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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
October 2, 2012
Gandhi the Great

Today, I would like to remember Mohan Das Karamchand, the young lawyer, who was not only from an affluent family of the “Baniya caste” of Gujarat, but also a genius in academics. His youth was highly materialistic and very “British”. Due to his reputation as an efficient lawyer he was invited by an Indian Merchant to South Africa for a court case.

As usual, he was traveling in the First Class and as we all know he was thrown out of the train despite possessing a valid first class ticket only because of being an Indian. The prevalent racism in South Africa did not allow any Indian to travel in first class.

That incident was a turning point in the life of young Mohan Das Karamchand. The British education that he had acquired had instilled a sense of justice in him and he thought that it was his right to travel in First Class. He became a “reactionary” and raised his voice against the draconian racism in South Africa.

His early days of fighting against injustice against the British Empire in South Africa is well known to all of us. But a point to remember here is that before doing so, he fought with the existing evil of caste system and untouchability prevailing amongst Hindus even in South Africa. In his Ashram, cleaning the toilet by every individual was a bone of contention even with his wife.

In order to unite the Indians ( Hindus including lower caste untouchables and Muslims, ) , he started his Ashram with the social reforms where everyone was equal and then he succeeded in getting his rightful dues from the British Empire in South Africa to a great extent, before his return to India as Gandhi. 

Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi came to India in third class of ship, wearing the traditional dress of an Indian peasant. During his early experiments of struggle against the British rule in India, his strategy was always of uniting Indians on equal footing and then demanding their rightful dues peacefully. At this point, it would be important to remember that The Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fuji GURUJI, an enlightened monk from Japan blessed Gandhi and gave him two tools- TRUTH and NON VIOLENCE. 

In the words of Sumitra G. Kulkarni , the granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi “ Bapuji as the whole India called our grandfather, was also immediately interested in Guruji’s very handy, neat and convenient drum, and instead of continuing to spin on his spinning wheel, he took up the drum then and there and learned to beat and chant. Evidently Bapuji was really interested in the teachings of the Lord Buddha and at once adopted this Japanese mantra as a permanent feature of his morning and evening prayers in our Ashram. So much so that henceforth our prayers started with the chanting of Na Mu Myo Ho RenGeKyo, which continues till today whenever there is our ashram prayer.”

Truth and Non Violence are essentially the ways of the Buddhists and is original the contribution of India to the world by Lord Buddha himself and later by Ashoka the great, the great ruler of ancient India who spread this message of peace to the world. Ironically Buddhism was crushed and thrown out of India almost 2000 years back by the Brahmins and was preserved in many other countries including Japan. The Most Venerable Nichidatsu Fuji GURUJI, actually gifted back the wisdom to Gandhi, which was originally Indian. The Buddhism , that made the ancient ruler Ashoka known as Ashoka the Great, also made Gandhi known as Mahatma Gandhi.

The contribution of hard core revolutionaries like Chandrasekhar Azaad, Shubah Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Ram Prasad Bismil, and thousands more , those who gave their lives for the freedom of India can’t be ignored. We salute our heroes and will never forget their martyrdom. But getting our independence through the medium of Truth and Non Violence had a greater relevance for the entire mankind at that point of time.

To understand the relevance of getting our freedom through non violence means, let’s remember the Second World War wherein Japan was attacked by America and dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki started a new norm of war. Now there was no difference between the combatant and non combatant. Innocent civilians could also be killed and cities could be destroyed by the use of atomic bomb and those who possessed the atomic power became the super power of the world. This was the most barbaric act that mankind had seen in the entire written history in the world. Mankind had lost hope in justice and might is right was the new rule of the civilized world. And just after five years of bombing of Japan, India gained its freedom through the means of non violence. This was a very big leap for mankind which showed that with the power of truth and non violence a mighty empire can be defeated. This gave hope to the rest of the world that even now in the nuclear age this age old ancient Indian wisdom does prevail.

Beside believing in the teachings of Buddha, Gandhi was fully aware that peace can’t prevail in the presence of injustice. The root cause of all injustice is the divide and inequality among masses. Two hundred years of British rule always portrayed Indian Muslims as outsiders, invaders and fundamentalists as per their policy of divide and rule. Gandhi, despite being from a very conservative traditional Hindu family, who himself was a practicing Hindu, aspired for Hindu Muslim unity in India. He knew that if India has to gain its freedom from the British Empire then Hindu and Muslim had to work together as one race. His prayer said….

“………. Ishwar Allah teroNaam
Sabkosammati de Bhagwan.” 

And through his acts, he worked as a great ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity. This particular trait in history can only be found in the Mughal emperor Akbar. Akbar, is known to have tired to weave the two communities (Hindus and Muslim) by even propagating a new religion “Deen- e- Ilaahi”. The justice loving ruler that Akbar was, is rightly remembered as “Akbar the Great”.

During the last phase of our freedom struggle, when the freedom of India was almost inevitable, unfortunately Gandhi was not so relevant to the rising leaders like Pundit ji (JawaharLal Nehru). The ambition of Jinnah and Nehru finally resulted in the partition of our great nation and freedom came to us at a very high cost.

Gandhi wanted to wind up Congress as movement after gaining freedom, Nehru used it as a political party with himself as a self proclaimed leader. Pundit ji, who can best be described as an agent of the British Empire was “installed” by the British as the prime minister of India; he neither consulted Gandhi in the framing of the constitution, nor did he imbibe any of his values in the policies that was to shape India. Gandhi wanted power for the people and Panchayat to rule at the grass root level, Nehru decided to retain the British bureaucracy. Gandhi wanted the micro economy of our nation to be strengthened first; Nehru went for massive Industrialization and macro economy. The result was well known by 1991.

Gandhi, despite being a traditional Hindu wanted Muslims also to progress and be treated equally, Nehru did several reforms for Hindus in the first twenty years through various legislations, but did not touch Muslim reforms at all! May be the British had left their “wisdom” to Pundit ji to restore the Bharmanical order in modern India. This can easily be seen in governance today. To the general masses reservation is 50 %, but actually all the relevant and powerful positions in state and central government are 100 % reserved for Brahmins even today.

And finally, the reactionary young lawyer, Mohan Das Karamchand, who came to be known as Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead by Nathu Ram Godse. I, as an individual would surely like to know, why Nathu Ram Godse shot such a man who was even described by westerners “in times to come, humanity would not believe that such a man walked in flesh and blood”. Why can’t the Government of India lift the ban on the book of Nathu Ram Godse and let the world know what was in his mind behind such an inhuman act?

Many questions would remain unanswered and the cost of deviating from the Gandhian way of life in free India is now known to every commoner. What is probably not known is that, had we gone the Gandhian way in 1947, the nation would not have been divided and our Prime Minister could have abstained from saying that FDI is inevitable to save the sinking economy in 2012.

I wonder if those who bear the surname of Gandhi today are worthy enough to use it. Have they inherited it, earned it or simply snatched it? Whatever may be the point of view of the followers of the Nehru Dynasty, we as Indians must know that in the history of India there was only one Gandhi and there will be no other.

So, if we look at our past, then besides Ashoka the Great and Akbar the Great, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is beyond doubt “GANDHI THE GREAT”.


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