Monthly Archives: September 2012

I believe in magic

I am out traveling, but even then I wanted to write a short blog (yes, different from my oh-so-long ones). As I see more places, more people, more things, I see how beautiful this world truly is. And I believe in much more today than I did yesterday.

I believe in dreams. I believe in soulmates. I believe in love at first sight, candlelight dinners and roses. I believe in unkempt flower beds. I believe in sunsets. I believe in running barefoot on a sandy beach. I believe in a walk in the rain. I believe in dancing in the rain.  I believe that the smell of babies is the best in the world. I believe the fragrance of the first rain is the second best in the world. I believe that it is ok for real men to cry. I believe that tough men do dance.  I believe that gentlemen open doors for ladies. I believe in past life connections.  I believe in life after death. I believe that it is fine to be a child at heart and never grow up. I believe in what Robert McCammon said. I believe in magic.

“You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.


After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little sad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.”

That’s what I believe in.

I believe in magic.

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Where time has no meaning

I usually don’t photograph with anyone else – I go alone because then I am free to wander wherever I want, explore those nooks and crannies that I see. I can take my own time to stop, pause, stare. The act of photography is meditative for me, most times there are no thoughts in my mind – just a stillness that absorbs all that is around, sees what is often ignored. Those times I am even anti-social. But I prefer to say I am reflective. Most of all I am quiet. I enter a zone. People can’t understand this about me.

I realize I am monochronic. I can’t multitask. Or perhaps I won’t multitask. Is that surprising? When I tell people that if I am working or am busy with photography or editing my photographs etc., my phone will either be on silent or switched off, they find it incredulous. I find it better that way. It allows me to be in that moment completely. For instance, when I photograph someone, I am not with you, I am with them. I am not here. I am in the moment when the shutter release button is pressed; my fingertip at that point of time even senses the temperature of that button. And at that point of time then, I am lost. I am there.

Where time has no meaning.

And my phone being switched off reminds me that sometimes (or maybe most times) I find this hyper-connected world intrusive, claustrophobic, stifling, suffocating. We write a blog post, concurrently send a Facebook message, drop a text, and call someone else. Is that the way it should be? Isn’t when I am with you and only with you right now as I type fair to both you and me? Isn’t it better that I focus on each word that I write to you here rather than try and do it with one hand, eating breakfast with the other, thinking of what the day in office has in store for me? Why are we valuing superficial beyond exclusive? I still remember those days when the ring of the postman’s bicycle bell every two weeks or so meant a letter (yes, snail mail) from my grandfather and I used to be thrilled to bits. I didn’t need a mail from him each day to realize he loved me.  It was simple then. I miss simple.  This is what I am doing these days – making my life simple, perhaps emulating the people I photograph in some way. I am happy. I am at peace. I’ve never felt this way. I see this change in me. And people who know me personally also see this. This is what photography has done for me. I am exhausted today. I’m still writing. Nothing else matters. I love photography. I love writing. I am there.

Where time has no meaning.

I am reminded of all this when I more often than not talk to people I photograph. These are people who have influenced not only my craft (I still don’t call it art) but also me significantly. I have this affinity to stop and converse at length with those I place within my frame. They are simple. They are my teachers. At that point of time they are only with me. At that point of time I am only with them. They are me. I am them. Which is why those brief moments with them continue to linger in my mind forever. I remember each of those thousands of portraits that I made of people. I can’t tell you the aperture or the shutter speed, but I’ll tell you exactly where I stood and how and what I felt. I was elsewhere. I was there.

Where time has no meaning.

This is what happens when you fall in love.  Follow the silent whispers of your heart. Listen to it. Dream. Don’t be afraid of dreaming too big. Dream of the impossible. Chase that impossibility. Make it possible. Find what you love. Fall in love. Love with abandon. Love as if there is no tomorrow. Then you’ll know where I go to.

Where time has no meaning.

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Invictus

I don’t think I’ll write long this time. But I don’t know. Each time I start to write, some more thoughts come to mind and then one thing leads to another, one seemingly unrelated thought connects to yet another. Just a few days back I was editing some photographs of doors and windows that I’d made across quite some time, and when I posted those, someone questioned me as to why were those photographs almost always of closed doors and windows? That was quite an interesting observation because I’d honestly never ever thought of them that way. To me, those doors were just waiting to be opened and for me to enter inside, cross the threshold into the unknown. I didn’t see the “closed” sign – what I noticed was “enter”. What had intrigued me was not so much the architecture or the design or the texture, but the fact that there was something beyond, something hidden waiting to be discovered, and something mysterious waiting to be unearthed…

That’s just the way it is with me – each and every day, I need to cross that threshold into the unknown, and by doing just that, I learn something more. Across the last few days, I’ve spent much time writing down a list of places I must go to and photograph, things I have to write about, photographers I need to meet, and by seeing just those, my calendar seems full for the next few years. Yes of course I dream, I dream about many things – but I don’t live in that world of dreams at this moment, today. My today is when I work to make those dreams come true – someday they will. And even if they don’t, I’ll at least be happy and satisfied that I tried my all without giving up. My today is where I cross that bridge into the mysterious.

So I open those doors. It is only by pushing me to the limits that I learnt of my own limitations. It is only through faith that I learnt the meaning of doubt. It is only by loving that I learnt what is hurt. Challenge your limits, don’t let go of faith, and find love. I never knew what photography would mean to me when I started two years ago, and I never knew I could write when I started posting in March, but here I am doing just both. Because I tried. Because I wasn’t afraid of that darkness. Because I didn’t care what anyone would say. Because I opened that door. Because I believe what Matthew 7:7 says: “”Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Remember that. Always.

And if the Bible gets too heady, just remember what William Ernest Henley wrote in 1875:

“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the Master of my fate:
I am the Captain of my soul.”

Invictus.

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November Rain

At the sum of it all, photography is a matter of perception – yours and mine. I see something which arouses my sensibilities, I photograph it with the intention of capturing the feeling within me – that is my perception, and you see the same photograph with your perception. And of course, our individual perceptions are a function of our environs. But then this post is not a polymath’s thesis of such things.

I was actually thinking of what I’d mentioned in my last blog about failing many times in the past. Yes, I confess that there were occasions after such instances of failure when I would be despondent and dejected, all the while wondering how and why I failed and thought it to be the end of the world. For much time after that would linger the “wrong-side-of-the-bed” syndrome, feeling blue without realizing in the least that the world continued to be a wonderful place to be, resplendent in all its beauty and opportunity. I should have just remembered Richard Bach when he wrote in Illusions: “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” All a matter of perception.

I would be entrapped in a maze of doubt, thinking, feeling, believing that my failures, my problems, my sorrows were unique – but nothing could be farther than the truth. We all go through ups and downs.  What I never realized at that point of time is that what goes up must come down – so neither the good times nor the bad times last forever. Not any longer. I have now learnt that the path to success is strewn with failure. Before that singular amazing photograph, thousands will be iffy. Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Just keep the faith. And so along with perception, it is also a matter of attitude.

Quick example. Just the other day, I was driving to someplace in Delhi in peak traffic and those of you familiar with the traffic here would agree that rush-hour (or any hour) is not the right time to be on these roads. When I got back home, all of a sudden to my absolute surprise I realized that nothing had bothered me all that while on the road. I didn’t even notice the traffic. Not once did I cuss the driver in the adjacent lane, no one had affected me. Where I was had had no effect on me. I had great music going in the car and all the while I was thinking of the beautiful places I need to photograph, all the lost corners I have to travel to, all these yet unwritten words. I was effusive and buoyant and nothing else mattered. And in another post, I will write about where I am in life today for a QED to this point. You see it is, and always has been my choice to see things either as half-empty or half-full. My perception. My attitude.

We all are free to make choices of our own volition. Now these are all photographs made a few hundred yards of each other, within half-an-hour or thereabouts which I feel show how we can see the same sunset in many ways. All different perceptions of the same environment. 

As I photographed this, I remembered what Ansel Adams, the brilliant landscape photographer said: “Sometimes I arrive just when God is ready to have someone click the shutter.”

And my thoughts as I saw the sun go down: it is our choice to remember that the light of day will always be followed by the darkness of the night, surely as it in turn will be followed by the dawn – a new beginning. It is what we call the circle of life, the light at the end of the tunnel, when winter turns to spring.

It is just what Axl Rose sings:

So never mind the darkness,
We still can find a way,
‘Cause nothin’ lasts forever,
Even cold November rain.

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