An exhibition that narrated two parallel stories, one of a journalist and other of a movement
At a time when few preferred to tread the path less travelled, here was a man who risked his life and livelihood to pursue a man (Dalai Lama) and a mission (Understanding Tibetan Culture, Community and Struggle) he believed was his calling. Four decades later, he is recognised as a leading Tibetologist, with the single largest collection of Dalai Lama’s photographs and an internationally acclaimed photojournalist, who pushed the benchmark and set new standards of excellence without compromising on ethics, enthusiasm and purposeful engagement.
‘Thank You Dalai Lama’, held from 9th to 15th April 2016, was the largest solo photo collection of Dalai Lama shot by the reknowned photo journalist Vijay Kranti and curated by Akshat Kranti Mahajan. The collection is being showcased at the prestigious All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), New Delhi. It was the 5th and concluding part of a series of Mega Photo-exhibition titled “Buddha’s Home-Coming”, depicting the life of Tibetan refugees and their charismatic monk leader His Holiness Dalai Lama. The previous four exhibitions were held at Barcelona, Spain in the year 2011, India International Centre, N. Delhi in 2012, Museum of Fine Arts, Chandigarh in 2013, and at Sydney, Australia in 2014.
Feel honoured to be ‘the chosen one’
After spending a day at the splendid exhibition of photo journalism by Vijay Kranti, K Aayushi spoke to him about his journey and the exhibition. Excerpts:
It was an enriching journey and a humbling experience. I feel honoured to be ‘the chosen one’ for capturing on lens a spiritual guru that is revered by people across class, colours and continents.
In 2009, Dalai Lama organised a program titled ‘Thank You India’, to commemorate 50 years (1959-2009) of refuge in Bharat and express gratitude to the government Bharat and its people, for their warm hospitality and acceptance. As an observer of Tibet, Tibetans and their charismatic monk leader, I studied how these people utilized the hospitality extended to them in the most positive and mutually enriching manner. The Tibetans have rebuilt their identity and culture on this soil while simultaneously infusing their own unique flavour and harmoniously blending with the rich Indian culture, which is a mélange and melting pot of many cultures. I wished to express my gratitude and respond to Dalai Lama ‘Thank You India’ gesture.
‘Rediscovering Myself’. That is how I would describe this journey.
One thing that I have learnt from Dalai Lama is Patience. Before my association with the Lama, I was hugely impatient, resulting in many sticky situations and setbacks. I learnt the ‘game of patience’ from Dalai Lama, by seeing how he remained patient, calm and peaceful in the face of constant and unabated tyranny from a dominant and aggressive power.
People of all age groups and from all walks of life attended the exhibition. Among the known names that graced the exhibition were Shri Ramlal ji, the Secretary General of BJP, Balbir Punj, my dear friend, a reknowned journalist and former Parliamentarian, many prominent Tibetans like the President of the Tibet Youth Congress, Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, who came in with a special delegation. But the highlight was Dalai Lama dropping by on the 2nd day of the exhibition, ie, 10th April. This unexpected, unplanned divine intervention was my best gift.
Dalai Lama has an art of winning hearts. During his brief visit to the exhibition, he floored everyone with his anecdotes, narrating the story behind many of his pictures taken by me. For example, the story behind HH preparing Tsampa, a Tibetan dish, which I shot without any intimation, taking the Lama by surprise, resulting in a light-hearted photo of Dalai Lama.
My son Akshat, advices me to bring out a coloured version of my B&W pics of HH, which I am seriously considering. That apart, I wish to convert my entire collection into an Archive that can be mined by anyone who is interested in studying or understanding the ‘Revival of Tibetan Identity in India’.
Comprising of about 300 photo exhibits along with live demonstration of Tibetan Spiritual Arts like Thangka Painting, Sand Mandala Painting and Butter Sculpture, the exhibition provides unique and breath-taking insights into the life and legacy of the Tibetan People in Bharat and their successful attempt in peacefully reconstructing their culture in an alien land. As the photographer Vijay Kranti himself states, “It is a life-time visual tribute to a wonderful refugee community, its leader and their magnanimous host”.
The exhibition was divided into four parts, covering the four galleries of the venue. The first part was dedicated to Dalai Lama. The second part portrayed Tibetan Culture. The third part depicted the Social Life of Tibetan Refugees and the last part is an artistic display of the photographer’s prowess to capture the various facets of Tibetan Culture and Community in such a manner that each photo narrates a story; bringing to life the adage ‘a picture speaks louder than words’.
In the exhibition you can experience the presence of the Dalai Lama even in the pictures he was physically not present. That religious charisma and mesmerising hope is reflected in the eyes of people present there. The exhibition was attended by eminent personalities from all walks of life and a vibrant student community eager to know about Tibet, its people, culture and their struggle. Members of the Tibetan community attended the exhibition as a mark of solidarity and appreciation for the photographer. The high point was the short halt of Dalai Lama on the second day of the exhibition to bless the photographer, with whom he shares a long association.