The Ultimate Truth

As photographers we’re always searching for the next subject, the award-winning photograph, as writers for the next word that follows, the elusive bestseller, as scientists for the God Particle, the “reason” we exist. There is nothing new in this. Our forefathers, the hunter-gatherers searched for the next morsel of food. And the legacy of search continued. But before this quest even begins, we need to figure out what is it that we search for?

As for me I chased my dreams, almost all of them. Whatever I wanted to do, or thought I should do, I went for it. Some came true, some didn’t. But even dreams change with time, what we desire (or want or need) changes with time. It’s the process of evolution. My experience tells me that though change isn’t easy in itself, it’s still relatively easier to change than for people to accept that you’ve changed. Isn’t that ironic?

Of course I failed along the way, and failed miserably at that, many times across many years. I believed that I had the Midas touch, unfounded arrogance at that, I chased rainbows for that pot of gold, till enough hard knocks proved otherwise. And each time I failed, I wondered what had happened to my touch, where was that rainbow, little realizing that Midas was mythical, the real one and the pot of gold is here and in such.

With time (and I don’t mean to sound old and gone, but age does make a difference), I realized that failure is good, failure is humbling. It teaches me. As Michael Jordan said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” I believe him. Now I dream without fear of failure, so what if I fail? No big deal.

Coming to the search, the quest – of course, I have a dream. Maybe not as big as Martin Luther King’s was, but as important to me as his was to him. I have been thinking for quite a while now of something, someone to photograph which hasn’t ever been done before and do it in a way that is different. Quite a tall order isn’t it? Almost everything seems to have been photographed. But then why not dream big? In the words of Salman Rushdie: ““Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things – childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves – that go on slipping , like sand, through our fingers.” I’d only add photography to writing.

 I feel the need, the perhaps inexplicable desire to walk this path. 

For months, I obsessed over the subject of a dream so big and just a few days back, I was lying in bed tossing and turning and finally when the answer came to me at 03:00 AM, I jumped out of bed, switched on my laptop and said let me figure out if this has ever been done before. I researched extensively. And no it hadn’t. I wondered why though? Why hadn’t someone yet photographed what I am thinking about and in the way I’ve thought of? The closest I can get to the answer is maybe no one ever believed they could do it. You see we give up before we even start because we think something is really difficult. I won’t give up, I never give up. This is something I’ll do. And God be my witness, I’m not doing it for all the “wrong reasons” of fame and fortune, but because I know that this is what I’m meant to do someday, sometime, somewhere – when I do not know really, the how I know. What I do know also is that this will bring me happiness. I might fail, but I’ll still try. My photographs and words might not find their way to National Geographic, the Holy Grail for most photographers and  some writers, but I’ll still photograph and write. And I also am aware that there will be naysayers along the way to whom I could say just as Clark Gable did: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, but I’d much rather use Mother Teresa’s words:

People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them anyway.

So that really is: The Ultimate Truth.

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  1. sonny August 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    this gave me goosebumps for some reason ….debesh , this is probably one of your most heart felt writes recently, ….especially the third paragraph…i loved that bit…..

    one question—-what ? what came to you at 3 in the morning ? that hasn’t been done before ? are we talking photo journalism full time here ?

    but whatever it is….yes yes and yes…:)) if anyone can do it—-you can .

  2. sonny August 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    its uncanny how we sometimes think , if not about the exact same things but along parallel lines…..wrote this blog a few days ago….

    and forgot to mention….the pictures are stunning above.

  3. Debesh August 26, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Thanks so much Sonika. What came to me at 03:00 AM was the subject (s) I will photograph someday. I know what I need to create and say, generally speaking, and how to do it – it has never been done before. The “when” is what I don’t know – yet. And no, not full-time photo journalism. I’ll never photograph full-time, at least I don’t think so. I also know I haven’t said what is it that shall be my subject(s) – that is called keeping the suspense alive. Thanks once again for your encouragement.

  4. Debesh August 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks Sonika for sharing what you wrote. Just how I’ve felt. Interesting. I loved the lines: “And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

  5. Noni Chawla August 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Your honesty shines through. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

  6. shweta August 26, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Beautiful and straight from the heart.

  7. Roy Money August 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    Indeed another exciting post Debesh. I am excited for you
    Regarding ‘something to photograph which hasn’t ever been done before and do it in a way that is different’.
    For me the path to presenting something truly distinctive is finding the emptiness (a place of no barriers and no hindrances)within myself from which to work. It seems ironic that in finding ‘yourself’ you may be able to go beyond the ego-inflated aspects of most self-expression, and that in ‘forgetting yourself’ you may be able to present something truly distinctive but my study of zen as well as art tells me that this seems true.
    As far as the ‘ultimate’ subject matter I think this is what has the potential to move you individually and so can be almost anything, and different for each person. Finding that can be an arduous journey in itself (and you seem to have identified it for yourself) but I think the journey within that can ultimately free you to allow the ten thousand things to realize themeselves thorugh your work is at least equally important.
    Also I would respectfully caution you from thinking that you can figure out in advance HOW ‘this project’ should be done. One thing I have been noticing this past month is that often my best images are the ones that I don’t anticipate but allow myself to notice – ones that a deeper part of my awareness than my thinking and conceptual processing is able to recognize. What seems increasingly important to me is to be as fully present as possible when I have a camera in my hand.
    In any case congratulations and I look forward to hearing more about your efforts.

  8. Heidger Marx August 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    Congratulations to another beautiful post from the heart, my friend!
    Forgive me when I say that this feels like the logical continuation of my last blog image-wise. Truly beautiful images, thank you for sharing them with us, Debesh!
    As Sonny, I would be curious what it was that you came up with at 3am. But whatever it is, I know you will put all your heart in it and it will stand out. Your humbleness is a shining example for the rest of you.
    Thank you again for your images and your contagious vocabulary, Debesh!
    – heidger

  9. Debesh August 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Thank you so much Noni sir – something you said a while back inspired me, and here is the result all thanks to you.

    Shweta, I am most grateful for your words. Many thanks for your time in not only reading, but also commenting.

    Roy, my friend I completely agree with you. Sometime back I’d written a post where I’d said “find yourself by losing yourself” and this is just that – perhaps yet another koan in Zen thought and belief. Our thoughts are alike. Thank you for your words of caution which I really appreciate – when I said that “how”, it was on the lines of the “material world” – how I need to schedule it, structure it and so on. I really don’t think when I either write or photograph, but just attempt to capture what I feel. Many thanks for writing and all the best sir.

    Dear Heidger,

    Just yesterday as I commented on your blog, I mentioned that our lives appear to be on parallel tracks not really knowing that this is what I was going to write today or these were the photographs I would use. Amazingly (or maybe not so), this is what happened finally. Indeed is is a continuation of sorts in photographs to your blog, and you needn’t say “forgive me” my friend. Let us continue this beautiful journey together albeit separated by a few miles…

  10. Letizia August 27, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    You are always very deep Debesh :). I think you’re already doing for a long time something very new and nice. I also believe that there may be many moments like 3 am to discover and begin a new path and discover that “life is boundless” (Marquez). Quote for quote:
    “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do” (Ghandi).
    What you do, alone or not, is very important. good luck!

  11. Narendra August 27, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Debesh, Some good reflections; indeed very well expressed. However, if I could add: the hunter-gatherer ancestors did not search for the next morsel; we do. Though without ‘livelihood’ they got it aplenty, free, and without labour; a much more civilized diet. May be I can say this after living/’working’ amidst them for 32 years. Even today there are no starvation deaths (famines included) in such communities in parts of the world where they still exist; this — much to our dismay– in stark contrast with our societies of ‘plenty’. Just that we have changed the economic indices. And our sense of ‘search’ seems a relatively modernist phenomenon, coming from a self-defeating epistemology; the consequence of a violated landscape, ecology and worldview. We have a morsel for thought!!!

  12. Mauverneen August 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Once again – beautiful. Both words and pictures. And just what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

  13. Nigel August 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    Amritsar five star adventure travel.
    I guess you have captured the place at the right light.
    Good post.
    Keep it up.

  14. Kym Zwick August 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Wow… Just simply wow… You are quite the writer as well… That touched me deeply… You just explained my everyday life… Its a constant battle. Wanting to be new, be fresh, be different from the rest… Everyday you want to be simply amazing, when most the time its just repetitive… sometimes it seems as if something or someone is holding you back, just enough to make you not even try… Why?? Only because of fear of failure…. Everyday, I judge myself to the point of giving up… I have no idea how I’ve gotten this far… Other than the amazing people that believe in me everyday… Because everyday I feel as though I fail, yet, I keep going…. Mostly because I don’t want anyone else to judge me the way I judge me… Does that make sense?? Thank you for letting me read that… I’m glad I’m not the only one…

  15. Prerna August 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    Very nice and deep wordings! Love your work! Please keep it coming.

  16. Debesh September 9, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    Dear Letizia,
    Many thanks for such kind words, and of course the quote from Gandhi which I completely subscribe to. I am really enjoying this journey of photography and each day is an opportunity for me to see more wonders of this beautiful world.

    Narendra: Sir, thank you for your comment and the morsel for thought. Yes, you’re right in that we’re constantly searching with no sight of the end, and this is in itself frustrating to say the least. What is important is to be satisfied with what we have, yet walk along the path to more challenges and new discoveries. It is a difficult balance, but achievable.

    Many thanks Mauverneen, Nigel and Prerna. I appreciate your gracious words and do look forward to more exchanges in the future.

    Dear Kym,

    I am there, doing that and I completely understand where you’re coming from. The most important thing as Letizia also mentioned in her comment is to keep going, keep walking. We all fall sometime or the other, but faith lies in brushing the dust of our knees when we stumble, so to speak, and keep at it. Forget the naysayers – they’re always aplenty. And also a big thank you for your lovely photographs – all the best.

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