Wake up and smell the flowers!

Everyone has a different sight they like to wake up to. For me, it's this. These gorgeous harsingars falling gently on the ground. In fact, I love collecting them to keep at my desk (in a simple handmade clay pot which, I made in Andretta :)) so that I can experience their delicate and beautiful fragrance as I work on my photographs. Work feels like worship and, I'm grateful to finally reach this stage in my life.   

Harsingars - making my mornings!

It wasn't always like this. I remember days when waking up in the morning was a struggle. Not for the body, more for the mind. When we constantly keep working within closed office spaces and rarely give our eyes and mind any breathing space, the mind collapses in a way and our vision becomes smaller. This lack of head space is often used as an excuse for being cranky or stressed at work. How can we change this?

Every day and every moment in our life, we have a choice. A choice to be as gentle and kind as these beautiful flowers. Nature is a wonderful teacher. She never hurries - yet, accomplishes everything. A seed doesn't grow into a plant overnight. Similarly, our growth takes time and any shortcuts wont really help us grow in the real sense. When the time comes, we all need to realize that detachment is essential - especially the current trend of being so attached to 'things'. Nothing is real except this present moment. The rest is all in the mind, the past and even the future.

The human mind is the most fascinating piece of creation. A work of art! Our responses to most situations are based on the various layers of conditioning that we have received throughout our life. Our influences at home, school and work add to our personality in very subtle ways. Who we spend time with, what we read and do - all of it determines who we are and how we will respond to/react in a given circumstance. I read somewhere that the mind needs its dose of inspiration every day. In fact, many people like to ensure that their mornings are not rushed up and they have a morning routine - whether it involves yoga, a cup of coffee, some pleasant music, a morning walk (or all of the above). Yet, many of us (and I've been guilty of this) simply wake up, grab our breakfast and rush to work. We may read the news on our way to work or make a few calls (like speak to our parents if they are living in a different city). On the point of news, I've never been one to devour the newspaper in the mornings (or even as the day passes by)! Major sections of the newspaper are often devoted to either politics, crime, pollution or even advertisements. Whenever I pick up the papers, I am appalled to see that the much coveted front page is covered by a full-page advertisement. To make things worse, what follows is a dismal portrayal of the news around the world. Why is it that positive and inspiring stories rarely find coverage? Why do we have to resort to 'alternate sites' like TED or other inspirational sites on the world wide web to feed ourselves with some inspiration in the morning?

Do think about this. How can you give yourself that time and head space in the morning, to ensure that you have a goodday? Think about a morning ritual - something that enlivens your state of mind. Morning light and energy is beautiful (I know, coming from me, it sounds strange since I have always been a nocturnal creature). Enjoy the moment. 

SMELL THE FLOWERS. Have a great weekend!

 

 

Standing Still - Reminiscences of an earlier self

'Standing Still' is a series of images taken during my year-long sojourn in the Nilgiris using a make-shift 'pinhole camera' (and, in some cases, simply the long exposure technique). While I have tried to portray the timeless beauty of the Nilgiris, these images are also a conduit for me to explore my relationship with an older version of the self, being reminiscent of a simpler phase in my life, where I could just ‘be’.

The subjects in these photographs (be it elephants in the wild in their beautiful natural state of being, star trails or bubbling brooks) are representative of memorable experiences whilst on this journey of self-exploration. Further, the simple act of standing still to capture the passage of time and movement in these still images was meditative, leading to a greater sense of wellness and ability to experience the moment.

Recollecting that phase in my life through these photographs, my memories may be imprecise, yet the lapse of time (both in these photographs as well as in my life) has helped me capture and reproduce more details, to give me a better sense of space and time, to evoke a memory of the self, that one aspires to return to.

I have used certain techniques to represent the ageing of these photographs, as if, I was discovering them in a ‘changed’ state. This not only denotes passage of time, but also a change/wearing away of my ‘inner’ self. 

Best Face Forward - Corporate Profile - Headshots

We are living in the era of social media, start-ups and corporate communication. Your public profile and all the information you put out there on social media (including photographs on facebook, linkedin, twitter, pinterest) is probably receiving several digital hits in a day. Who is viewing all this data? Possible recruiters/interviewers/current employees/fellow colleagues/professors...the list goes on and on.

Yes, the world has indeed become a smaller place. Then, why are you not putting your best face forward? Contact me at www.khushimishra.com for your corporate photograph/headshot today! Your next opportunity could just be round the corner.

Deconstructing Raavan - Why Raavan never dies.

Every year, on Dussehra, in several parts of India, gigantic effigies of Raavan (and his brother and son) are burnt to mark the victory of 'good' over 'evil'. It's a major attraction for children as well as adults and often the Ramlila maidans are filled to the brim, to watch the entire process when Lord Ram sets ablaze the beautifully decorated effigies of Raavan, his brother Kumbhakarna and son Meghnath. The reason for this celebration of triumph of 'good over evil' is that this day also marks the rescue of Sita from Raavan by Lord Ram. 

Delve a bit deeper into who Raavan was, why he had 10 heads and in fact why Lord Ram spent several days in penance after killing Raavan, and you begin to wonder if the death of Raavan deserves celebration at all. Raavan, a great devotee of Lord Shiva, was considered to be supremely knowledgeable and was well-versed in the Vedas and Shastras - in fact his 10 heads indicate the six shastras and the four vedas that Raavan mastered. Obviously, there is more about Raavan than what meets the eye when you see his burnt effigies as marking the triumph of good over evil. According to an interesting Assamese folklore (Sita, Devdutt Patnaik), if one cups one's hand over one's ears the sound one hears is that of Raavan's funeral pyre still burning! Try it for yourself - I did! 

Finally, what did this triumph of 'good over evil' ultimately lead to? A trial by fire? I quote from Sita (Devdutt Patnaik) - the first few words that Lord Ram said to Sita when she finally came before him, dressed like a bride - 'I, scion of the Raghu clan, have killed Raavan, the man who abducted you. Thus I have restored the honor of my family name. Let it be known that this was the reason this war was fought, not to save you. Let it be known that your presence before me does not bring me any joy; you are like grit in my eye, a blot on my family name, for you have chosen to live under the roof of another man through the rainy seasons instead of killing yourself. I would like you to go freely wherever you wish....' . What followed was a trial by fire - where Goddess Agni withdrew as Sita walked through fire, stating - 'I burn only impure things. But she is pure of body and thought'. One would have thought that the test ends here and they would live happily ever after - but what followed upon their return to Ayodhya, is perhaps sadder. To maintain the family's reputation and to ensure that a king's wife was above all doubt, in an unfortunate turn of events, Sita was asked to return to the forest. 'Sita was not pure enough for Ram, they say. If I resist, forever, will I be the object of ridicule'.

Lakshman, who seems to be the only person who is angered by this decision and the unjustness of it all, tries to reason with Lord Ram - 'People are fools. People are cruel. Do not submit to them. You have a choice. You are king. Do not indulge this vile desire of the people.' Lord Ram's response,  'A good king must listen to his people, and respect the rules of his family, however distasteful they may be.' And, so Sita is sent to the forest with Lakshman. Sita, whose abduction led to Raavan being killed by Lord Ram, thereby marking the triumph of good over evil!

One would imagine that Sita must be very unhappy after all this. And so she says to Lakshman, 'I am not happy with this situation, but I accept it and will make the most of it. Thus, I submit to karma without letting go of dharma'.

The story doesn't end here and we all know that when Lord Ram was finally willing to accept Sita, provided she passed the test of chastity, Sita returned to Mother Earth. 'The Earth accepts all seeds with love. She bears the judgment of her children with love. If I have been as true as the Earth in my love for Ram then may the Earth split open and take me within.'

What do we make out of it? Neither is one entirely good or bad nor can there be an end to all good or bad. We all have strains of good and bad. Light and shadow will always co-exist. Then why make Raavan the demon god, representative of all things bad? Why give him a lease of life every year and then 'pretend' to end it, blindly following this age-old tradition? Accept each situation for what it is, without standing in judgment regarding what is good or evil. Question reality and tradition. Seek knowledge and yourself. Let us look at virtues like kindness and compassion and try to emulate these. God and good exists in each one of us and we can make it shine through in the smallest acts of kindness. Do we need to rely on excessive ritualism, effigy burning and/or idol worship to prove to the world that we believe in God? As a society, we have a long long way to go to end the endless symbolism and ritualism attached to what guides/motivates human behaviour.

Let this day be celebrated by small but 'real' acts of kindness than by burning effigies of 'Raavan.'

Let's atleast make a start at our individual level. Be more human. Connect with people and our inner selves, and become a part of the collective energies which drives the Universe as opposed to blindly following tradition, rituals and the norms of society. That, for me, would be a real celebration.

Wish you all a very happy Dussehra.


Mondays are for Muse(s) and Inspiration!

Monday mornings are much dreaded and, such is the power of this phenomena that one enters into the Monday morning blues on Sunday evening itself. As I think more about it, given that Monday marks the beginning of a new week, why not let the dreaded Monday Mornings be replaced by 'Mondays for Muses and Inspiration?' That's what this post is about and who better than the master impressionist, Claude Monet, to begin the 'Monday Muses and Inspiration' series?

I've loved Monet's work for a long time. This summer, I was fortunate to not only view his beautiful art pieces on display in some of the best museums in Paris but also got to meet Monet, the man himself. Yes, you heard me right! Guided and accompanied by my most able sister and my brother-in law, we reached Giverny, where Monet's house and the water lilies are located. Due to some intelligent navigation, we could reach before it got too crowded (we took the morning train from Paris and then a taxi to get to Giverny).

To say that the gardens and his house were amazing would be an understatement. You could almost feel Monet's presence in that place. We saw his study (where he had painted several masterpieces) as well as took a tour of the beautifully decorated house with yellow and blue themed rooms. He had displayed several beautiful paintings by other artists as well, in his study, several of them being Japanese woodblock prints. When we got to the water lilies, I could understand why Monet spent such a large part of his life painting them. I moved around the huge pond to capture the lilies in different light situations. Photographing them in open shade gave me the most satisfactory result - I could feel the stillness of the moment. Contrasting this with the experience I had at the Musee de Lorangerie in Paris where his famous Nymphéas are on display, the paintings were alive! I could see MONET in every stroke of those larger than life water lily paintings! It was like experiencing life itself, the days and nights, moments of beauty, anger, passion, sadness, love - you could experience all of it in those beautiful works of art. That's why I said earlier that I met Monet - he truly lives on through his work!!

On this note... 'Do all things with love and passion'. Have a great week and if in Paris, do visit the Musee de Lorangerie and Monet's house in Giverny!  

   

Mann-ki-Dala

Mann-ki-dala translates to 'a branch of my mind' and hence, an extension of the self.  'Mann' and 'Dala' when used conjunctively, i.e. 'Mandala', in Sanskrit means a 'circle' or a 'container of energy, essence or spirit'. Traditionally 'Mandalas' have been used as a tool for alchemy as well as for meditation, and to bring forth feelings and visions from the space within, to the world outside (Julie-Elleni Laine, Mandala).

I will be posting regularly on 'Mann-ki-dala' to keep you updated about my ongoing photography work, my personal projects, ideas and inspiration, and, to maintain an energy field, that provides

(i) my readers/viewers with a view of my photographic works, journeys and ideas (from 'inside-out'); and

(ii) me with your views on the same (from the 'outside-in').

I would be delighted to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to drop a 'Seed of Thought' at Mann-ki-Dala.