About Shamim Akhtar

Shamim Akhtar was born on 7th April 1970 in a middle class Muslim family in Chapra (Bihar). His father Late Abdul Hafeez Ansari,  a practicing Muslim, was in civil service with the Government of Bihar. He was Shamim’s friend, philosopher and guide till the age of 15 (when Shamim passed class 10 from Baldeva School, Dinapure Cantt Patna).

Since Shamim’s father was an honest man, he could not afford any private school, hence his entire schooling was in various government schools.

After 10th, Shamim decided to move out of his home and took admission in Patna University in Inter mediate (Science). After 12th he tried for engineering for one year, got disillusioned with science and took admission in B. A Sociology (honours) in B.N. college, Patna.

Shamim was deeply interested in photography which he learnt on Zenith (Russian) SLR camera at the age of 10. By the time he passed class10, he was already shooting professionally for pocket money. Many of his photographs were published in Patna in various newspapers/ magazines.

A born solo wanderer he learnt riding motorbike (Rajdoot 150 cc) at the age of 15 and by the time he was 18, he rode all over Bihar solo on his friend’s Rajdoot.

On his 20th birthday, his father gifted him a Hero Honda 100 cc, which was like wings to him. He wanted to visit Kathmandu on his bike and he could not even get a pillion to ride with him. So, he decided to ride solo to Nepal and in his first maiden trip to the Himalayas, he fell in love with the majestic mountains and snow peaks and something spiritual germinated in him. He rode to Nepal several times after that. By the time he finished his graduation from Patna University, he had ridden to Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling, and North-East, solo.

Nature and Himalaya in particular left an everlasting impact on his mind and he was thirsty for more. Thus, listening to his inner soul, he became a vegetarian at the age of 16. He cooked his own food and spent every evening sitting idle at the bank of holy Ganga .

In his early childhood and till his graduation, he was a very private person with very few friends. Pratap and Vinay were his only childhood friends. He’s considered family even today in their homes. In his college days, Sanjay and Dinesh were his best pals.

After graduation, he wanted to write the Bihar Civil Service exam to be able to take care of his huge family (eleven siblings with him being the eldest son). But fate had something else for him. He wrote the M.A. entrance exam of Jawahar Lal Nehru University and qualified (that’s another story). From JNU, his life took a strange turn. He was quite influenced by the sociological thought process of JNU and “dropped” the idea of joining government service and decided to become a full time photographer. At this point of his life he met Sasmita, his classmate an Odia Brahmin from a reputed family. To him it was love at first sight.

Sasmita not only became his best friend but also  encouraged his photography. In just one year Shamim had more than 200 bylines in various magazines and he also started shooting industrial photography commercially.

Despite not being a very studious student, he scored decently in his final M.A. exam. By that time he had started shooting fashion and glamour and was emerging as a gifted photographer in the industry, destiny took another strange turn and the grandmother of Samita passed away. Going home was a reality check. After returning from the cremation, she was upset about how to break the news to her parents? Shamim’s parents had already met her and accepted her and they “suggested” her to ask him to write the UPSC Civil Services Exam.

Shamim was left with no choice, as losing Sasmita was beyond his comprehension. He did not write the M.Phil entrance exam of JNU and decided to take a rented room in Kishangarh village, near Vasant kunj. Without any coaching or group study or hardly any financial help from home, he qualified the exam in 1995 and chose DANICS.

Shamim and Samita got married in Patna in 1997, with the blessings of both the families following Hindu as well as Islamic rituals.

After training, Shamim’s first posting was to the beautiful coral island, Lakshadweep. Sasmita also dropped her Ph.D from JNU and joined him. Both of them conceived the idea of doing a coffee table book with Shamim’s pictures and Samita’s text.

Shamim had many more attempts at Civil Service through which he could probably have got a better service including IAS, but again destiny has its own ways. His father passed away and he could not even attend his burial, that was shocking enough for him to forgo all his ambitions and his only motto was to take care of his eight younger siblings.

After coming back to Delhi, he called his entire family from Bihar and kept them with him at his Gulabi Bagh government accommodation. Five of his younger siblings were in school, two brothers preparing for engineering simultaneously, another brother for civil services and two sisters ready for marriage.

Having inherited his father’s values, to take care of such a big family made Shamim’s life difficult. Sasmita, now a mother of a loving daughter named Nishka, came forward and started her own studio/advertising agency from a rented place in Hauz Khas Village. Together, they gave away all their desires for their family.

Shamim always had been given tough postings in a well established discriminatory Bureaucratic system (where caste, region and religion are the most important factors instead of talent). Though rated very high as an officer by his superiors and juniors alike, Shamim in his worst days of official life remained a free spirited and alive soul.

Shamim’s contribution as an officer is immense on record. But prolonged sufferings in Government and even the apathy of neighbors living in the same government colony, gave him more strength, and after a gap of almost ten years he again went back to his riding in 2006, He went to Ladakh solo on his Bullet, and again in 2008, which resulted in their second coffee table book. By now, they had their second child, a son, named Anwesh.

Sasmita turned publisher and started her own publication house named after their daughter, Nishka, Nishcam publication is dedicated to the glory of our beautiful nation through coffee table books.

Shamim’s Ladakh book was well received and Dr. Karan Singh wrote the forward. It became a best seller in no time. After that Shamim and Samita came out with their third book on Dilli, which was a result of 16 years of passion. It is considered a master piece.

Slowly, Shamim gained recognition as an artist and instead of celebrating his newly found success, he turned spiritual. His quest towards the unknown started and that finally took him to Holy Kailasa in 2009. He returned from the abode of Shiva for more and in 2010, went again with Sasmita and by the blessings of the Lord, he wrote on his own (free flow) “Kailasa – a journey within” which is considered by many scholars as the best book on Holy Kailasa Manasarovar in India.

At 44, now, though a disciple of Fuji Guruji and an active member of the Shanti Stupa Society, he is not a drop out. He lives in both the worlds as a responsible son, husband, father, officer, and a concerned citizen besides being a mystique in his own right.

This year i.e. 2014, from January to March, he had rode solo extensively in north eastern India, and is working on two books on North East, which might be eye openers for many.

He believes that life in nothing but a journey to be enjoyed and every destination is nothing but another journey towards another horizon.