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Camera for a companion

With only the camera as her companion, Sarvesh travels all over pursuing her passion and enjoys her position as one of the leading photographers of the country.

SHUTTER BUG: Sarvesh has travelled to every corner of the country

`VIDROH' (REBELLION) and `Junoon' (mission) - these words constantly pop up when Sarvesh recounts her past. It is an exemplary story of empowerment.

``I was a simple housewife, proper, traditional `baniya bahu' in Delhi who knew nothing but home and cooking. My husband was a heavy drinker. I took that in my stride but after ten years of marriage he wanted to go for a second wife because I didn't have children... I couldn't take it anymore. Tab maine vidroh kiya!''.

She joined Saheli, a women's help group. They gave her shelter and support. She took to `Nukkad Natak' (street plays) and there, impressed by her drive and enthusiasm, a friend presented her with an SLR camera, Pentax K-1000. She learned the basics from a photographer in Dehradun. The local newspaper, Himachal Times accepted her photographs. That was the turning point. "That's how I became a photographer. Otherwise, how would have I ever known I had the art in me? It also gave me an identity. When my first photograph was published, I ran around showing it to everyone, Dekho, Dekho Mera Naam Akhbaar Mein Chapa Hai!''.

LIGHT AND SHADE: From celebrations to tragedies, Sarvesh's lens has captured them all.

Initially, for many years, photography was too costly an affair for her. For survival she doubled up as a beautician. "I went hungry on many nights skipping my dinner, to save money for my film and processing. It was a Junoon, I had to make it.''

Travelling was a straightforward result of her urge to know the world. "For ten years, I had rotted in the marriage. Exploring the variety of our great country, its myriad cultures, what more can one ask for.'' She has travelled to every corner of the country, shot every kind of landscape, the people, their life, festivals, celebrations, tragedies, the Kargil war - it is a huge list. She knows mountaineering. Can travel long distances by scooter. Carries her own tent when required. No wonder she has a stock of over two and a half lakhs of negatives and slides!

Thirteen years of hard struggle is now paying dividends. She is able to earn for her very frugal life style from photography alone. She gets regularly published in leading newspapers and magazines like Business Line, Indian Perspectives, Swagath etc. Three books have come out based on her photos. She has held solo exhibitions of her work, won prizes - another big enough list. Women from the lower and middle class draw inspiration from her example, and she likes it.

STILL LIFE: Her subjects are varied.

Travelling alone in India for a woman, an Indian one especially, it's full of problems. She can as well write a book of her experiences! But she has been able to do it because she is tough, knows karate and can get menacing if required. Her present photographic gear is a Nikon FM2, a 24-120 mm lens, a 70-200 mm lens and a flash. Right now she cannot afford more costly equipment, but fate willing she'll go for it and also travel abroad. In the meanwhile she has nature for sustenance --- the beauty of mountains, streams and lakes. Whenever she feels lonely and down, these charge her "battery''!

Well, is she is the only woman travel photographer in this large country? "Show me another one! I have been looking for her,'' she counters without any sign of malice.


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