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For the love of Tibet



The right resolution... A photograph by Vijay Kranti.

THIS PAST week Delhi saw the largest solo photo exhibition on the theme of Tibet in exile. Mounted at Lalit Kala Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan, 230 images brought out the people's self-reliance, the lifestyle of Tibet refugees, their monasteries, the Dalai Lama and much more. The photographer was veteran Vijay Kranti, a former journalist who has worked with India Today, Zee TV and other media houses and is currently the corporate communications head of Essar Steel.

Titled "Buddha's Home Coming" the exhibition was Vijay's tribute to the refugee community of Tibetans, pictures of which he has been taking for 30 years now. As a journalist Vijay specialises in Tibetan affairs. Over 30 years he has taken astounding photographs of these people and their important places of worship.

Recalls Vijay, "I landed my first assignment, an interview with the Dalai Lama from Saptahik Hindustan in 1972 and they asked me to arrange pictures too. I borrowed a camera from my friend and took 52 pictures. To my surprise, they used 18 out of them instead of four or five, as is the usual practice. I was thrilled. As a freelancer those days, I would club my stories and give pictures to newspapers. Each time I got a good display because of quality pictures. It encouraged me to take up photography as a profession."

Vijay has a special inclination for refuges because his parents were refugees. "My parents came in 1947. I was born and brought up in Mallikaganj, the refugee slum. So I feel associated with them," says Vijay whose pictures have also done the rounds in France, Germany, Austria and other countries.

"When the Dalai Lama came to India in 1959, he brought 18000 refugees with him. But many of them died either because of frostbite or cholera. Yet he did not give up and identified singers, musicians, scholars among the rest and put them together accordingly in Mussoorie, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal, etc. Similarly, Nehruji did a great job for them though he is often criticised for ditching them. In fact, in 1959, he went to Mussoorie and told the Dalai Lama, `I will not be able to do much for you politically but in my personal capacity I can'. So within an hour of his visit there, he created the Tibet School of Administration - TSA - appointed K.L Shrimali as its head and also found them lands in Karnataka. That's why today India happens to be the largest reservoir of original Tibetans, especially Karnataka."

Incarnation of Buddha

Feels Vijay, "As he is considered the incarnation of the Buddha, I feel as if Buddha has come back to India after 2500 years. Because of him, all Himalayan Tibetans are happy and in Mussoorie there is a special Children's Village for them. Now Tibetans have their own self-reliant Government-in-Exile and a very efficient system of administration."

And for Vijay this is also a tribute to India, as India gave Tibetans the much required shelter and love.

Vijay's exhibition is now travelling to all the major cities of India.

About Indian photographers he says, "Since we have the best of locations and variety every 20 kilometres, India is the best place to shoot. We can beat the best of foreign photographers. Most posh foreign countries have similar architecture, the same chain stores, same clean roads, etc."

What bugs him is the attitude of media organisations in which a photojournalists work today. "The moment you resign, they take all the negatives and don't give them back even if one wants them for an exhibition. There should be a law allowing you to give them a high resolution copy of their pictures as even the law says that the photographer is the owner."

Is anyone listening?

RANA SIDDIQUI

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