A powerful dream was to follow where she heard a voice saying, “You must help Tibet.” But not only did she not know anything about Tibet, she did not know how as an artist she would be able to help it. In an exclusive interview she recalls her work with Tibetan activism, her connection with Richard Gere and Dalai Lama and and deep bond with India that shows up in her work.
A dream for Tibet
The command to help Tibet came in a dream around 1993, and back then I did not know even know who the Dalai Lama was! I always take my dreams seriously so I researched and found out about Tibet’s tragic history. “What can I really do for Tibet? I’m just an artist..,” I kept questioning myself for a while.Then strange things began happening. I started meeting Tibetans everywhere. I had lived in NYC for more than 20 years by then, and until then, had never met one single Tibetan.
One day a Tibetan friend was telling me about his life in a refugee camp in India. “We had nothing, Rima. No pencils, no books… not enough food so we were always thinking about food.” He said. Then lightening struck, “Books for Tibetan children !” The journey led me to wonderful teachers including Tibetan monks, scholars, activists. Then I established Books for Children, an organization that creates children’s books and donates them. I’ve created four books so far – “Wonder Talk” (wisdom), “Wonder Garden” (compassion), “TB Aware” (health) and “Save the Himalayas” (environment), and have donated over 12,000 books to 83 Tibetan refugee schools in India, Nepal and Bhutan. All books have forewords by HHDL. All proceeds benefit the Tibetan refugee children’s education, and I donate my entire royalties as well.
I love India and my love is intense. There is no place like India. I love its richness, chaos, beautiful designs, stunning colors, craziness. My background is the Japanese minimalist Zen… and my culture is based on order. Trains come on time in Japan and if they are half a second late, the entire nation gets angry! So the chaos in India is fascinating to me but somehow it works.Of course there is so much misery, too. I still freeze and get uptight when I am surrounded by begging children on the streets. I see women and children being treated badly. Those things break my heart.
Another time at my book launch at Rubin Museum of Art in NYC: Richard was there and the photographers were trying to take a photo of us while we held up my books. Richard turned to me and said, “You must ALWAYS show your face to the camera, always” and gently lowered my book from my face. It was such a professional gesture from a professional actor. Both HHDL and Richard Gere notice small details. Perhaps they pay attention. Perhaps they are always mindful. Perhaps they are aware of each moment… perhaps those qualities come from their practice of meditation, mindfulness. But they both have immense kindness. The kind we need in the world.
**copyright for all pics with Rima Fujita
with The New Indian Express
Reema Moudgil works for The New Indian Express, Bangalore, is the author of Perfect Eight, the editor of Chicken Soup for the Soul-Indian Women, an artist, a former RJ and a mother. She dreams of a cottage of her own that opens to a garden and where she can write more books, paint, listen to music and just be silent with her cats.