The man sat in the dingy, smoky, kitchen room of the simple and uncluttered house. He called the small boy to him. The boy bowed quickly, straightened, looked at the man in the eyes, and said, “Sir, may I have those?” and pointed to a strand of prayer beads the man held in his hand. The man was surprised. “Well,” he began, if you know who I am, then you may have these, yes.” The child answered, “Yes, I know,” and told the man who he was. This received a smile from the man. “Then you know whose prayer beads these were,” the man said. Again, the child told the man the correct answer, and the man gave the child the beads. He received in return a polite thanks from the boy.
Then the man took a package from beneath the table and unwrapped it. Inside were several objects, some personal, some of the small household variety, a few tchotchkes. The man spread the items across the table, taking the time to space each item apart at an equal distance.
“Now,” the man said, motioning for the boy to step closer and examine the items, “which of these things also belonged to him?” The boy bit his lower lip and narrowed his eyes as he looked across the table at the arranged things. The man ran his hands over the table. The man then explained what he wanted the boy to do. He would stop, touch an object, and the boy would tell him “yes” or “no.”
As the exercise began the mother of the child watched from the doorway to the kitchen. She was shocked. She heard her small son speaking in a dialect that she did not understand and one in which she had no idea how he could possibly know.
As the little test came to an end, the man allowed himself a small smile. The boy had chosen correctly in every case. “What is your name, child?” the man asked. “Lhamo,” the boy answered. The man looked up at the mother. “Age?” he asked her. The boy’s mom, still recovering from the shock of hearing her son use words she didn’t understand, crossed her arms across her chest. “He’s only 2 years,” she answered. The man nodded. He had all the information he needed.
“What are those things?” the mother asked. The boy looked from the man to his mother and back to the man. “They belonged to the Dalai Lama,” the man explained, “at least the ones your son identified did.”
“What does that mean?” the mother asked.
The man said, “It means that your son is the next one.”