To them, to you

Nothing seems the same anymore – the past has ceased to exist, and the future matters no longer. All that is important is the “here and now”.  That is truly how I feel at this moment. And for me to feel this way has been a long and arduous journey – almost ten years that began sometime late 2001. Much of those ten years were spent in darkness, a miasma – not literally, but figuratively. I was rather oblivious to feelings of those around me, people that mattered, and those who loved me, I ended up hurting, caused them deep pain and anguish in return for love.

But there will always be a tipping point, a watershed moment when things will change – I believe it to be karmic, that all of this ends when you change and when your deeds change; maybe it happens at the metaphysical level, maybe at another, but the world becomes a different place when I see it differently, when that darkness gets replaced with light. For me, it was when I stepped out with my camera alone for the very first time and went to the Himalayas in September 2011. I had time to reflect, time to retrospect and time to spring clean my soul. And when I did that, my perception of things changed. When I made this photograph of an old lady, these words of Auguste Rodin are just right for what I felt: “To any artist, worthy of the name, all in nature is beautiful, because his eyes, fearlessly accepting all exterior truth, read there, as in an open book, all the inner truth.” 

Getting to that inner truth, as August Rodin calls it, isn’t easy – it needs me to reach deep within the confines of my soul and confess finally to myself that much of what I see there is darkness; to replace that with light needs me to change. It really isn’t an easy journey – change never is; the harder right than the easier wrong, you see. But the easier wrong calls for punishment, or retribution if that is a better word. So I paid. And when I paid my dues and accumulated no more, everything changed. I believe that there is someone who is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, you might call Him by many names: Jesus, Allah, Krishna, but what’s in a name anyway? What I believe is that the Truth is within me, and not elsewhere. The light lies within. And that light once seen, illuminates all around me with beauty. As Audrey Hepburn said: “The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows and the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years.”  And these words came to mind with this photograph of an 102 year old Bishnoi lady admiring the finery of her grand daughter-in-law.

And you see as I introspect, I realize that I started seeing the light within only with my camera – which is why I always say that photography isn’t a passion anymore, it is spiritual for me. The etymology of photography, by the way, is Greek – “phot-” for light and “-graphos” for drawing. The act of creating a photograph is only after seeing the light. But more than that, I do believe a photograph has less to do with seeing the light, but more with feeling the light within. I don’t think I can create a photograph that means something, or even anything, with what I see…I can do it only with how I feel.

Because of photography, I see and feel things differently, I see magic and wonder in much that is often ignored. I find “ordinary” people fascinating, their stories compelling, when most either ignore them or worse, pity them. It is only when I can feel the magic of that which is around me, can I even begin to attempt and capture it. None of my photographs fall in the realm of art, and I would be delusional calling myself an artist. I am not one. My photographs are of what I see, you see, we all see everyday, not exotica, but perhaps the difference is that I see the magic in them, those ordinary people, I believe they have much more than I have. I believe that they are my gurus.

Which brings me to what is the meaning of guru. In the earliest known discourse of the word in the Markandeya Purana, in the form of a dialog between Shiva and Parvati, Shiva alludes to guru being the remover of darkness, bestower of light. Light. The Inner Light. Which is why I say that these “ordinary” people are my gurus – they showed me the light when all that I had was darkness. Which is why I respect them, no, I revere them. They taught me the real meaning of love. I revere you. You taught me the real meaning of love.

To them, I owe a lot.

To you, I owe a lot.

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  1. Emily Mabee April 14, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

    Your words and images touch my soul.

  2. Geoffrey April 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    Well said my friend. Beautiful words about connecting
    Through your camera to the world. I know what
    It means to let spirit guide you with your camera.
    Thanks for the wonderful reminder and share.

  3. Heidger Marx April 14, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    Dear Debesh,

    congratulations to yet another masterpiece of blog! You are speaking from your heart, you speak of experience, and you speak for many of us, including myself. Thank you!

    I don’t know the “old”, pre-2011 Debesh, but I assume he was similar to the “old” Heidger.
    Really spiritual growth has to come through surrender of the ego, the ego that wants to maintain the status quo, as it can only loose in the process. The process of surrender is very, very painful, but there is no alternative to it. To quote ancient, vedic knowledge, “happiness arising from the calm of self-understanding, that seems like poison in the beginning but turns into nectar in the end, is said to be in goodness” (Bhagavad Gita, 18:37). I congratulate you on your journey and thank you for sharing your thoughts and beautiful images with us!

    I look forward to many enlightening discussion with you, my dear friend!

  4. Mel and Mike April 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    Great piece and what is greater still is the humility in your introspection, well you were always a great guy and to know you is to understand you, and here’s to many more enlightening moments. Couldn’t think of a better adjective so ‘great’ though repetitive is so apt here. Love and hugs.

  5. Ellen Doman April 15, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    The black and white photograph of the woman is stunning, touching. I want to look at it every day as it communicates something to me, such character, such humanity.
    Thank you for that.

  6. michael marker photo April 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    Amamzing photographs – such characterful portraits.

  7. dpk pillay April 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    debesh beautiful words and pictures

  8. Mauverneen April 15, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Your photos, as always, are wonderful to look at. Your words leave me – what? Speechless, thoughtful, meditative. Whatever crossroads you are at in your life Debesh, it takes courage to bare your soul with the world as you have. May you continue to find the light…

  9. Cynthia Sanders April 16, 2013 at 3:07 am #

    Debesh, Thank you for sharing. I hope your darkness remains at bay and the light will grow brighter for you. Thank you for making the lighter brighter for me as well.


  10. Neville Jacobs April 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    My studies in Tibetan Buddhism have taught me that within every living being there is Buddha Nature, which i like to call Divine Essence, but it is covered by our obscurations, negative thoughts and emotions, but it is always there, the foundation of our being, and transforming our “obscurations” reveals that the basis of our being is this omniscient luminous awareness. It is always there, is doesn’t go away. It is what we are. Knowing that, and trying to remember that the suffering of others is always greater than mine, helps me to cultivate the positive feelings…love and compassion…to deal with circumstances of life, myself and others. The experience of that luminous, omniscient self, is real and attainable. So regardless of whether it is called God, Christ Consciousness Allah, Krishna, Buddha Nature, ultimately, it is that Divine Essence of your being. Love, NJ

  11. Niru Bhatia May 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    I love your writing. How is it an Indian landscape/portrait always make you seek a deeper meaning?! I regret not meeting you when I was in India last year. Thanks.

  12. Hannah Kozak May 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    The answer is always within, my friend and everyone is our mirror, our guru. We all have magic inside, it’s as close as our breath. Beautiful photos and words. May your journey continue.

  13. Shaikat May 7, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Lovely images. The one with the mother-in-law sitting near the feet of her daughter-in-law is notion-changing. It’s often the other way in India. It’s but love that changes these equations.
    The time to move from ‘darkness’ to ‘light’, or from ignorance to realisation (as in self) comes to each one of us at different stages in life. How many of us identify and accept the change? And how many try to fight this metamorphosis?! The camera was your catalyst.
    Seeing a seed pop out as a sapling, and then tending to it, helping it become a plant is a revelation in itself! Speaking to your plants in the morning, you can feel them respond!! You realise that you are but an instrument in the ‘scheme of things’! May each of us identify the changes and accept them graciously!!
    Dhanyavad (thank-you) for reminding us that we are more human than we tend to believe!

  14. Anna Margrét May 12, 2013 at 11:40 pm #

    Interesting! Thoughtful and touching… I like your approach to sensing the essence of humanity. Your ok! ;)

  15. Debesh June 7, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    Thanks so much Emily.

    Geoffrey, thank you very much. Yes, I suppose there are some of us who get what that means, and I am happy that we have connected.

    Heidger my friend, you never cease to amaze me with your words of wisdom and your knowledge. Thank you as always for reminding me of words that are old, yet will never be out of date.

    Mel and Mike: I’d mailed you after I read your comment. You have been a part of this journey, and you know well what I mean. Thank you for being by friends. I am blessed.

    Ellen, Michael and DPK: Many, many thanks for your kind words; I am touched.

    Thank you as always Maureen – I don’t know about courage, but this is definitely surrender to a Power that I know not for real, while knowing it is real.

    Cindy, I am most grateful for your words. May God be with you always.

    Neville, thank you so much for sharing your words of wisdom and your knowledge of Buddhism. I am indeed fortunate that I have connected with such wonderful people such as yourself all thanks to photography who make my world a better place.

    Niru, hopefully we shall meet when you’re here next. Whatever will be will be….I look forward to being in touch with you. Thank you.

  16. Debesh June 7, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Thank you so much Hannah. May your journey be beautiful, may the quest never end. God bless.

    Shaikat my brother, thank you for such kind words. It is always delightful to have you write and when I read what you say, I remember how we started.

    Thank you Anna.

  17. neelam November 11, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

    Beautiful beautiful beautiful Debesh…experiencing a mix of feelings right now..happy that you found the most coveted….unhappy that I am yet to find my joy…..inspired by your writing and very hopeful ..such joy can not elude me forever or for long for that matter :)

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