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'What Are Friends For?'
(By Shibu Jagadevan | The Indian Express | October 3, 2005)

The work of eminent cartoonists on Tibet's freedom struggle is showcased in an exhibition of cartoons put up by Friends of Tibet

Mumbai: Mumbai: From locks to torches peddled in Mumbai's local trains to cheap television sets sold in malls, signs of Chinese might in the market place are not hard to find. Meanwhile a community struggles to save its identity and a group of social workers in not giving up on them yet.

At the Nehru Science Centre in Worli, selected works of eminent cartoonists like Shankara Pillai (more famous as Shankar), Hemant Morparia, RK Laxman and Mario Miranda trace Tibet's struggle for freedom since Chinese occupation in 1950.

From Jawaharlal Nehru's Panchsheel (Shankar) to Tibetan write-activist Tenzin Tsundue, who unfurled a 12-foot banner that screamed "Free Tibet" from the scaffolding on the 14th floor of the Oberoi Hotel (Morparia), the exhibits offer glimpses of the complex relations between Tibet, China and India since 1950.

Organised by Friends of Tibet (FoT) a group working to spread awareness about Tibet, and Freedom First, a quarterly promoting cultural freedom, the four-day exhibition began on October 1 and is on till October 4.

Says CA Kallianpur, FoT's national coordinator and a keen follower of India's foreign policy on China: "Just because British India protected Burma does not mean modern India can occupy it tomorrow."

The travelling exhibition, with 30 cartoons was in Cochin and Dharamshala before it came here. At the gallery, Kallianpur has two young Tibetans helping with the arrangements. Laxman's caricature of the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetans, is placed prominently at the beginning of the display.

When his parents migrated to India in 1959, Tashi Phuntsok was not even born. Nor where his parents married. Forty-six years later, the 29-year old chef at a Bandra restaurant is hanging cartoons and decorating the gallery with Tibetan flags. His younger friend, ex-armyman Lobsang Dhundup (24), also works in a hotel. "My brother has married Tenzin's sister," beams Dhundup, proud to be related to Generation-X freedom fighter.

Several Tibet Support Groups all the world work to sensitise people about Tibet and its issues. With China's increasing clout in world affairs, governments across the world are tightlipped on Tibet. Morparia's 2002 cartoon titled 'The Great Mall of China' is a take on how Tibet is missing from the India's trade dialogue with China.

Rajinder Puri depicts the Ministry of External Affairs as a snowman frozen for 50 years over Tibet. The exhibition will leave Mumbai for Bangalore and then to Delhi in December, where organisers hope the snowman will melt.


'Indian Cartoonists on Tibet' was held at the Old Gallery of Nehru Centre, Worli, Bombay from October 1-4, 2005.

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