the 27th July 1996...
You see in the hot season most of us would sleep on
the veranda. So one morning the newspaper-walla (man) threw
the newspaper on my bed as usual, and when I opened it, the news was that the ashes of Sariputra and
Mahamaudgalyayana (names of two great Buddhist saints in the
Pali language) were being brought to India to be installed
in a newly constructed temple in ... Sanchi.
And all of a sudden the thought came to me that this
is the time, I should open up my mother's paintings because
she always kept her Buddha paintings closed up. I should go
to that festival (when everybody from all parts of India and
around the world would come) and exhibit mother's Buddha
So I went to Sanchi and many people saw mother's
paintings in the exhibition.
There the impact of Buddhism really caught up with
me. I always had it ... But in Sanchi it became kind of real
As usual I would walk all over the place to know
where I was. So one late night, it was full moon, I came
wandering through the tents (which had been pitched up for
the guests). In one tent there was still a light. And there
was an old lama sitting teaching a child monk. I was
watching them through the open tent door.
in the nineteen fifties
When they seemed finished, the old lama went onto his
knees to wish the child a safe journey and bid him farewell.
It was done with such moving respect, it touched me very
much. The child, no more than four perhaps, was special, but
I don't know who he was. It was then taken by his escort,
another lama, to Darjeeling or some place near there.
The old lama saw me when they came out of the tent
and blessed me. So all that atmosphere of the place inspired
me very much and it remained with me life-long. And I also
understood my mother much better. To face what is happening
and let it happen.
And when I was back in Delhi, something interesting
happened. I felt like going to the Birla Temple, which has
also a small Buddhist shrine in its temple. There the old
lama was sitting performing prayers, the same one I had seen
that night in Sanchi. And then I asked him via the temple
warden whether I was allowed to paint him. He agreed.
Luckily I had canvas and paints with me. So I painted him. I
don't remember where that painting is. I must find it, I
don't know ... " Elizabeth went silent over the puzzle
where the painting of the old lama could be.