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  • This is the best body of work in infra-red photography that I have seen in India.
      Shri S. Paul
    Photographer, on the infra red exhibition Ladakh Huess
  • I am proud to know this couple- Shamim and Sasmita. This book reflects the labour of their love. We could reach the place because of the power of his lens.
      Janab Arif Mohammed Khan
    Former state minister, at the inauguration of the book
  • Words fail me; outstanding!
      Mr. Rajiv Lochan
    Director NAGMA, on "One Fine Tuesday"
  • At times Delhi looks beautiful but the kind of flavour Shamim has brought about in black and white is not only very beautiful but after this book we all will see these monuments from a fresh perspective.

    ( while unveiling of the book 'Forgotten Dilli - Portrait of an immortal city')

    Extraordinarily taken pictures. Akhtar is someone we are proud of.

    ( on 'Ladakh Hues " )
      Mrs. Sheila Dixit
    Ex-CM Delhi
  • When stones burst into songs

    Qutub Minar must count among the most sketched, painted and photographed monuments of the world. What the Eiffel Tower is to Parisians, the Big Ben to Londoners, the Brandenburg Gate to Berliners and the Statue of Liberty to New Yorkers, the Qutub Minar is to Dilliwallahs. It is older and more spectacular than all the other monuments.

    I have seen hundreds of photographs of Qutub Minar but none to match the cover of Forgotten Dilli, Portrait of an Immortal City by Sasmita S. Akhtar and Shamim Akhtar. Shamim is a Bihari Muslim, now in the IAS, posted in Delhi. Sasmita is an Oriya Brahmin, a sociologist, who is a product of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Between them, they produced a pictorial album on Lakshadweep and now one on the old monuments of Delhi.

    Sasmita has written the text; Shamim has taken the photographs. They have limited their work to the end of the Mughal dynasty in 1857. They have pictures of baolis (step wells), dargahs (Sufi shrines), forts, mosques, and mausoleums. What arrests the readers attention is the interplay of light and shade on trees and clouds to highlight every monument.

    It is a sheer joy to turn over the pages of the book again and again. It reminded me of an old film song, 'Geet gaaya paththaron ne ' 'The stones burst with songs'.
      Mr. Khuswant Singh
    The Telegraph, 6th March 2010
  • 'A stunning exhibition, highlighting the unique beauty of Ladakh...extremely impressed by the quality of his images.'

    (on the exhibition, Rode to Heaven in 2008)

    'I have great pleasure in commending this book to all those who love mountains. Packed with photographs, there are short descriptive notes which are useful.'

    (In the foreword of the book, Rode to heaven: Ladakh in 2009)

    ...I myself have not been able to go to Kailasa nor will I be able to go to in this life; but after reading this book I feel I have also done half parikarma.'

    (At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within' , at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011)
      Dr. Karan Singh
    At the inauguration of the book, 'Kailasa: A journey within', at the Shanti Stupa, on the 30th of Jan. 2011
September 1, 2014
Peace, Compassion and Surrender

Born in a traditional Muslim family, I have kept my name which was given to me by my loving father and grandmother. The religion , that I am born into, is still my 'official' religion, to honor my forefathers.

But, in my own quest of finding solace, I was introduced to " Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo "by an enlightened lady monk in the year 2000. I still chant it  almost every day.

 What does it  give me ?

What is the end result of any spiritual quest, is the question that should be asked. Peace, is not something that can be attained  by closing your senses. Rather it's your senses that open up in order to find peace.

Sometimes back, a Muslim friend of mine asked me ," how can this chanting help me?" Today I feel like sharing what does " Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo " has given to me.

There are thousands of literature about this 'Lotus Sutra' , but what I am going to share here is purely my personal experience.

I have been a restless soul since birth. The naughty child , evolved to become somewhat of a  'drop out', and after  qualifying the Civil Service ,  was in the process of becoming less than human. I was four years old in the service, when I met the Japanese monk Katsu Horiochu.

Initially , I used to chant , just to honor my monk's order. Few years elapsed and I started feeling calm. Then, the injustice prevailing all around us, was disturbing me. I asked my Guru, "how to find peace, when so much  injustice is happening all around? "

Smilingly, she replied, "you stop doing injustice to others and contribute in whatever way you can towards a more peaceful world."

Taking the call, I started 'serving' plants and animals. I made it a ritual to feed the stray animals at night and started  planting and taking care of fruit bearing saplings.

Many of the plants could not survive and their death invoked deep grief in me. I felt the compassion.

The compassion started to evolve, and I started interacting  with the poor people sleeping on footpath

in winter. Distributing blankets was just a small gesture, but the compassion kept on rising.

Initially, I thought that if I have enough money , I can contribute more. But with the passage of time, the growing  senses due to chanting made me realize that it's not possible to do much for the suffering life form on this planet , without divine intervention.

At one point of time, I felt like converting  to Buddhism and becoming  a monk. I sought the advice from my Guru and she said that not everyone has to become a  monk. Being a family man, I should take care of my family first and then try to contribute towards the higher goal . Besides, she forbid me from converting.

The more 'peace' I sought, the more ' compassion' I felt. It was like walking on an endless road in the dark night. The Guru , lit the inner fire to help me seek my own answers.

After many years , I realized that those who seek 'peace' will ultimately be  lead to ' compassion'. But , if one quits the search of 'peace' and let the ' compassion ' take over, then it will not give you ' joy of giving ' by helping others ( be it plant, animal or humans ).

The rising ' compassion ' will make you cry....

If you let the tears roll down your cheeks, for other's suffering, you will 'surrender' to the will of Almighty.

The 'surrender' achieved through this path will make you a good soul and a believer. After that whichever path you choose, or whichever ' book' you follow, your prayers will be answered.

My salute to my Guru ( GU means .... darkness,  and RU means light. )

She has been the beacon of my life , leading me from darkness to light. Today I am in absolute surrender and ' pray' for the entire universe.







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