Buddha Saved Me

G. K. Sharma, Tribune, April 3

RECENT Press Reports: "Buddha Statues (of Bamiyan) are gone", brought memories tumbling of happenings of yesteryears. In a positive way though.... When Buddha saved me.

It was the morning of November 2, 1963. I was in Saigon when the military coup, led by General "Big" Minh, took place. President Ngo Binh Diem of (then) South Vietnam had been toppled and murdered. The whole city of Saigon was agog with rumours. In an adventurous mood. I, along with a friend, entered the Presidential Palace - the scene of the army coup - which was a walking distance away from our hotel. To know things first hand, and to satisfy our youthful curiosity!

We had tiptoed to a stationary army tank, which looked like an abandoned vehicle. But, suddenly, we spotted an officer standing nearby, and took shelter in a pit by the belly of the tank. Then, lo and behold! The tank roared to life! We thought we were dead meat. The tank engine's noise, however, soon died down and the soldier who was hiding ostrich-like in the cockpit, jumped out and asked our identity. When told we were Indians, he spared us by saying "Ando Buddha" (Indians are Budhists - meaning peaceful). Then forgetting us, he joined the chorus of the troops milling around outside: "We have won!" We thanked our stars and ran for safety, thinking that it was enough experience for one day. Ambassador Govardhan did get some authentic on-the spot news! (But the cost would have been exorbitant if the tank had mowed us while we were lying hidden near its belly).

But little did I realise that I was out of the frying pan, into the fire! For, as soon as I had reached my hotel room, panting, and bolted the door from the inside to catch my breath, I heard a sharp knock on the door. I wished and prayed it was not the Military Police following me on my tracks. Then my hunch told me that it must be my room boy, as the knock was typically his.

When I opened the door, Ho (short name of the Vietnamese room boy) was standing there and making unintelligible sounds while entering. His version of Saigon news always intrigued me. This time Ho gave no news, but blurted out, "I today shall kill five foreigners. We have won. The Red Army and Comrade Ho Chi Minh have won. I must celebrate our victory by beheading five foreigners! Totally scared, I almost fainted... till, suddenly, Ho smiled, and with folded hands said: "Ando Buddha" - assuring me that I was not on his hit list. (Later, in the evening, I came to know that Ho did kill five American officers and had escaped to jungle terrain to join some guerrilla bands).

Why Ho had spared me, has always intrigued me. As an Indian, I would have been an easy target. So, probably, my identity as "Ando Buddha" was the saving grace! Buddha had saved me - both from the "charge" of a roaring armoured tank, as well as from a furious and delirious Ho.

And now about 40 years later, I can still visualise Buddha smiling even in pain in Bamiyan. His spirit and message of compassion will continue to be a saviour for succeeding generations, despite Taliban's diabolical act!.

Referred by:Balram Sampla
Published on: April 5, 2001
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