3rd August 1996
with Avril and Advika
I felt like helplessly surrendering into my fate
during this day. The wetness and moisture around me was
seeping under my skin. From about eight in the morning
onwards it rained and rained and rained. With the occasional
dry spell in between. I had spent the morning with my lovely
daughter and grand-daughter. And Avril said before going
home, she would like to say 'hello' to Elizabeth. So the
three of us went and met her for a short time. Elizabeth was
thrilled to see the little girl of whom I had talked so
much. While Avril went home with her baby, I stayed on with
Elizabeth for the rest of the day.
Mr. Lutoria was also there. This time he was in a
very talkative mood. He told us that this Saturday was 'Nag
Panchmi' (the festival of the cobras). And Elizabeth got all
excited and called Bahadur to please find her snake
paintings. Bahadur went grumbling into one of the rooms and
handed out three of the most beautiful paintings, one after
"This is the one because of which they have
thrown me out of 'Western Court'", Elizabeth said.
is the painting because of which they have thrown me out
of 'Western Court'...
It was a painting which showed five snakes, coming
out of their basket and dancing. It was painted on the
veranda of 'Western Court' and I could almost feel what joy
the snakes had dancing in the rain.
The next painting was the snake-charmer blowing his
flute and the snakes in the process of coming out of their
basket. This painting Elizabeth painted on the lawns in
'Constitution House'. The background was green and the rest
in vivid colours.
The last one was a very big painting and stunningly
beautiful. I could just sit in front of it for hours and
meditate. It was fascinating. Snakes on the left side with a
beautiful 'Uma' goddess coming out of one snake body and
Elizabeth's snake-charmer, a most handsom man. Hovering
above was an apparition of a manifestation of the eternal
femal energy (Shakti) in form of a huge face with
The snake-charmer was the same one who came and
visited Elizabet often after she had painted him. The one
with whom she developed a kind of a friendship over the
"This was a vision, you know, and I painted it.
In my room in 'Constitution House'. ... The man must be dead
by now," Elizabeth sadly said, and she also mentioned,
"two/three years ago it was reproduced in a paper, a
French publication, by the Indian Embassy in Paris. A lady
came and interviewed me and wrote a very nice article."
And the snake-charmer in action ...
We placed the three paintings with reverence on the
floor together and Elizabeth requested a flower vase to be
put next to the arrangement.
"It is a blessing that we should all be sitting
here together worshipping the snakes." said Elizabeth
smiling. Dagmar thought, worshipping the paintings, rather.
And Mr. Lutoria said, "perfect, very auspicious I would
say." Elizabeth replied, "yes."
Mr. Lutoria had more to tell us: "You know, even
if we have not the real cobra, we are painting a snake on
the wall of the houses to guard against the evil things and
hope that it lasts for the whole year. It is not celebrated
so much in Delhi, but in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh.
For instance, for wrestlers
it is a specially auspicious day. But all people will
worship this day, all casts, from Brahmin down to Harijans."
'This was a vision, you know, and
I painted it'...
"What a pity, this morning a musician came
...," said Elizabeth. Dagmar asked, "this morning
a musician came?" Elizabeth, "hm, this musician
used to come every year. But by the time Mary came out and
searched for some money, he had gone away. He was my
favourite, and he would sing so beautifully."
Mr. Lutoria carried on, "nowadays there are
restrictions. One cannot have these cobras anymore, they
come under the wild life protection. These snake-charmers
live outside in villages. Now they don't come anymore into
town. Their snake-charmer's villages were raided, here near
Delhi, I read this in the newspaper. All their cobras were
taken away by the zoo authorities. And they cried and cried,
this is our livelihood, our age old profession.
Those who are real snake charmers, they don't kill a
cobra. They are talking to the animal saying, we are taking
you for five months or one year or two months. They take out
the poison and sell it. See, the poison is used for
medicinal purposes. Different poison from different snakes.
It is very precious. The venom is worth 3000/- or 5000/-
Rupees for a tiny phial, very highly priced. So the snake-charmers are not really poor and they are dignified people,
often the profession goes from one generation to the next.
And they are very highly respected also. Whenever
somebody had a snake bite, they call the snake-charmer
because he knows what to do against it. They know the
medicine against snake bites and the mantra (prayers). They
will call the snake which bit and make it talk. And in their
trance they will ask the snake, why did you bite? And the
snake will answer, well I was offended. And the snake-charmer will request the snake, take out your poison from
the man who was bitten and make him free. So with a few more
mantras it is taken out. The real snake-charmers are
respectful men. Now they are helpless and unemployed
with the colourful circles
"Elizabeth," asked Dagmar, as she was keen
to change the subject, "the other day you allowed me to
go into that room over there and I saw that enormous and
lovely painting of Gandhiji with those colourful circles around him.
Would you remember when you painted that?" Elizabeth
mused, "it might be 'Constitution House'. I think. It
is true, that time I was so full of Gandhiji's thoughts. Day
and night. But I believe, I painted this on the floor
because the canvas is so big." Dagmar said, "that
painting is most beautiful." Elizabeth, "the
circles, they just appeared while I was painting.
'There is one more of Gandhiji ... This and that painting
There is one more. You could go and look at it. In
the Blind Institut, in the big hall. This and that painting
belong together. Gandhiji is sitting with closed eyes and
listening to the songs of the blind children. They made the
children sit on the floor. And I could watch Gandhiji as he
was enjoying the songs. Perhaps I finished them in my room
in 'Constitution House', I don't remember."
"And that big Buddha painting over there,
dearest Elizabeth, where did you paint that," asked
Dagmar. Elizabeth replied, "in Thailand. In the temple
while they were praying and reciting. And all my Buddha
paintings I painted on my knees. In the temple, but on my
knees, not on an easel, to show my respect. And not only
that, but I painted with my fingers."
Dagmar asked, "why with your fingers?" Elizabeth explained,
"because I wanted to give service with my body
also!" Dagmar could not help stating, "I believe
you painted in the most uncomfortable and awkward positions
in your life." And Elizabeth smiled a "yes".
...'And all my
Buddha Paintings I painted on my knees... and with my