Hellbound Hellraiser

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche loved London. Twenty odd years ago it was a great place to have fun. It overflowed with movies and cheap restaurants and quickly became his playground. He’d wander around Leicester Square, Soho, Oxford Circus with a crocodile of friends and would-be students in tow from morning ’til night. We saw six movies one day in six different cinemas. The only one I remember was the last one, a midnight showing of Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall at the huge Marble Arch Odeon. We sat in the front row.

In those days I still clung to my Art House movies creds. I’d never seen Indiana Jones, or Star Wars, and to this day all I know of ET are the skits and satires its inspired. Rinpoche watches anything and everything; he loved, and loves, Kurasawa, Naked Gun and Star Wars. Total Recall was a revelation.

Come to think of it, the only time I remember Rinpoche showing irritation with me was over a movie.

The day had begun with his suggestion that we see Hellbound Hellraiser II. “You’ve got to be joking!” I sighed, and rolled my eyes. Rinpoche smiled and we went shopping.
A little later he suggested it again. “Isn’t life too short?” I asked, displaying a little dispair and rather too much naked prejudice. Rinpoche smiled and we went for tea.
After tea he suggested it again. We were standing outside the tea shop in a circle, about five of us I think, and although I’m not entirely sure what I said this time, it was pretty close to an outright “No!” Rinpoche transformed instantly from close friend into outraged Vajra Master.

“You really must not reject things, Janine! It’s bad for you!” And he wasn’t smiling.

Rinpoche turned to speak to someone and suddenly all I could see of him was his back. My entire nervous system went into meltdown. My stomach screwed itself up into a bundle of knots, my knees shook and my mouth went dry. How old was I at the time? Eight or nine? No, well into my late twenties, a fully grown woman. But I simply couldn’t bear the idea that Rinpoche could be angry with me, especially over something so stupid.

The someone left and Rinpoche turned back to our circle. “So, who wants to see Hellbound Hellraiser?” He asked, looking directly at me. Needless to say, like the grovelling lapdog I have now become, I demonstrated extravagant eagerness at the prospect. And at that moment I also meant it. Rinpoche took me by the hand—the only time he’s consciously touched me that I can remember, apart from the the slaps on the back when he finds something funny and I’m not attending—and off we went to the cinema. It looked as though I’d been forgiven, and my god, the relief! I can’t begin to describe it.

We never saw Hellbound Hellraiser, though. I think the theatre was sold out. And for some reason Rinpoche never mentioned it again. I often wonder if the whole point of the exercise was to soften up my rigid mind and histrionic bigotry—at least the solipsist in me does. Something definitely changed in the way I operated from then on. But who knows? Perhaps he really did want to see Hellbound Hellraiser…

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