And you shall receive

I went to Benares for a purpose. And no, it had nothing to do with bathing in the Holy Ganges and cleansing myself of my sins, however much I am more a sinner than a saint. I had gone there to change (or at least attempt to) the style of my photography somewhat. It was something that I needed to do for a while.  I had to step outside my comfort zone to someplace else, someplace where I couldn’t rely on my past experience, someplace challenging, someplace different.  I needed to feel different to be different.

For those who haven’t been to Benares (or Varanasi) yet, it is sensory overload. Benares is the perfect example of organized chaos. And you will see that from my photographs which I’ll post by and by.  But as I always do, even within this melee I gravitated to people.  I observed them, found some whom I thought were interesting and chatted with them. I made friends. And then I photographed them. This time, I wanted to capture them, their expressions just where they were in their surroundings, so that I could tell their full story, not just a part of it with close-up portraits. I loved each moment of it. And believe me, it isn’t easy at all to photograph in the at-times-six-feet-wide (narrow?) gallis (lanes) of Benares where you could be crushed and trampled on, either by people or by cows or worse, both.

It isn’t easy to photograph the people I do.  It isn’t easy to photograph. Period.  It’s simple though – but not easy.  From those I have photographed for a year now, I have learnt this difference, this distinction between simple and easy. They have a simple life, not an easy life. Think about this. When you learn of their life, you’ll know what you want to be is a storyteller, not a spinmeister.  When you learn of their life, you’ll know that all you want to do is to love them.  When you learn of their life, you’ll know all you want to do is to give. Which is what I am attempting to be, and to do. But what then is the meaning of “give”?

As Kahlil Gibran wrote beautifully in “The Prophet”:

“Then said a rich man, “Speak to us of Giving.”

And he answered: 

You give but little when you give of your possessions. 
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. 
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? 
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city? 
And what is fear of need but need itself? 
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, thirst that is unquenchable? 
There are those who give little of the much which they have – and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. 

And there are those who have little and give it all. 
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty. 
There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. 
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism. 

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue; 
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space. 
Though the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth. 
It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding; 
And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving 
And is there aught you would withhold? 
All you have shall someday be given; 
Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors.”

And you shall receive.

This entry was posted in General, Philosophy, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Anu November 15, 2012 at 2:51 am #

    A very nice blog as always.
    I am not a photographer, nor do I know the technical aspects of it. But one thing I can be sure of is, that the photographs of your trip to Benaras have been exceptional. They are not only pleasing to the eye, but the expressions of the people in the pictures evoke emotions, the colorful pictures keeps one in raptures and one starts to feel the essense of Benaras.
    As for your blog, my favorite part here are the words:
    “And there are those who have little and give it all.
    These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.
    There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward”.
    Simple words to read, but their meaning so deep and true.

  2. Rajagopal Srinivasan November 15, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    Debesh.I like these shots, i’m fan of your portraits. All your shots carry the natural expression or emotion of the character. Well done. Keep going.

  3. sonny November 15, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    my biggest joy in going through your benares photographs , the 70-80 odd that you have shared until now and in reading the last blog and this one stems majorly from the joy apparent in YOU every time you talk about this particular series….the same uncontainable joy and satisfaction spills forth in your images and your words and that is what probably makes this your best [yet ] work…….

    almost every photograph in this series is complete in itself ….an entire canvas which doesn’t require a suffix or a prefix .

    you are right , making these pictures isn’t easy……not the downright nitty gritties of it , i remember the time an entire rickshaw wheel went over my shoe….the narrow gullies…..and not the time it takes to reach that plane wherein the subject matter attains that level of ease with you and vice versa ….but once again…..what joy lies therein ……in the entire process…..the stories..the people…..and some life altering moments……i wouldn’t exchange it for anything in the world ….

    thank you…..for “giving ” “sharing ” and most of all for being you…….:)

  4. Greg Buck November 15, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Debesh, you continue to amaze my senses with your stunning work.

    You certainly are a great inspiration through your Images of great natural substance and writings of life in the raw.

    Thank you Debesh for sharing your great work with us.

  5. Paulomi November 15, 2012 at 10:45 am #

    Once again, a well-written blog to present some beautiful photographs.. your joy from this experience comes across in each frame.. thanks for sharing them.

  6. Sandra Gibeault November 15, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    He also wrote “Work is love made visible” … I think you convey this with every image and accompanying word. Thanks for sharing this part of you with us – very wonderful to experience!

  7. Dave November 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    I like how your writing complements the crisp photographs and makes the reader’s experience more wholesome. Keep up the good work.

  8. Emily Mabee November 15, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Thank you Debesh.

  9. Pamela November 16, 2012 at 1:33 am #

    Very touching. I’m so pleased to be able to “peephole” the lives of these fascinating individuals. You’ve captured their stories beyond the photographs.

  10. Maureen Blevins November 16, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    I’ve said it before Debesh – you have found your niche in photography. Your street portraits are amazing works of art. You manage to put your subjects at ease and thus are able to capture them relaxed and at their true selves. You also have the ability to communicate what you are feeling and find the perfect quotes to go along.

  11. Heidger Marx November 16, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Dear Debesh,
    I congratulate you to yet another beautiful blog! I can clearly see your evolution from a more portrait and travel style to a more storytelling / photojournalistic style. We are all looking for “our” niche, our style, our way how to do things in photography, and it is refreshing to see that you keep changing and trying out new approaches.

    My experiences in India were very similar as a photographer: no matter if it was the tea pluckers in Kerala or the construction workers in Rajasthan, it was the poorest of the poor, that had nothing to give except for an open attitude and a smile. They gave all that they had. God’s glory will shine upon them and they will receive.
    Thank you!
    – heidger

  12. Richard November 21, 2012 at 1:57 am #

    Beautiful work. A culture very close to my own heart. What an amazing trip.

  13. Debesh November 28, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Thank you so much Anu – I appreciate your kind words. Benares was an absolutely fascinating trip. And these people who have little yet give it all, inspire me to change for the better.

    Thank you so much for your kind words and best wishes Rajagopal. I wish you much luck in all your endeavours.

    Sonika, as always for you I have no words. You say the most amazing things which can render even me into silence.

    Greg my friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you’re doing well and your eyes are better. My prayers are with you.

    Thanks a lot for your time in reading and also being gracious to comment, Paulomi, Sandra, Dave and Emily.

    Pamela, these are beautiful souls whose stories certainly deserve to be told…this is my attempt to do just that.

    Maureen, you’re too kind my friend. Thank you for such lovely words indeed.

    Heidger, each time I read what you have written, it makes me smile. You’re an exceedingly sensitive and gracious man, my friend. I am still trying to find my niche, but portraiture is what really makes me happy and brings me inner peace. And yes my friend, God’s glory shall shine upon them all and they shall receive. Thank you.

    Many thanks Richard. I look forward to being in touch with you.

  14. Shefali November 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    These pictures capture Benaras beautifully. Would have loved to see more of the streets – some so narrow only one person can pass at a time – as characteristic of this holy city as the ghats and the temples. the color pictures here are more alive because I think India is synonymous with color.

  15. Shefali November 30, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    Apart from the evocative photos, your thoughts on giving are admirable. quoting from one of my stories: Rumi, the mystic-poet, narrated this incident of a man who, walking past a beggar, asked, “Why, God, do you not do something for these people?” God replied, “I did do something. I made you.”

  16. Debesh December 2, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Thank you so much Shefali. When you read my blogs in a chronological sequence, you’d realize how photography and especially meeting these wonderful people has changed me deep within my core. It has been, and continues to be, a fascinating and endearing journey. And yes, Rumi’s quotes are beautiful and evocative – thank you for sharing.

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