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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
June 8, 2014
Should a 12th pass person be HRD Minister?

These days, a lot of debate is going on whether Smriti Irani should be HRD minister in Modi ji led government? This question was first raised by the Congress party.

I felt compelled to share my personal views about this issue. But before commenting on this “debate”, I would like to share the education history of my family first to have a clearer understanding of what education means.

My grandfather was almost illiterate. He just had basic madarsa education and was able to write a few words in Hindi. He had three daughters and one son. Since in those days girls used to get married early, three of my father’s sisters were married off and my father was “directed” by my grandfather to study. In his small town in Chapra (Bihar), my father was very reluctant to study since amongst his peer group no one studying irrespective of caste and religion.

My grandfather was very tough and he used to beat also so that my father does not bunk classes. And finally in 1955 my father topped Patna University in M.A. (Political Science). As far as we know, he was the first Muslim ever to top the Patna University and later he became a civil servant in Bihar.

My father in turn allowed me to pursue my passion of solo riding in the Himalayas and photography, but not at the cost of neglecting my studies. I did my M.A (Sociology) from JNU and now I am besides being a blogger, author, biker, and photographer an IAS (allied) officer.

Had my grandfather who was illiterate, not had the vision and was not able to understand the relevance of education, neither my father nor me could have been educated persons.

Now, when I look back, the major turning point of my educational career was JNU. So with all due regards to the higher education without which academics can’t flourish, I would like to remember my foundation days in school.

I have always studied in government school starting from the famous Zila School Chapra (where even Dr. Rajendra Prasad, our first president of India also studied) and then I moves along with my father’s transfer to Dinapure Cantt Patna. I did my Matriculation from Baldeva School Dinapure Cantt in 1985. 

The teachers were not only dedicated people but were also loaded with Indian values which they used to share with us. The recess time was informal and all our questions were answered. For the weak students they used to take extra classes and I never needed to go for any tuition or coaching.

Besides, Moral Science was a compulsory subject and Social Work was integrated in our training. Bihar used to be very flood prone (that it continues to be even today), and at the time of flood, our school used to form teams of students and teachers. We used to collect donations from shopkeepers, home and almost everybody walking on the road. The people were generous enough and we used to collect enough donations. Then we used to procure “Sattu” (flour of various grains) and we used to pack them day and night. After that our team used to go to the flood affected areas in boats and distribute the food articles along with drinking water to them. This was an annual affair for us.

The students were also encouraged to work in the school garden to take care of the plants. 

Today, I am indebted to JNU for making me what I am, but had I not been to those Schools in my matriculation days where I not only received the good education but also inherited our Indian values of compassion, I probably could not even be writing this blog.

In my humble opinion, our nation needs good primary and secondary school education first where we can introduce moral science and our Indian value system into the young minds. Without proper basic education where we impart the idea that education is not only a craft to earn a living, but it is also to make us better human being, higher education would be irrelevant.

Coming back to the debate as to who should be our HRD minister and what should be the qualification, I just would like to know that after our first education minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who else has contributed anything towards making our education system better?

And if qualification matters, was there any other premier in the world more qualified than 
our previous Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh? What has been his contribution towards anything in such a long tenure?

From our Leader, all I expect and hope is the will to work for a better India and integrity. The life of Ms. Smrity Irani is a glaring example of will power and she is truly a self made person.

I extend my support to her and I hope that she will deliver. Lets give her chance.


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