On gratitude

Almost a lifetime. That is how long it feels now that I am here finally writing a post. Words don’t come easy. I am stumbling, staring at the blank sheet of paper as I attempt to find expressions that can convey what and how I feel. Nothing yet.

But I know the photographs I want to share, and those I hope will render this easy. For the last 3 months I have been in the deserts of Iraq on work, but yearning for the mountains that I love.  Those are the photographs I have open at this point of time – waiting, hoping that there will be this sudden surge of inspiration. The mountains do something for me. And not going there makes me feel as if I were incomplete. In the same way, photography and writing make me complete. I am different from what I was when I left for Iraq. I have been told that by those who know me. And what I have been told hasn’t been good. I have changed, and not for the better. This is what happens when I don’t photograph, when I don’t write and I don’t find myself in the mountains. These are what I am, this is who I am.

After months of travel, I finally got around to editing some photographs of Ladakh where I was in April, and found quotes as I often do for them.

For this one, I thought of what Andy Rooney said: “Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” ­

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And this is what Pablo Neruda said in 100 Love Sonnets:

“So I wait for you like a lonely house

till you will see me again and live in me.

Till then my windows ache.”

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“I’ve learned that a storm isn’t always just bad weather, and a fire can be the start of something. I’ve found out that there are a lot more shades of gray in this world than I ever knew about. I’ve learned that sometimes, when you´re afraid but you keep on moving forward, that’s the biggest kind of courage there is. And finally, I’ve learned that life isn’t really about failure and success. It’s about being present, in the moment when big things happen, when everything changes, including myself.” – Cynthia Hand, Hallowed

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As as I beheld spring, the words of Ernest Hemingway came to mind:  “You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.”

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I feel better now as I write. I know this post isn’t great, but this is just how I feel without having photographed or written for months. I just hope the photographs compensate for my words.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” ­– Hunter S. Thompson

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It is much later such as now when I contemplate deeper on what that moment meant to me, do words come out and find their place, intruding as they were on my feelings. It is only in retrospect that I can actually apply logic and creativity and composition and all such things to the frame. Not then.

The feeling of being there, both in solitude and otherwise, is something I cannot explain in words. Not possible, even for me.  But I’ll do the best I can. The feeling is meditative, of being immersed in the here and now, utterly and completely awestruck by the sheer beauty of it all. As I reflect on how I feel then, I realize that more often than not, I have no thoughts. Everything is still. And somewhere in that meditative frame of mind, I put the camera to my eye and press the shutter. I don’t compose. Or let me put it differently – I cannot compose. At least not according to me. I am in a zone.

Sometimes not always, there are those errant tears that run down as I see whatever is in front of my eyes. It is Creation. No, it is the Creator.

And there is only one thought if at all that overwhelms me then:

Of gratitude.

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

22 Comments

  1. Eric Hatch September 1, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    I like the first one best. Wonderful clarity and depth, creates that feeling of remote vastness you were after. The others are fine too, of course, but that one speaks most clearly to me. Welcome back to the land of the living.

    • Debesh September 19, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

      Dear Eric,

      Thank you so much – it is always wonderful to hear from you. I made that photograph from the car while stalled in a traffic jam due to a landslide at Zoji La pass – which leads from Kashmir to Ladakh. In fact, the B&W’s are also from that day.

      I look forward to being in touch with you.

  2. sandy September 1, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    as always… bravo!

    • Debesh September 19, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Thank you so much Sandy! Much appreciated.

  3. Emily Mabee September 1, 2013 at 3:53 am #

    Wonderful to hear from you again. I am glad you are back doing what you love The isolated cabin in the snow tugs at ,y soul. This is no longer my e-mail and I can no
    longer get into my LinkedIn. My computer was hacked. If you wish to respond please use my gmai

    emilymky

  4. Nancy de Flon September 1, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    Debesh, you’re apologizing because this post isn’t great? Man, it IS great!!! Arguably your best ever! Thank you for your touching honesty. And for the stunning photos, and the quotes. This is a keeper. I know how it feels if having to be away from photography and writing for a while, so I can relate somewhat to what you’ve said about this. Now you’re back in the groove.
    You have to publish a book, man. Really. Gratitude??? Your readers have it — for you and all you have to offer.

  5. mauverneen September 1, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    As always, such a pleasure to hear from you!

  6. Nidhi Datta September 2, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    To my photographically- untutored eye your pictures especially of Ladakh are exquisite… i say Ladakh in particular as I know am partial to the ladakhi landscape n its people ever since i visited it for the first time at the age of 11. Your pics are Ode’s to Ladakh n words would be superfluous accompaniments if you didn’t craft them so well. But silence does tug at the soul strings …

  7. Heidger Marx September 2, 2013 at 6:01 am #

    Dear Debesh,
    It is good to read another wonderful post from you, sharing your honesty, modesty, eloquence and beautiful photography with all of us!
    I sense what you mean when you speak of “this not being one of your best blogs”, but I can assure you that it is blogs like this one that are the most important and profound ones, facing you own creative blocks, your own unfulfilled desires (of the mountains) and your painful realizations of having changed in just a few months. Thank you for not sugar coating it and sharing your gratitude, for what I am grateful beyond words.
    Your friend,
    heidger

  8. Cyretha September 3, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    Debesh,
    Your selection of the Hunter S. Thompson quote is a wonderful explanation of how life should be. When I see your magnificent images, I am eager to take my camera and find such solitude. Your photography always reminds me that there are so many wonderful places and people on this planet.

    Welcome back,
    Cyretha

  9. Steve September 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Hi Debesh,
    Kya baat hai. What has changed? When are you back in India. I am waiting for your visit to Joshimath. I look at your pics and say Wow! and then I say to myself that I have a trunk full of photos (many not in digital format) from all the beautiful places the Fauj has sent me to. Many of mountains from Sikkim, Ladakh, Siachen, Arunachal, Himachal, Nepal…. But maybe the poet in me has become lazy! So you score there, taht you do.
    I was with a friend in Lucknow recently and we were discussing something and he got to me to start a blog…. Will I? Let’s see.
    Be in touch.
    Steve

  10. Rakesh September 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Bravo Zulu sir

  11. Sridip Nag September 8, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    The pictures speak for themselves! They are, as I’ve already said, stunning. I really have nothing more to say about them. Now, I’ve finally had a chance to read through the written part, and must say that your command of the english language is, for lack of a better word on my part, SOLID! Enjoyed the written portion a lot! Bravo. Hope you keep posting pictures like this and keep writing.

  12. Caroline September 17, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    This is wonderful!

  13. Debesh September 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Thanks so much Emily! Yes, I most certainly shall use your email, and I have already updated your contact details. I hope you’re doing well. Be in touch.

    Thanks a lot Nancy – you’re too gracious and kind, as also generous with your compliments. A book? Well, perhaps someday that too shall happen.

    Thanks Maureen – good to hear from you.

    Many thanks Nidhi – I appreciate your words, but then I also believe that nothing, no one can ever do justice to the beauty created by Him. We all try and fail, but try we must.

    Many, many thanks for your words as always Heidger. My friend, we go together on parallel journeys, perhaps separated by oceans but not in spirit. May the Force be with you.

    Cyretha, thank you so much. It is always delightful to hear from you and what you have to say. And yes, that is how life is meant to be lived. Thank you.

    Steve, I will be there sooner than you think. I’m just trying to organise a few things for the near future and the moment those are ironed out, I shall be at your doorstep. Look forward to catching up with you. Many thanks my friend. And do start writing.

    Thanks so much Rakesh.

    Sridip, thank you for yours words which are deeply appreciated and treasured. Writing and photography, for me, are a catharsis of the soul. I will, I shall continue.

    Thanks so much Caroline.

  14. Anshul Sukhwal November 19, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Beautifully captured images, Debesh. I liked the snow covered mountains in the first shot and the post-processing in the third image. But, I would say, I loved the second image. It is so beautifully captured. It just gives a heavenly, out of thw world feeling.

    Keep posting such wonderful photos with us, Debesh. Great going. :-)
    Anshul Sukhwal
    Travel Photography in India

    • Debesh November 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

      Anshul,

      Thanks so very much for your compliments and the detailed look at the images – the second photograph was made by me from a moving vehicle en route from Zoji La pass to Drass.

      I haven’t posted photographs lately as you would have noticed, but hopefully in the next few days I should have some albums from Russia up.

      Thanks again for being in touch.

  15. Anshul Sukhwal November 19, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    The fact that the above said image was captured from a moving vehicle makes it all the more “great”, Debesh. I can see that the composition of the image follows “the rule of thirds” as the house/hut is placed not in the center but at a different angle.

    Waiting to see the images from Russia. :-)
    Best Wishes.
    Anshul Sukhwal
    Travel Photographers in India

  16. Debesh November 19, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    Many thanks Anshul!

  17. Eric Hatch November 19, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    Debesh, thanks for posting and I’m so glad you’ve re-surfaced. Your images are, as always, breathtaking and clean. Bravo.

    • Debesh November 25, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

      Eric,

      Thank you so much sirrie, and yes, it is great to be back in “civilisation” as we know it. I should be around for another month or thereabouts and will hopefully get some photography done. How have you been? Thanks for dropping a line – it is always good to hear from you.

  18. Fineday Photography December 21, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Nice blog. Realy liked it

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