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Elizabeth Brunner







Fairy Tales around

3rd August 1996...

her meeting the Dalai Lama



Saturday, 3rd August 1996... 

Dagmar carried on asking, "and that beautiful painting of the Dalai Lama, dearest Elizabeth, when did you paint that?" Elizabeth answered, "I believe it was in 1959 in Mussoorie. In the Birla House over there. It belonged to Birla's mother-in-law and was given to the Dalai Lama for his temporary residence when he came. There he was gracious enough to sit for me."

            Just then our lovely friend Laurence came in to join us. It was so nice to be all together on this auspicious day. The atmosphere in Elizabeth's room and our talk made the day really special.

            Mr. Lutoria was in one of his rare communicative mood. He started again, "the Dalai Lama came to India after his escape from Tibet in March 1959. But he came before that, with the Panchen Lama, on an official state visit. That must have been in 1956. I came to Delhi in 1954. When the Dalai Lama came for the first time, I was here. I saw the Dalai Lama. They stayed in 'Hyderabad House', I remember." Elizabeth confirmed this, "that is when I had an exhibition of the Buddha paintings on the occasion of the celebrations of two thousand five hundred years of 'Buddha Jayanti'. Both His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and the Panchen Lama inaugurated it and bowed in front of our paintings and felt blessed by them." 

...'I belive I painted this Dalai Lama painting in 1959 in Mussoorie (Uttar Pradesh)'...

            While Laurence looked through the book 'Freedom in Exile', Autobiography of the Dalai Lama, to get the dates right, Mr. Lutoria mentioned, "China had already started occupying Tibet, when the Dalai Lama came for the first time. And he was hesitant to go back to Tibet."

            And Elizabeth said, "yes, yes. And there was a fear in my heart hearing that he would go back to Tibet. He knew what he would be facing when going back. And thank God he could escape safely." Mr. Lutoria said, "the credit for that goes to the 'Kampa' martial tribe of Tibet. They made it look as if they were celebrating the New Year at the Potala Palace, it was a misty, foggy day. And in-between and in disguise on ponies they escaped. The Chinese realised what had happened, then they chased them. And by the time they came to the Indian border, the Dalai Lama had crossed it already. And then the Indian authorities were informed. When they came to Delhi, the Tibetans were starving, hungry, all in rags. Elizabeth worked really hard and helped them a lot."  


            After a while, the conversation was changed completely. Elizabeth talked once again about Hungary: "My father had opened his art school and was working in it, while my mother was going through a very intense learning period. My mother was so fond of animals! She started to raise chickens. She was, in fact like a scientist, watching the eggs and how the chicks inside were growing. At that time it was not so easy to write to other countries. Yet, she asked eggs from several countries of different kind of hens, different types. She was carrying on serious studies in natural science. Already then she was searching for the essence of life. But I remember, grand-father once exclaimed, what is the point of being surrounded by fowl, if I never see even one on my plate!

            My father, besides teaching arts, became crazy for hunting. You see, people will not understand. He had a neighbouring friend who was also a hunter. I mean his hobby was hunting. And some days he would go together with this friend to the forest, with rucksack and gun. So naturally they talked all day, being in the forest.

            But the one thing I did not like in my father", continued Elizabeth, "is, that he became a hunter. He had that dog, Nero, which rarely crushed anything. Nero was a hunting dog, he would bring back whatever father shot. So once he brought back a rabbit which was still alive ... And the rabbit and I looked into each other's eyes ... I will never forget that. About that little rabbit ... after sixty or eighty years ... I still feel about him. That made an absolute, unchangeable resolution in me: to become a 'vegetarian' and never to kill.

            I am sorry, it all came out just like a little 'pletka'. "'Pletka' means disclosing what happened at home." Laurence smiled, "letting out secrets, 'opening the cupboard' you know."

            Dagmar changed the subject again, "you went into the beautiful forest also. I always imagine Hungary being a country of the most fantastic woods and forests."  




            Elizabeth replied, "sometime. After I was in Budapest doing sculpturing at the Academy of Fine Arts, then I would follow my mother some days. Although I did not paint, I watched her. She didn't mind my sitting about two meters away. Then I would walk a little and come back and see how far she had done. She didn't teach me, she didn't say, you should do it this or that way. My first paintings I did all on my own. In father's school we used charcoal and crayons. Very characteristic and very well proportioned ... My aunt used to collect all my childhood paintings. I suppose they all got lost.

            But you should have put more ... " Elizabeth changed the subject " ... things like in the beginning. You put a few funny thing into the text." Dagmar laughed, "let's find a subject about which we can laugh. I think it is overdue.


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Copyright Dagmar Barua 1997 Sass Brunner East West Trust, 75, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi - 110 003