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Many years back when nothing in life seemed to go right for me, I decided to run away from the crisis and find peace in a space that was hitherto unknown to me. It was a small ashram in Madurai – South of India where they conduct teacher’s training courses in Yoga. You live there for a month with a bunch of other enthusiasts from around the world and learn this life changing art form.
In this month long yoga course, I got multiple breaks where I had to take new friends through the milestones in my life and they would do the same, in casual conversation. Life had the ability to wrap itself up in not more than a 15-minute long description. Thirty years of my life that at various points, I believed, had been stabbed by misfortune, injured by injustice and robbed off happiness. Those thirty years which I would lament in thoughts and actions which I believed had been my undoing, all that those thirty years really asked for was only 15 minutes of my speech. Yet I had always made such a big deal of my life all this while, yet I had victimised myself over things that had gone wrong never realising that we all fight the same war, it is only the battles that we get to choose. No one is a lesser or greater victim of circumstances than the other, it is only about the choices we make – whether to go down or defy.
Amidst the crowd of all the eager hearts and injured souls at the yoga camp, there was this petite girl named – Shobhna. I vividly remember her to be the only one of us who had come to attend that course, not just to heal her soul off a bitter pain but for the sincere love of the art form. She was the only smiling face. She was the only person with eyes that carried dreams and aspirations – for she had chosen to do so.
Many many years thence, I met her in India this year on my trip. She asked me to photograph her journey. While I was photographing her, I just couldn’t stop my tears from rolling down. My little soul sister had grown up to be a Yogini, an advanced level Yoga instructor. And she managed to do so because amidst all the mess that our lives always are, she CHOSE to find herself, instead of losing.
She asked me how I became a photographer because the last when we met several years ago, I was hunting for a job “weren’t you?”
It was a painful recollection. Sometimes memories become a baggage. I had a baggage full of rejection letters from the day I entered the UK six years ago.
Every single rejection letter soured my relationship further with people I really loved. Each time I read those dreaded lined “We are sorry to inform you…“, I lost a part of myself. I died and I died until there almost wasn’t any resurrection. I had become so low on confidence that to even look at a stranger in his eye, took a lot of effort out of me.
My last rejection letter was from a lady who was looking for someone to transcribe video interviews so that the editors know at what time of the reel does the interviewee say what. She said she was “sorry to inform me”. For God Sake!! I wanted to go bang my head against a wall.
There was something wrong here. I mean there had to be something totally going wrong here you know! How can I be rejected all the time, I was a star back in India!! Gaah!
Truth is, there was actually something seriously wrong going on here. I was hunting for jobs. I should have been on a hunt for myself. Instead, I was losing myself.
This story is a part of our series – “Aksiti”, inspiring stories of women for women. If you are a woman or know one whose story is worth telling to inspire others, please click here. After all, none other than a woman can better inspire another woman. To read all the other stories in this series, click here.
There’s never an easy route to finding yourself. It’s a constant search. You have to be patient and look for patterns in your life. What is it that relaxes you? What makes you breathe in times when you are almost choking? Is that something you could translate to regular work?
Whenever I was sad and low, I would pick my camera up and go take pictures or write stories, any story would do – any face would be good enough to be captured.
I started to notice patterns in this. I realised this “jugalbandi” – a juxtaposition of activities that made me happy. So I started to take pictures more regularly and knit some sort of stories to go around them. Some of them went viral at times.
Slowly over the years, I have turned it into a full-time profession. I capture not just images but lives through my pen and my lens.
I click and I write, and that has made me who I am today. A happy outcome of those annoying rejection letters. And this once “I am not so sorry to inform you…” that life is turning out to be quite a bloody wizard!
I am a London-based full-time family and newborn photographer now. Sharing with you a glimpse of my work below. For more, see me on Facebook here.