By Bhuchung D Sonam
New York City, May 6, 2009: In 1947 two Canadians travelled to Tibet with an aim to make a film and a youthful dream to meet the Dalai Lama. They had no idea that their dream would be fulfilled by their grandchildren 67 years later in New York City.
Earnest Reid and William Dunning were the only Canadian expedition to enter into Tibet before the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Their journey was interrupted before their arrival in Lhasa due to breakdown of their film equipments and other logistical problems.
Dunning, a Royal Canadian Air Fore officer stationed in Calcutta (now Koltata) visited Sikkim and befriended the Maharaja of Sikkim, which enabled them to visit Phari Dzong in Tibet. Soon his Tibetan experience gave him an idea of making a documentary or even a feature film.
He was introduced to Reid, a film director at the National Film Board of Canada and the pair immediately struck an enthusiastic friendship. They shared a common vision and saw an opportunity to make films on other cultures, which would open new artistic opportunities.
Though their idea of making a film did not materialize, a collection of rare photographs they took stands testimony to that extraordinary journey. This collection is also evidence to the world of an independent Tibet as they witnessed.
The Reids were one of many Canadian and American families whose members had been to Tibet before 1950. They gathered on May 5, 2009, at the Waldorf Astoria to have an audience with the Dalai Lama.
After a brief talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in which the Tibetan leader remembered old friends and praised their life-long support for Tibet, the families took turn to have their photos taken with the Nobel laureate.
As the Reid family took their turn their turn, they offered His Holiness photographs of Earnest Reid compiled in a book titled “Tibetan Portraits 1947.”
Ryszard Cimek, a Reid family friend said that the event is critically important to counter the Chinese propaganda about Tibet.
“These people being firsthand witnesses could not really agree with anything that the Chinese propaganda is trying to offer to us,” Cimek said.
For the Reids and many others who went to Tibet, the meeting with the Dalai Lama was a dream fulfilled.