2013

Thousands of photographs. Hundreds of miles. Tens of days. All on the road.

For photography. For passion. For a dream. And what a beautiful journey it has been. A journey within. Each photograph of mine, good and bad, allowed me to reflect. On why I created that particular photograph. On what I felt when I was there. On life.

Many lessons. Most happy, others not so. But all important. Indelible. Each a milestone along a beautiful path. Never easy. Always beautiful. The road less traveled. That path.

I wanted my last post this year to be short. And have just one photograph. To epitomize all that I learnt. To tell me what I need to do. Here it is. The saint and the sinner.

It tells me life isn’t easy. It tells me the power of prayer. It expresses hope. Courage. And faith. In something. Someone. Larger than us. Much more powerful. It says much to me. Perhaps it might to you. Only if you feel. Who is the saint? Who is the sinner? Who created these distinctions? Is there any difference between them and me?

None. There are no boundaries. No lines. I am the saint. I am the sinner. I am all that there is. I am you. And you are me.

I believe this. Because I feel what you feel. What they feel. Just the same way. That is all that I need to remember. To never lose the ability to feel. Only then can I love.

God bless all of you. This is to 2013.

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I love you

I use the words I use, I write the way I write, and I photograph the way I photograph, because I am sensitive. You can call me an emotional fool. But what you call me and how you see me doesn’t really matter; all that matters is how I see myself. Someone questioned me once: “What is the most difficult thing in the world?” and to this I said: “To be honest with myself.”

Believe me when I say this. There was a time in my life when I was not true to my own self. I was more focused on what people thought of me than what I thought of myself. I ended up becoming the least common denominator, playing to the gallery. I forgot who I really was. I forgot my values and my principles. I was ashamed to be me, to be doing the things I had done, to be responsible for much hurt and pain and anguish around me. I literally couldn’t see myself in my own eyes – imagine that. I forgot the meaning of love. I was bitter. I was shattered. I was broken.

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But there is a kind and loving God. And all I needed to do was to place my hand in His. When I think of those days and the long, arduous and oftentimes painful journey from then till now, I am reminded of the hymn, “Broken Vessels”:

I was just a broken vessel laying shattered on the floor
Every piece that really mattered had been shattered o’er and o’er
Then I found a man named Jesus and He looked upon my face
He said if I would let Him, He would mold me back in place

So He gently placed my life upon the great potter’s wheel
He washed away my angry pain with love that I could feel
With His nail scared hands He touched my heart
He cleansed me through and through
Then He smiled at what He’d fashioned, ‘twas an image all brand new

Lord, I’ve seen the sign you’ve shown me, others shattered on the floor
Lord I know how much their hurting for I’ve been there once before
They’re just longing to be mended by your hands of love so free
Help me Jesus let me show them what forgiveness did for me.

Then He’ll smile at what He’s fashioned, an image all brand new.

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Jesus. Allah. Krishna. Guru Nanak. The name doesn’t matter. What matters is belief, faith, trust, respect, and love.

All of these feelings influence my photography and photography in turn influences my life. As Ansel Adams said: “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” 

I am human. I err. I am not perfect. Not even close. In fact, I am as imperfect as they come, and more. I have many flaws. But I consciously and painstakingly attempt each day to remove every bit of negativity from my being.  I try. And the journey is beautiful.  It becomes easier when you believe, you have faith, you trust, you respect, and you love. It is not the change in itself that is important, but the act of change.

And so you see according to me at the end of it all, it is no so much the photograph, but the act of photography. It is not so much being loved, but the act of loving. Unconditionally. I don’t ask of you to love me in return, but only ask that I may love you.

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To quote the Bhagavad Gita:

Karmani Ev Adhikaar Te
Maa Phaleshu Kadaachan
Maa Karma Phal Hetu Bhu
Maa Te Sanga Astu A-Karmani

To action alone hast thou a right
Never at all to its fruits
Let not the fruits of action be thy motive
Neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction

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Or in the beautiful words of William Nicholson in “Shadowlands”: “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me.”

On the same lines, I love because I’m helpless – it changes me.

I love you.

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That Sacred Place

Yes, I know this post is long overdue. I’ve been meaning to put pen to paper for quite a while now, but I have been really swamped under. I was out traveling to Benares for a while, after which I was (and still am) sorting out and editing my photographs. Then I was in Bombay for a bit on work and busy with a few projects going on. And work reminds me of a status I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago: “No, I am not a professional photographer. I am a management consultant. I photograph only because I love it – that’s all”. Of course, I got some interesting comments on my status; an accomplished and talented photographer and curator, Susan Aurinko (and you can see her work here and here) said this: “But, if someone should happen to ask who you are, tell them that you are a photographer, please.  Though what you do might be a management consultant, who you are is definitely a photographer.”

And that got me thinking – how true those words are. Photography has permeated each part of my life, the depths of my soul, every bit of my being.  I have changed. No, read that as: photography has changed me. Those who know me personally can safely testify to this. I have this website, I write these posts only because I love photography, I love writing. There is no other reason. Do I really need a reason when I am in love? One of my all-time favorite songs is “Annie’s song” by John Denver – its lyrics best express how I feel for photography:

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again.

Or maybe on a relatively more contemporary note, I could just about use the words of Bryan Adams:

To really love a woman,
Let her hold you
Till you know how she needs to be touched
You’ve gotta breathe her, really taste her
Till you can feel her in your blood
And when you can see your unborn children in her eyes
You know you really love a woman

And this magical feeling that I live with, this can happen to anyone. To you, and you, and also to you. The only thing you need to do is to have a dream. As I mentioned a while back to a close friend of mine: “Sometimes we are so busy doing things we have to do, that we forget what we want to do.”

Find what you want to do. Dream. Chase your dreams. Discover. Strive. Persevere. Make it happen.  It might not happen. But dream.

Build castles in the sand. Build castles in the air. It doesn’t matter. Just build.

Stumble. Fall. Get hurt. But walk.

Love. Feel the joy. Feel the pain. Let your heart shatter. Yet love. Do it again.

Enjoy the ride. Feel the wind. Love the freedom. Be ready for it to stop. Find another.

Fear no loss. Be ready to win. Be ready for loss. But play the game.

Be sentimental. Be emotional. Be sensitive. Feel.

Hop. Skip. Jump. Don’t live. Be alive.

And that is when you will truly, completely, absolutely fall in love. That is when you will feel what I feel at this moment as I type. You will be in a place where there is no one but you and the Creator. Because that is when you will know that Heaven is just another place on Earth. Because that is when you’d have stepped into:

That Sacred Place.

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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.

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For I have loved

It’s been a while since I wrote last and writing a post seems almost alien to me. I’ve just returned from Benares, or Varanasi, or even Kashi, as you’d prefer to call it. It was such a fascinating trip – what a city with such a unique character! But I’ll write about Benares (the place) in another post (or maybe even posts).  I’d gone there for a specific purpose actually – before I’d left I had been feeling for a while that my portraits were not “quite there” according to me. (Of course, after I wrote that many of you who read it felt otherwise and for that I’m grateful – so thank you.) Anyway, I went to Benares to photograph people, to allow them to touch me in the deepest recesses of my heart again, to let me know what it means to feel. It was spiritual – maybe not in the classical sense of the word, but perhaps ambrosia to quench the thirst of my soul.

Someone had asked me many weeks back: “Do you have any fears?” to which I had then said “No, I don’t.” But now after meeting so many people in Benares and feeling the love of strangers, I can safely say: “Yes, I do. I fear losing this capacity to feel – which is why I love each day.”

In 1897, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, the renowned Indophile, said of Varanasi: “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” Nothing could be truer than that. Unto and of itself, Benares is its people – residents and birds of passage, all the same. Full of characters, both devout and dubious, Benares is a photographer’s dream – and I was a child in a candy store there.

Everything there happens in the name of, and for, God.  Despite the deluge of outsiders, the people of Benares cling to their roots almost as if diaspora in a foreign land. Each of them has a story to tell…this man brought his wife of many years for a dip in the Holy Ganga (or Ganges) to wash away their sins and remit their karma.

And he is a fruit-seller who was born here; he has sat in the same place for as long as he can remember selling fruits to pilgrims. He said to me that he wants to die here as dying in Kashi is salvation, and ensures release of a person’s soul from the cycle of its transmigrations.  (In the Rigveda, the city was referred to as Kashi, “the luminous one” alluding to its historical status as a centre of learning, literature, art and culture. In one verse, the Hindu god Shiva, the Destroyer in the Holy Trinity says, “The three worlds form one city of mine, and Kashi is my royal palace therein.”)

Then I met this Brahmin who only sits and prays at this small temple day and night, every single day of the year. All for the Lord. This is what teaches me the meaning of love, of devotion, of sacrifice.

How can Benares be complete without a paan-wallah, the ubiquitous betel-leaf seller ? He offered to   have a word with someone so that I could have a vantage view of the evening Ganga aarati (prayers) – for a princely sum of course.  I politely declined but not before I got his permission for a photograph!

As I was navigating the labyrinthine streets known as gallis near the ghats (bathing steps), I saw this child behind a closed door, surreptitiously peeping through this lattice screen and observing me most closely. I smiled to him, pointed at my camera and he nodded in silent acquiescence…

All of these are people I love and respect. This is the reason I photograph. I remain in touch with reality as it exists, not as I would have it. I am on a journey of (re)discovering love each moment, every single day. It is beautiful. I wouldn’t have it any other day.

And as the day came to an end, I met this beautiful old lady who sells flowers for a living. I still wonder what lies hidden within her heart? Resignation? Indignation? Unbearable pain? Memories of another life? Or even wishes for another life? But all I know for now is that she touched my soul.

And yes, I’m not embarrassed of confessing here that I had tears in my eyes after I made this photograph of her. It reminds me of a line I wrote many years ago: “When your reason to cry and your reason to smile are both the same – then you truly have loved.”

I know.

For I have loved.

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On photography by Steve Jobs

Since Sunday I have wanted to photograph – you know that insane desire to step out and create something.  Unfortunately with the imminent change in season here in Delhi, the weather, and the light, is tending to be unpredictable.  I did manage to today – walked for an hour-and-a-half in the sun completely drenched in sweat trying to find something, anything really, and finally photographed whatever was in front of me in the last 5 minutes or so of that time. Not for anything else, but because the desire to hear the sound of the shutter was overwhelming. I knew within my heart that those photographs were rather ordinary to say the least, and so I’m not using those. (In fact, I don’t know which photographs would be appropriate for this post…). And then I started thinking of inspiration.

I guess I need to do something different, “think different” as Steve Jobs would have said. Many people, many things, many circumstances influence my photography and my life – Steve Jobs happens to be one of them.  Leonardo da Vinci is another, but I’ll write about him sometime else. And importantly, all of you who read what I have to say, though I write for myself even today, influence me by your art and your words, and even more importantly those utterly “ordinary” people whom I photograph who teach me indelible lessons of, and for, life.

Even the slogan of Apple is just that – Think Different.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

When I read this (and I do it often), I dream of making a difference, of changing the world and I vaguely know how.  It reaffirms my need to dream. To dream a really, really big dream. It won’t be another Apple that I’ll create for sure, and it has nothing to do with professional photography (that’s something I am not going to do). It’s a dream using photography to probably make a difference in the lives of many, many people – at least I hope so.  I’ll try and I’ll try my utmost best.  And yes, photography happened to me by chance. As also did many things in my life. I didn’t know then what an influence those happenchances, happenstances would have on my life. The same is true for anything you pursue and love with your heart.

But since this post is about what Steve Jobs would have said if he had to tell me about life and photography (or whatever it is that you might love), I guess it would be this:

Lesson #1: You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

Lesson #2: Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Lesson #3: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

And finally, he would have said:

“Stay hungry, stay foolish”.

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Again. And again. And again.

I write about photography, and I write about how it has influenced my life. But you could just about substitute anyone or anything that you love for “photography” and whatever I write will still be equally true.  And you and I both know that often I don’t write about photography at all. I just use my photographs and juxtapose them with words to say what I have to say. Sometimes I don’t even know what to say. But I know that there remains something to be said – you know that feeling deep within your heart of unsaid words bound and shackled by reason, yet overwhelmed by passion we let them escape. So I let them out, I allow myself to say whatever comes into my heart, I create photographs that hopefully reflect my feelings, and use words that describe how I felt. Maybe there will be a day when I’ll quote Ansel Adams and be quiet: “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Until then, I shall photograph, I shall write.

When a musician tunes his instrument before a concert or performance he touches it gently, longingly, almost as a mother would hold her child, that same expression, the same caress, wondering what next? That is just how I feel when I touch my camera. Wondering what next. Wondering if I’ll ever be able to say what remains unsaid within my heart. It is a feeling of unspoken words, it is a feeling of falling in love. It is a feeling of being in love. And you know it is true when each day you feel more in love.

It is a feeling that even with all my words I find it difficult to describe. I can’t define love. I can only feel it. But the closest was when someone questioned me as to how would I describe a photograph of mine which I really love. And I said that I love a photograph when after I make it and step away, I feel as if I have left something behind, an indelible part of me, and ironically, paradoxically, contrarily, that is when I feel even more complete and willing and ready to leave a bit of myself yet again with someone, someplace. Isn’t that how love is?

Allow me to explain. About a week back, I’d gone to Old Delhi to photograph and in one of the many lanes that crisscross that part of Delhi I came across this man who was sitting in a shaft of light in the morning sun, in an otherwise dark, dusty, dingy lane. As I always do, I chatted with him for a while about what he does, made a couple of photographs of his friend who was also there while talking to him and then finally asked him if I could photograph him. Getting a yes, I made this photograph.

Now I might be wrong but to me he looked dejected, sad, forlorn, lonely, tired early in the morning and I wondered why. It touched me. So I sat down again with him, shoulder-to-shoulder and spoke with him a bit longer…and then after a few minutes he reached out for my hand, held it gently in his surprisingly soft hands and whispered: “God bless you”.  He meant it. And I felt love. I can tell you honestly that I would tradeoff that moment and those words from a “stranger” for every photograph I ever made. And then he smiled and I stepped up to capture that frozen in time.

I could describe all of this in more words that could possibly fill many pages, but if you close your eyes and reflect, you’ll feel just what I felt. As Einstein said: “It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.” 

So I open myself each day to give love – unconditional love, because it is only then that I am loved. I am not perfect, but I promise I try. Because it is only then that I fall in love.

Again. And again. And again.

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My Eternal Childhood

It’s been about 10 days since I wrote my last post. I’ve been distracted and busy with work, and was out traveling. But I put all of that aside to write just now. And for some strange reason, Rabindranath Tagore has been on my mind through the day, perhaps because when I think of my photography and writing, I feel just how Tagore wrote: “I have spent many days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung.”

The week before last, I had gone to Mahabalipuram.  This village is listed as a World Heritage Site and is an eclectic mix of sun, seafood and sand. Famous for its ancient rock carvings, especially the Shore Temple, it was once the second capital and seaport of the Pallava kings of Kanchipuram. Even to this day, it remains renowned for stone carving, and you’ll undoubtedly see and hear the constant tapping of hammer and chisel as artisans chip away at exquisite sculptures.

So I was up at 03:30 getting all set for a 100 mile drive to be there before sunrise and capture the pristine beauty of the Shore Temple at dawn, but God had other plans. The sky was overcast, the light bad, and daybreak brought along a dull, dreary, depressing gray sky – you know the kind I’m talking about. Anyway I did what I had to do…despite the poor light I got some nice photographs of the temple (at least I think so, and you can see those here).

Sometime later as I was strolling around town, I came across this old lady sitting against the fluorescent wall of a guest house. This was such a contrast, a paradox, an unforgettable moment!  The Shore Temple quite literally paled in comparison to this sight…I chatted a while with her and then requested her permission to photograph her. As a friend commented when she saw this image, “…she sits right at the meridian where the two colors meet…like a threshold to be crossed…from one realm to another… “

And then later I met this flower-seller in the marketplace who reminded me of the words of A.A. Milne: “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” 

After a while it started raining and that was the end of my photography. But strangely I wasn’t disappointed. And I say “strangely” because I’d just driven 200 miles up and down to photograph a World Heritage Site at dawn, but didn’t quite manage to bring the shoot to its so-called logical conclusion. All I was thinking of on the way back to the hotel was actually the first photograph I’ve posted of the old lady against the wall. I just hoped it came out well. I was actually quite surprised by my own reaction. You see I’d just been to a World Heritage Site but wasn’t concerned about those photographs and I’m not embarrassed to say it aloud here.

Which brings me to my point. And yes, I know I can go around in circles at times. Photography happened to me by chance about two years ago. It wasn’t planned in the real sense of the word. And it has taken me about a year of “serious” photography with the usual repertoire of sunsets and sunrises, flowers, architecture and picture postcard shots (not to mention the thousands of bad photographs) thrown in for good measure to finally realize what really affects me – people. I want to create lasting photographs of those I meet and those who influence my craft, and more significantly me, indelibly. I also realize I have many miles to go on a journey that’ll never end. I have a dream. I critique my own photographs unabashedly and right now I feel that they are becoming predictable, boring and monotonous. And I’m not ashamed of confessing it here. This is my journey and I need to be honest rather than wonder what people might think if I say this. I need to do something different.

And what better way to tell you how I feel at this moment than to quote Rabindranath Tagore again:

“I travelled the old road every day, I took my fruits to the market, my cattle to the meadows, I ferried my boat across the stream and all the ways were well known to me.

One morning my basket was heavy with wares. Men were busy in the fields, the pastures crowded with cattle; the breast of earth heaved with the mirth of ripening rice. Suddenly there was a tremor in the air, and the sky seemed to kiss me on my forehead. My mind started up like the morning out of mist.

I forgot to follow the track. I stepped a few paces from the path, and my familiar world appeared strange to me, like a flower I had only known in bud. My everyday wisdom was ashamed. I went astray in the fairyland of things. It was the best luck of my life that I lost my path that morning, and found my eternal childhood.”

The journey has just begun. My eternal childhood.

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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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