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Elizabeth Brunner

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairy Tales around

16th February 1997...

about how the idea was born to go to India

 

 

Sunday, 16th February 1997...

We had a wonderful big tiled stove in the sitting-room. So I was sitting in one of the low seats, which mother had designed, near this ceramic oven to warm myself. Then mother walked through the room and sat on the sofa right in front of me and said ' I am going to India.' I was ...

            Ah! Many things happened in-between. The exhibition came. She sent her Christ picture to the Autumn Exhibition at the 'Nemzeti Szalon'. But she was still very weak after that fasting, she could not go. So she sent me for the inauguration.

            I was late by about fifteen minutes and the hall was already full of people. As I was standing near the door, I saw a big crowd of people at one side, in half a circle. So I also went to see. And just as I reached the crowd, a beautiful woman, you know one of those fashionable ones, turned around and exclaimed 'I had lost my God, but now I have found Him'. Then I squeezed myself through the crowd and discovered, they were standing around my mother's painting. So it created a revolution to art lovers and all in Budapest."

            "How wonderful", said Dagmar, "but may I now come back to the moment when you were sitting near your tiled stove and your Mother came to sit opposite you and said 'I am going to India', dearest Elizabeth?"

            Elizabeth continued, "I said, 'I am coming with you'. 'Nothing doing, your education is not finished, you will loose it if you go.' I answered, 'my education is not important, if you go and do not take me with you, I will go into a convent. And then nobody is ever going to see me again.' This shocked her. She thought for about fifteen to twenty minutes and said, 'well if you will be strong, then you can come with me.'" You see, the age of majority at my time in Hungary was 21 and I was only 18.

            Dagmar started off again, "Elizabeth did she go to India for further education or did she have in mind to stay for good? Yes   ...   you said once to me, you both came to India for learning. And no   ...   staying on in India, developed while you both were actually here. You kind of drifted into it." And Elizabeth answered, "well although these are very straight questions, but I can only answer, these things happen like many things happen."

            Dagmar smiled, "yes, you once told me also that your mother wrote a letter to 'Mr. Rabindranath Tagore, India'. It reached him and she got an answer also, remember?"

            Elizabeth answered, "yes. But this was a little later. What happened, you see, the Christ painting became famous ... the talk about it reached Rome. There came an official invitation from the Pope to come and be his guest for two years and paint what she wants to paint." Dagmar exclaimed. "Wow, incredible!   ...   Ah, and that is why you both went to Italy first!"

            "Yes," answered Elizabeth. "So the Italian Ambassador came and brought the invitation and arranged for the visas. And so mother thought, I can go to Italy and from there perhaps go on to India."

            As I listened to her tale, I got so excited that I forgot to change the tape and I only discovered it when she was almost finished with her story. That is why I am relating it now in my own words.

            Elizabeth narrated the journey through Italy. They had gone a little earlier then the first of June (which was the date for her mother's appointment). They wished to travel in Italy before that. On their way from Palermo to Messina the train they travelled on stopped suddenly at a station. They had to get off with their luggage. They were told that the train would continue only the next morning at six. They were put up in a nice guest-house, given food and looked after well. The place was called Santa Agata de Militelo. The Mediterranean was only a few yards away, the rocky hills of Sicily, the olive and orange gardens formed a background: it was a paradise for painters! They did not continue on their journey until further notice.

            During that night (it was the day before Elizabeth's nineteens' birthday) she had a vivid dream about Tagore. She dreamt of her old house in Nagykanizsa. She was walking down the stairs into the dark cellar. Halfway down the stairs, she saw sitting in the back of the cellar an old, venerable gentleman with long white hair and a long white beard. To the left of the gentleman her father was standing and to the right somebody else, whom she did not remember. 

Elizabeth's 'dream of Tagore' with her mother on the right and her father on the left.

            The old gentleman was holding an oil lamp in his hand and passing it on to her father. While doing this, the oil lamp flickered and was on the brink of going out. So Elizabeth dashed down the stairs and through the cellar. Her heart was crying 'this light must not go out'. She put her hand out and took the oil lamp into her hands and it glowed in full light again. The old gentleman said, 'take this my child. You must guard this light carefully and carry it to every nook and corner of the world.''

            Now my tape was on again and Elizabeth continued talking, "I woke up after that dream and sat up. My mother was already sitting up. I related the wonderful dream to her. She explained and said, 'you have seen Tagore.' Without a word she walked to the writing table and sat down and wrote that letter to Mr. Rabindranath Tagore, India, in Hungarian, because we knew no other language. And as time was passing, she said, 'this letter must be posted today.' So we managed to post the letter then and there.

            After that my mother said, 'now we stay here for some time'. Within two months a letter came in reply from Tagore inviting us to come to Santiniketan. The letter was written in the Hungarian language because there was a professor who translated the letter into Hungarian. 'Come my children, and be my guests for two years', Tagore's letter said."

            Dagmar asked, "that means, you did not go to Rome for the assignment with the Pope at all?" Elizabeth answered, "no." And she giggled, "it should be still open." Dagmar laughed, "yes, it should be still open."

            Dagmar asked few more questions: "You mentioned to me that there are no sketches and no sculptures of yours anywhere?" Elizabeth confirmed, "No sketches of mine, no. But there are some sketches of mother's over there. (She pointed to some files on one of her shelves in the room.) Also I had only one sculpture ready at the Academy in Budapest and that my mother gave to a very dear lady friend before we left. She was a kind of god-mother to me. But when we went to Hungary those three weeks, she was no longer alive ... I remember sculptoring a little in the beginning of my stay here in Delhi. But I do not know where those figures are ..."

 

 
     

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