The Darjeeling Connection: Yes Benedict Cumberbatch Was Here During His Gap Year

DarjeelingCumberbatch was all smiles when he got the chance to refresh his Buddhist connection on a visit to a Tibetan monastery in Nepal during the filming of Doctor Strange. Photo by Tenzing Rikksang

We got a cynical reader questioning if the current heartthrob of millions across the world Mr Benedict Cumerbatch had ever actually spent time in Darjeeling?

We did try to convince him, but he didn’t sound so convinced, so we decided to run his old story from 2014 accompanied by a NEW VIDEO wherein THE MAN himself professes how it was to live in Darjeeling.

ORIGINAL REPORT FROM 2014

Not many know that the actor most famous for portraying Sherlock Holmes in TV series of the same name, who has recently portrayed the role of Julian Assange in the movie The Fifth Estate has spent a good chunk of his time in Darjeeling. He thoroughly enjoyed his stay in Darjeeling and has given credit to his stay here for his calmness and ability to focus. Speaking about Darjeeling days, Mr Cumberbatch recently told a London based journalist:

“I’d always done slightly crazy things like getting lost on treks in the Himalayas when I was 19. In my gap year, I was teaching English to Tibetan Buddhist monks in a Nepali home near Darjeeling.

“They were amazingly warm, intelligent, humorous people. Hard to teach English to. I built a blackboard, which no other previous teachers seem to have done. With 12 monks in a room with an age-range of about 8 to 40, that’s quite important – and the reward-punishment thing of sweets or no sweets, or game or no game, worked quite well. But they taught me a lot more than I could ever teach them.

“They taught me about the simplicity of human nature, but also the humanity of it, and the ridiculous sense of humour you need to live a full spiritual life. There was a time when these two rabid dogs were all over each other, screwing in the back yard, and all of this laughter, ‘Sir, sir, quick, come, sir, sir, quick!’ and these two dogs were just stuck together, having sex, pulling like this, like a Pushmi-pullyu [the two-headed animal in Dr Dolittle], and the monks were just on the floor laughing at these sentient beings’ pain and ridiculousness, two of them a conjoined couple. And it was so funny, they threw water all over them, but before they did, they were like, ‘Kodak moment, sir, Kodak moment!’ Brilliant!

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“Then we watched Braveheart, which is a f***ing violent film for Tibetan Buddhist monks to watch, and they were all going ‘wahey!!!’ They saw Scotland as being the oppressed Tibetans and the English as the Chinese.”

“I also went on a retreat with a lama, several days of incantation to clear the mind and purify, along with a dozen other people. It was incredible, and I kind of floated out of there after two weeks. When you’ve been that still and contemplative, your sensory awareness is so heightened, sharper-focused, you’re taking in detail to the point where you have to pause a little bit, it was amazing.

And the experience helped the Sherlock star become the cool, calm and collected artist he is today. He learnt a lot from living in Darjeeling and being immersed in Buddhism.

“There’s an ability to focus and have a real sort of purity of purpose and attention and not be too distracted, and to feel very alive to your environment, to know what you are part of, to understand what is going on in your peripheral vision and behind you as well of what is in front of you, that definitely came from that”

Indeed it would be interesting to find out if anyone remembers being taught by him? or the house where he lived while he was here? Any volunteers?


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