the 8th July 1996
The early monsoon this year with its intense
humidity together with physical strain had hit me once again
with severe lumbago. A yearly, two-yearly occurence if I did
not take care, and this year once again, I had not. I went
to meet my lovely friend after a rather long interval,
always having in the back of my mind
that Elizabeth was in a much worse condition.
Even Elizabeth birthday on the first of July I did
not attend, but the Hungarian Embassy, the Cultural Centre
and many friends of Elizabeths' had made a memorable event
out of this special day for her.
Lutoria was sitting behind his newspaper smiling beningly'...
Lutoria was sitting behind his newspaper smiling benignly.
My lovely Elizabeth was busy and looked fine. Bahadur had
found inside a tipped-over 'morha' (an Indian bast [raffia]
stool) old shoulder-bags and plastic-bags full of letters,
greeting and other cards, envelops with photos dating back
to the 1950s. All this stuck in a big trunk. It was never
opened ever since Elizabeth had moved to Rabindra Nagar. So
now she was busy looking through and trying to sort out
As I could not sit for long, my recorder was not on.
So this will be my own account of what Elizabeth talked
about that afternoon.
lovely Elizabeth was busy and looked fine'...
During the winter
1949/50 Elizabeth and her mother were still staying in
Nainital. It was a very cold winter, with snow piling up
everywhere. It occured during these days that in one room in
their house, where the open-fire-place was not used, a big
fat rat shot down the chimney. Her mother, being present in
that room, was stunned and even frightened. She said to
Elizabeth 'a bad spirit' had come down.
Later that same day, it so happened that a small baby
rat was caught in their mouse-trap. Her mother insisted that
the rat had to be freed outside at once. Elizabeth was
warming her feet and getting ready for bed so she requested
her mother to wait until the morning. But her mother was
determined, she went out, without a coat, alone. The rat had
to be freed quite a distance away from the house, as
otherwise it would be back in the warm surrounding within a
jiffy. So her mother must have stayed out for more than half
an hour. Of course, she came back shivering. She refused
Elizabeth's offer for a hot cup of tea with rum or a hot
chocolate. Only later on that night she requested Elizabeth
for another blanket as she could not get warm under her
The result of this unhappy outing developed into
pleurisy. But Elizabeth's mother would not accept that she
was in a serious condition, instead she went on with her
usual routine. Until she collapsed and was brought down to
the hospital in Bareilly. There she stabilized a little.
Once the doctor was telling Elizabeth to give her an
'egg-flip'. Elizabeth, being herself in a rather shaky
state, requested the nurse to administer the 'egg-flip' to
her mother. Unfortunately, the liquid egg somehow got into
her mother's windpipe. And Elizabeth watched in horror when
her mother uttered her last two words ... "O no!"
... This is how the great painter Elizabeth Sass Brunner,
mother of Elizabeth Brunner, passed away. It was about
four/five days after she had gone out into that cold night.
grave of Elizabeth's mother at Nainital
was in 1950 that Elizabeth Sass Brunner died in Bareilliy.
She was only 60 years old. Her grave can still be visited in
the old English cemetery on the hillside in Nainital.
believe Elizabeth never really got over the death of mother.
Elizabeth stayed on in Nainital for about another
month. Then she came down to Delhi. In Delhi all Elizabeth
could think of was to contact the Nehru family as they had
always been very friendly and generous to her. She was
advised to take up a room in the government guest-house
called 'Western Court' on Janpath.
resting with cow
Elizabeth's wish to hold a memorial exhibition for
her mother was also very much supported and Indira helped
her personally a great deal in arranging everything, she
even wrote invitation cards. There was no proper exhibition
hall in Delhi at that time, so the exhibition was held in
the 'Imperial Hotel' on Janpath (a lovely old British style
hotel which is still there today). Lady Mountbatten was
supposed to inaugurate the exhibition but was,
unfortunately, called away. Before leaving though, she bought quite a few paintings of Elizabeth Sass Brunner and Elizabeth
The Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (from the ruling family of
Kapoorthala, and the then Minister of Health) was gracious
enough to inaugurate the exhibition. The exhibition became,
of course, an immense success.