Censorship? Tee hee!

The Dalai Lama has more in common with a teenage girl than you'd expect

The Dalai Lama has more in common with a teenage girl than you’d expect The World Service’s rare interview with the Dalai Lama (Heart and Soul, 5 July, 11.30am) opened with the presenter, Mark Tully, wondering if it is the DL’s duty to be lonely. Apparently not. The DL explained that even when he was an anointed child people played with him all the time – though they could be a bit rough and he would “kind of cry. Tee hee!”

The DL’s surprising fondness for “kind of” and “sort of” makes parts of the interview read, in transcript, like one with a teenage girl, or at the very least a person who tends towards covering their notebooks in gilded wrapping paper and stickers. The effect was compounded by the DL’s clear preference for the present tense, and continual, utterly helpless corpsing. “I am very young and sometimes cheating, he he heee! And others are, like, ‘You, Dalai Lama, are not debating properly!’”

Despite the impressive Tully’s best efforts, for the most part the DL simply refused to be serious. “What is it, do you think, Your Holiness,” Tully probed, “that has made you such an important figure, not just in the world of Buddhism but in the whole international world of inter-religious dialogue?”

“I don’t know!” screeched the DL, delighted. The producer then played in some non-combatant Tibetan music, emitting a lovely woozy air of time passing, throwing up an image of Tully and the DL, feet propped on a coffee table amid an array of pizza boxes, gathering their wits. (I know for a fact, btw, that the DL eats pizza, because an acquaintance of mine, a tech-support boffin, was once sent to fix his printer when the DL was visiting London. My friend says he arrived at the house to find several monks “ordering take-out” and the DL annoyed that he couldn’t get the printer going himself. “I loved from childhood small technologies,” His Holiness confirmed to Tully at this point, “particularly toys, and mending watches.”)

And yet as the (monstrously sweet) interview progressed, the more familiar, Yoda-like voice of the DL rose up, quite overwhelming your reviewer. “Entire Tibetan area now made true in internet what they call these things. Develop accordingly a sense of concern.”

“Hmm, hmmm,” responded Tully, clearly relieved that the interview had taken a serious turn and going with every nuance, however cryptic. “Censorship,” continued the DL, “tee hee. This will not remain long last.”

The rest of the interview in brief: His Holiness is optimistic that a solution with China will be found (“Tibetan issue within a few days I think can be easily solve”) and hopes the next DL might be a woman (“A female reincarnation make more sense. Heeee!”).

Elsewhere, Radio 4’s book of the week, Stalin’s Nemesis (6-10 July, 9.45am), was a head-achingly compressed account of Trotsky’s fatal stay in Mexico with Frida Kahlo, whose idea of a perfect day was “Make love. Take a bath. Make love again”. (Right on.) Apparently Stalin’s plot to assassinate Trotsky (aka Operation Duck) kept being scuppered by the traitor’s fondness for staying in all day at the hacienda building a three-tiered rabbit hutch. Meanwhile Frida – her wolfish sexuality temporarily disguised beneath a heavy floral skirt, her many scars and injuries, one imagines, lending her flesh a deliciously doomed ripeness – limped across the room towards him, letting down her plaits. Trotters didn’t stand a chance.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.