I became a new person. From one with a negative past, to one with a fresh mind eager to fill new positive experiences in itself
10th April 2010, Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
I was on my first wildlife trip. It had been five months since my surgery and I was recouping well. The constant pain on the left side of my body bothered me for which I was prescribed nerve relaxing pills and pain killers. Doctors had told me that I would have to live my whole life with the pain as the damage to some nerves was irreparable. I was wearing a thick neck collar to protect me from the jerks of the wildlife safari. I had never been to a jungle before.
In fact, I had never heard of Ranthambore National Park. One of our Canadian customers was visiting and happened to be a wildlife photographer. He wanted to go to Ranthambore National Park and I decided to accompany him. Through a common friend, I got in touch with Aditya Singh who had a resort there and arranged everything for us. We spent a wonderful two days there doing four safaris. Though we didn’t see any tigers, the trip was magical for me.
I was genuinely happy. Maybe for the first time in many many years.
All the pain that I used to have 24×7 just vanished. I didn’t even take my pain killers and other medicines. Those two days made me realize that I could lead a pain free life
I had a small camera and I took whatever pictures it was capable of. I knew nothing about photography. And I couldn’t differentiate between a deer and a Sambhar. This was my first ever trip to a jungle and I think it’s fair to say that I was now completely hooked on the wonders that are wildlife and photography. I was genuinely happy. Maybe for the first time in many many years. This became the first hobby of my adult life.
The first thing I did on my return was to buy a new camera and long lens suitable for wildlife photography. Weekends were now spent on trips to Okhla, Sultanpur, Dadri, Bharatpur – bird sanctuaries near my home. I started reading a lot about our natural history. I found a few mentors and reached out to them and they were all helped me to learn and fine tune my photography skills.
This helped me to cross an uncertain present and construct a positive future.
Going to various Jungles became a monthly routine and I visited almost all the parks in India and Africa over the next few years. These trips to the parks worked like therapy. In couple of years I was off pain killers and took them only a few times a year. I have been completely off them now for almost four years.
My hobby had cured me of the pain I was told I would have to live with all my life. All the negative incidents of the past that were reducing my ability to perceive a negative situation positively and accept it, were pushed back and forgotten. I became a new person. From one with a negative past to one with a fresh mind eager to fill new positive experiences in itself. This helped me to cross an uncertain present and construct a positive future.
Staying in nature brought me closer to God. When I am in the jungle, I am with myself. It’s just me and the camera and the sound of the shutter clicking the beautiful animals and birds.
Thanks to social media my images were noticed. My pictures were published in various national and international magazines. And this hobby started making me some money too. Recognition also came my way. In 2014, I won the DJ Memorial Photography Award. In 2015 I won the ICICI Camaraderie award. Apart from huge prize money, I won a Car and a holiday to Australia. I also won Honourable mention at various international and national awards.
Somewhere out there in the wilderness , an idea was born. An idea called SAEVUS. Saevus is India’s premium wildlife and natural history web portal and magazine A dream, a vision to bring India’s amazing bio-diversity to every home. To celebrate the bold, beautiful and dynamic India, much of it which remains unseen and unexplored.
Saevus was the coming together of seasoned entrepreneurs, ace photographers, naturalists, and storytellers in an attempt to captivate everyone’s imagination and arouse their consciousness. Saevus was my giving back to this community. The prizes and money earned through photography went back to the community.
A hobby is an investment. It gives you fulfilment and joy.
What my hobby gave me:
- It cured me of my pain
- It got me recognition
- I made new friends
- It boosted my confidence which helped me be more productive at work
- It rejuvenated me and removed negative stress
- It helped me develop professionally as some of the skills I learnt came handy at my work
If you look at famous people, they are all avid hobbyist. Roosevelt enjoyed hunting, boxing, horseback riding, hiking, reading and writing. Einstein was an avid sailor. Brad Pitt does pottery. Julia Roberts knits, Tom Cruise does fencing, John Lennon collected stamps, Warren Buffet plays Bridge, US President Trump plays Golf, Churchill did more than 500 paintings. Closer home – Rajnikant is an avid reader, Shah Rukh Khan is into gaming, Anil Ambani is a marathon runner, Alia Bhatt is a charcoal painter. If all these busy people have time for hobby so can you.
A hobby is needed to rest the mind that is often wearied by the stresses of life. As a professional even twenty-four hours in a day seem too short a time. Hobbies and passions tend to take a back seat. You will burn out which is why it is important to have some hobby outside your day job. Gardening, reading, running, collecting stamps, photography – whatever it is – let the hobby relax you and give you peace. A hobby brings stillness in life. It helps live a balanced life. A hobby is an investment. It gives you fulfilment and joy. Schedule them. Cultivate them. Take out time.
Photos: Sandeep Mall
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