the 27th July 1996...
I change the subject, dearest Elizabeth?" Dagmar asked.
"You talked about an exhibition in Hungary some time
ago." Elizabeth replied, "you mean the one, when
the Bishop came from Hungary and requested me?" Dagmar
Elizabeth replied, "Mother had painted Christ.
So I was asked to send that painting of Christ to Hungary.
Also another forty paintings of mother and mine. The
officers of the Hungarian Embassy and the Cultural Centre
were very kind and helped me to pack the paintings and send
them off to Hungary. The exhibition was in the 'Ráday Kollégium'
in Budapest. I could not go, but I have photographs of that
exhibition. Mother's Christ painting was hanging in the most
came with lovely tea for us and Elizabeth asked whether
there were not some chocolates around. Mary went to the
fridge and came back with a box of the most wonderful cherry
chocolates from Hungary. Even I enjoyed them thoroughly,
though I am not very keen on chocolates in general. But
these were special. I watched Elizabeth relishing her piece.
It was really magic (considering that these things generally
where just not available in India.)
the tea Dagmar requested Elizabeth to speak a little more
about her time in Hungary and she started, "at my time,
German was the second language in Hungary. My grandfather
did all his accounts in German. Perhaps not all the
accounts, some very important things he must have done in
Hungarian. But I remember that my grandfather spoke better
German than Hungarian. Of course, this is not so any
more." Dagmar put in, "I am sure this is no longer
so. But I remember the lady, the Hungarian art historian,
Dr. Lilla Szabó, who came for cataloguing your paintings,
she could converse better in German than in English with
me." Elizabeth said, "yes.
The place where I grew up was not so Germanised as
some other places in Hungary. And mother was a nationalist
if at all she had any political inclinations. She was a
painter, really, she painted in the villages and all over.
Just as she later did here in India.
My father studied in Munich under Simon Hollósy.
Father knew German. And I suppose Hollósy choose Munich
because the art scene was there then. Inspite of never
having seen any of Hollósy's paintings, some of my own
paintings resemble his, so said Lilla when she was working
From about the age of four, I stayed in Budapest.
Then the First World War broke out. They came back with the
last train from East Hungary, where Hollósy had his school,
to Budapest before the war broke out. And they stayed in
that corner house in Budapest where the top floor was a
I was four-four and half, and I was sick several
times. Once, I remember, I overate at the birthday party of
another child, you know, overeating chocolate, and I got
really sick." Dagmar remarked, "you remember that?
You were only four?" Elizabeth retorted, "of
course." Dagmar laughed, "they must have made you
vomit it all out." Elizabeth replied, "I suppose
so. But I was sick, brhrh ..."
Dagmar asked, "and 1914 your father went into
the war?" "No," answered Elizabeth, "my
father never went into the war. He was in the revolutionary
movements." Dagmar, "but he was so utterly upset,
remember, you told me some weeks ago." Elizabeth
answered, "yes of course, with the whole idea of people
being able to have wars and all the killings. Only his
younger brother went into the war as an officer.
When the war escalated, grandfather wrote to us,
'during this time it is not good for a family to be
scattered, so you should come home'. And so we went to
Nagykanizsa." Dagmar asked, "and you and your
mother left once again for Budapest?"
"Yes, but much later, when I was fifteen. Then I
enrolled at the Academy of Applied Arts, studying
sculpture", answered Elizabeth. Dagmar, "so
between four and fifteen you stayed in Nagykanizsa?"
Elizabeth mused, "yes, I suppose so. I had my schooling
in Nagykanizsa. And by the age of ten, after school I also
went to father's art school in the afternoons. When the war
was over, they again went to the countryside to paint. By
then they both were already exhibiting artists. But my
father was famous before he came to Nagykanizsa. Anyway,
every summer we went to Lake Balaton."
a short time in 1950 at 'Western Court' on Janpath, New
Delhi, Elizabeth was given rooms at the 'Constitution House'
on Curzon Road. No. 204, New Delhi. That was her
accommodation for the next two to three years. I remember
Elizabeth talking about the lovely old trees in the
compound, some of them are still there. Curzon Road
eventually was renamed Kasturba Gandhi Marg (Mahatma
Gandhi's wife's name). And the old 'Constitution House' gave
way to large multi-storied buildings which were originally
build in the fifties for members fo the UNESCO conference
Elizabeth then was allotted the accommodation in
Rabindra Nagar (near Khan Market) by the Government of
India. In memory of Rabindranath Tagore, she choose this
flat when it was offered to her.
It is a spacious, pleasant flat, with servant's
quarters and all. Many tall and beautiful trees are
surrounding Elizabeth's ground floor flat, a corner house.
And various birds have taken refuge around her quiet place.
It is surprising to find these small quiet enclaves in the
hustling, bustling city of Delhi.