river and made him an honoury Tottenham Hotspur fan for his trouble. For this of course, I apologised in advance: an inevitable entrée to a world of pain and disappointment…