Lens Mania

This blog attempts a happy marriage of photographs and words.

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Location: New Delhi, DELHI, India

A second-generation journalist, having worked with five leading national English newspapers and edited/mentored niche magazines, online media ventures and a stint with a few publications in New York and Toronto. I like photography, editing meaningful manuscript(s), watching good cinema, meeting communicative people and just being by myself with music. I collect and review jazz (as hobby) and dabble a bit in words and love reminiscing the golden days...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shutterbug & Me


"There is no better companion than
silence, no better friend than
nature, no better critic than
a shadow, no better lover than
imagination, no better device than a still camera, no better worship than
music and no better reward than
satisfaction. "
- rVc


Sufism and Love


Ravi V. Chhabra

The word Sufi (pronounced as soo-fee) comes from the Greek word Sopho or wisdom. Sufis are involved with LOVE - for God and for all living beings. There is no dichotomy for him (Sufi) in the meaning or understanding of love. He/she ‘lives’ on his terms.

To eat food with a beggar or the diseased is as pleasurable to him/her (a Sufi) as dining with a King. There is no difference. He follows the instinct – the heart. There is hardly any room in his heart for ego. The Hindu temple and the Muslim mosque are the same places for a Sufi. He revels (& rebels) outside these structures ! Sufism is a religion of passion, a religion of the heart. While the Buddhist seeks the "giving of up desire," the Sufis forget the self through the celebration of their desire for union with God and, often with the beloved representative of God's beauty - the human subject of the practitioner's zeal.

The Sufi, thus, burns the candle of his heart on both ends, ultimately burning out his ego, allowing for fusion with the One. In his introduction to Arabi's book of poems Stations of Desire, Michael Sells puts it this way: “When the mystic lover is thinned away and broken down, when he can no longer hold on to his self or his thoughts, when he is emptied of his own words and arguments, the beloved reveals herself. . . this is the moment of love -madness.

For the Sufis in general and Ibn al-'Arabi in particular, love-madness is analogous to the mystical bewilderment that occurs as the normal boundaries of identity, reason, and will are melted. The self of the lover passes away. In this "annihilation" he becomes one with the divine beloved”. The thirteenth-century Sufi Rumi expressed the vigilance of the passionate seeker when he wrote: "If love slips out of your hand/Don't fall into Despair. Keep searching. Fight to find it/Until you reach Him, see Him, Don't sleep, don't eat, don't relax."

Below: The Sufi Khanka at Nizamuddin East.

At the Nizamuddin Sufi khanka and chilla

In some of Arabi's work, he creates a sort of dialectic, or argument, around the question of whether the beloved is the present human form or God. Arabi seems to spin the reader around, dervish-style, until all is a blur and we can no longer worry the distinction. The human beloved and God are one and the same . . . or the human beloved is a sign of God, depending on the interpretation. There is frequently - although not always - an erotic component to Sufic love. Both Rumi's and Arabi's poetics are saturated with sexual imagery.

Arabi wrote, "When a man loves a woman, he seeks union with her, that is to say the most complete union possible in love, and there is . . . no union greater than that between the sexes," and Rumi illustrates the sensibility more vividly: "laughing crazily/moaning in the spreading union of lover and beloved/this is the true religion. All others/are thrown-away bandages beside it." Today's Islamic fundamentalists are paradigmatic of anti-sexual hysteria - their panic particularly aimed at feminine desire. But Peter Lamborn Wilson, American counterculturalist and Sufi scholar, feels: "The model of Islam was never chastity.

The Prophet spoke of 'pleasures which are seemly in the eyes of God,' by which he meant polygamy and concubinage. . . . Sex is a mode of worship or contemplation. You make love because God is love." Sufic love - sometimes polygamous and sometimes monogamous - shouldn't be confused with pure erotomania. Sufis espouse all the attributes commonly associated with love. Wilson says "Love is important . . . for nearly all sufis, who accept that God's qualities of love and generosity outweigh his qualities of justice and fear . . . Sufism offers a general mystical interpretation of the psychological experience of love . . . between husband and wife, master and disciple or lover and beloved."



I am a second-generation journalist. I hold a masters degree in mass communication with two-decades of active, worthwhile journalism practice with leading dailies and media companies in India and overseas.

Ironically, I have had the fortune to teach photo-journalism to university students but haven't been able to practice it in a professional manner. My inspiration to photography comes from both - the love for images that last longer than human life span and my father's desire for me to take up photography as a profession.

The aesthetics of the human body lie especially in its versatility to work as a fighting machine when trained in martial arts or in amatory affairs! My father, also a journalist, was an avid amateur/compulsive photo-shooter. He felt his greatest material loss during the Partition of India were the photo-albums he couldn't bring with him from Sialkot to New Delhi. But he did manage to bring an antique Agfa Gaevert camera astride an Indian Army truck. That antique camera, I cherish as a relic.

I am jaded with the written and spoken word. Photographs give me that silent but a copious expressiveness. This blog is dedicated - to Sufism - the religion of pure love;the alchemy of the heart ! I start this blog with a few poems that I wrote in yesteryear, they have all of a sudden come alive and I am posting them with a sense of deja vu. It rekindles the bard in me...as I start afresh writing some paeans for love.

Though the photographs that accompany the poems are not necessarily by me, as I have yet to tackle the shutterbug with finesse and I am on that tough turf now, practicing hard. But I know, photographs are a perfect extension of the way we see this world and the way others, perhaps, must see it....


Oh, those nights…

I still remember those heights
How I needed you then
Why I needed you when
I wanted to ask you all…
But decided to let it fall
If this is how you wanted to be
I could only let it be
So what if I wished for too much
But if I had wished for you…

Eye Contacted


There is nothing greater than your being mine
I’m crazy for those beautiful eyes of thine

There are things I’d like to say
When we’ll be in the middle of that unique way
A year is a collection of our moments
If we but subtract the laments
We have both loved without any fear;
I’d like to share with you my yet another year…