The Wild Armenian Beauty

Bonus post : ‘The World’s Greatest Swordsman’

Sometimes, it feels so funny to read your messages. I was away for some time, and after I came back I found someone write me a funny message. She said,”I like your posts so much. But, it seems you live in a cave and come out only once in a while to make us happy.” Hehe, now of course I am not a Neanderthal ๐Ÿ˜€ I was travelling the last few days and so I had little time to post on the blog. But anyway!

This gave me an idea. The idea of a ‘Bonus Post‘. So from now on, every once in a while, I will show some Ankur-Love, hehe ๐Ÿ™‚ I will post something bonus, maybe a bonus picture, a story, a video or something that makes you hobbits happy! ๐Ÿ™‚ As for today’s bonus post, there’s a funny story I found some days ago. I think you will understand the story better (more of a joke, actually ๐Ÿ˜› ) if you look closely to the picture below. Read on!

A young man climbs a mountain to a ledge, where there sits an old man with a sword in his lap. The young man says, โ€œI seek the greatest swordsman in the World.โ€

Without a word, the old man draws his sword and flicks it in the air at a passing fly. The fly falls to the ground in two pieces.

The young man says, โ€œSurely you are the greatest Swordsman in the world!โ€

The old man says, โ€œNo. Further up the mountain is a swordsman greater than I.โ€

So the young man climbs up the mountain to another ledge where there sits an even older man with a sword in his lap.

The young man says, โ€œI seek the greatest swordsman in the world.โ€

Without a word, the old man draws his sword and flicks it in the air at a passing fly. The fly falls to the ground in three pieces.

The young man says, โ€œSurely you are the greatest Swordsman in the world.โ€

The old man says, โ€œNo. At the top of this mountain is the greatest swordsman.โ€

So the young man climbs up to the top of the mountain, where there sits an even older man with a sword in his lap.

The young man says, โ€œI seek the greatest swordsman in the world.โ€

Without a word, the old man draws his sword and flicks it in the air at a passing fly. The fly buzzes away.

โ€œWhatโ€™s going on,โ€ the young man yells. โ€œI thought you were supposed to be the greatest Swordsman in the world. You couldnโ€™t even kill that fly.โ€

โ€œNo,โ€ the old man says. โ€œThat fly is not dead. But that fly will never again father children.โ€ ๐Ÿ˜€


Does it also sometimes happen to you that you come across someone and instantly recognise his/her talent and start believing him/her to what first came to your mind?

In New Delhi, I had gone to visit a Kyrgyz friend. She brought along two of her beautiful friends. One of them was Nara. Now, when I first saw Nara, I thought she must be some Armenian actress. And, to add to my doubts she exuded a high level of confidence in whatever she did. We went to the Lodhi Garden and since I had the DSLR with me, I thought why not ask if I could take some pictures of her. It seemed a bit cheeky to ask but once I gained half of her confidence, she willingly smiled and started dancing ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, I have never actually tried photographing models, so I didn’t know what I was really doing. Add to that, this wild girl dancing here and there, and playing around and making it hard for me to focus my 50mm. You know, she’s one of those girls that always seems to be posing. It seemed I was trying to photograph a dancing dolphin, hehe (I know that sounds a bit stupid, but that’s how I really felt! ๐Ÿ˜› ) But, finally thanks to my Kyrgyz friend’s help, I finally got some keepers!

Pray for me Brother!


In what format do you shoot pictures? RAW or JPEG? I think most serious photographers out there shoot in RAW. I personally choose the RAW format over JPEG. I think JPEG are for kids, hehe ๐Ÿ˜› Well, that’s not my point. RAW contains a HUGE amount of light information when compared to a JPEG. So, when you are back from the field and are going through all of your shots, which software do you generally use to view and/or quickly select the keepers? For years, I have used Adobe Lightroom, Bridge and other such software and I have been very happy with those. Lightroom has the benefit of working with ‘Collections‘ where you can easily group pictures from different trips into smart folders (but hey, let’s not talk about Lightroom here. I will save it for later!)

Recently I came across this wonderful piece of free software called FastStone Image Viewer and I must say I am impressed. It can open any RAW file (be it NEF, ARW, CR2, ORF, DNG or whatever!) And, it isn’t like Picasa that it will automatically change its colour-tone (I think this has been a long pending bug in Picasa). If you haven’t used FastStone earlier, I recommend you at least try it once. (Hey, it’s Free! What do you have to lose?) Click here to get it now. Oh BTW, this isn’t a sponsored post in anyway. Moreover, it fills the whole screen with the image and when you hover your mouse to the ends of the screen you can see the metadata and all such essential information.


I will dedicate this post to the recent school shootings in Connecticut, US. What a shame it is, these gun shootings and the loss of so many innocent lives! How many of you have listened to the Oscar-winning musician A.R. Rahman’s song called “Pray For me Brother” (If you haven’t, just click on the link and listen to it. It’s melodious.) Sometimes I am worried if we humans have lost faith and compassion in ourselves.

Earlier this year, I met a photographer-friend from Nova Scotia who was here for a Discovery Channel project. It was his first time in India. What he told really touched me. He spoke of his extraordinary interactions with the common people and how humble and compassionate they were. No matter how much they had, they always had a smile on their face and tried their best to help him and he was moved by that. Whenever I look at this picture, I can sense what he meant. Every time I passed by this lady, she had a gentle smile and always wished the best for you. Such a beautiful soul!

Hopes Doesnโ€™t Fade with Age

I canโ€™t even imagine how it must feel like when you meet people with beautiful souls, one after the other. Really nice! I had met the beautiful spiritual lady hymning her soft prayers which I had mentioned in โ€œThe Silent Whispersโ€. As I left her and came nearer to the Buddhist pagoda, I met another woman.

โ€œMy day starts early around 3 AM when I have to fetch firewood and berries for my grandchildrenโ€ said the 116 year-old lady. โ€œAnd then for the rest of the day, I devote myself to the Pagodaโ€. I waited there for her to complete her prayers as she rotated the Buddhist prayer wheels with one hand, while with the other she counted the beads and softly reverberated the hymns.

I sat there looking at her in awe. She was so dedicated even though her small little steps were shaky. She had hopes. Hopes of a bright, happy future. A dream that her grandchildren will be happy in what they do. Her son had gone far away in search for better work and she hadnโ€™t seen him in 7 years. All she wanted to do was pray. Prayers to protect them from every possible evil.

Two years after I took this photo, this spiritual lady passed away. But whatever it be, her hopes will not fade with age.

The Alchemist

When was the last time you read a story or watched a movie, and after some time you experienced something exactly like that? In other words, when was the last time you had a feeling of Dรฉjร  vu?

And so it happened, that I was travelling from Shimla to Manali in the winters of 2010. Shimla is a beautiful hill-station in India, similar to Manali. In fact, it is the capital of the state of Himachal Pradesh. And hence, it attracts lots of tourists, and you can find the hustle-bustle of the city almost throughout the year. Also, the Englishmen who ruled India during the British rule, made Shimla their summer capital. That’s a reason you will find many ancient cottages and houses of British architecture. But, let’s not talk about Shimla now, because if I start expressing the beauty and colours of this pristine land, am pretty sure the Sun would already be shining again, and Neil Armstrong would have made his second attempt on the Moon ๐Ÿ˜€

In order to reach Manali, we had to take the Indian National Highway – 21 (NH-21). It is my personal preference to normally travel by road or rail because, you get to meet a lot of people in your journey, and that gives you some good opportunities to know the culture better and also to see a lot many things of the locals. True to that, that an air travel is much faster, but that is what it is. Moreover, its costlier too, man! My suggestion to you if you are travelling in India will be to either travel by train or the road (for short distances.) Am pretty sure, you would love to see so many new things. Also, cultures in India change around every 500 kilometers, so it will be that you won’t even have had the time to soak-in a new culture, that another will await you the next 5 minutes ๐Ÿ˜‰ So, while on my road journey, which was about 273 kilometers (170 miles approx.), I came across so many different cultures. It was really hard to soak in all at one time. Somewhere, the women would have these big-big nose-rings, with a heavily coloured cloth on their head, and then only after a 5-minute drive, the rings would exchange places to the ears ๐Ÿ˜€ I was lucky enough that the car driver kept reiterating all the stories of these locales. Suddenly, after about half an hour of round and round travel through  those narrow mountainous roads, I came across this BIG flock of sheep.

It was almost sunset, the Sun was sinking and there was a bit of dust in the air, and guess what …. the car was surrounded by a huge flock of sheep. All that I could hear was the “Baaaa…..baaaa…baaa” …. sheeps bleating all around the car. We were covered all around. Seemed to me that probably the sheeps were telling the car-driver to get out, so that they could drive and give Michael Schumacher a run for his money ๐Ÿ˜€ Hehe, finally I spotted the shepherd a few metres away, and he helped the sheep move back away from the car. As our car stopped, I turned around. Wow! What a view!! It was as if the World stopped in front of me!

The Shepherd and his flock of sheep

The Sun shone high, once again. All that I could think at that moment was of Santiago. All of you who must have read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist  will surely know what I am talking about. I went towards the shepherd, smiled and said a soft hello. We conversed for about 5 minutes. I asked him, where his home was. Everything of what he said, seemed exactly as what I had read in the book. The feeling of Dรฉjร  vu. He had no home. He had only one purpose in his life. Travel. Travelling was all that he knew, and these sheep were all that he had. Maybe he was following his dream. Or, maybe seeking an unearthly treasure. He didn’t talk much, but occasionally smiled. Finally, it was time for me to leave. I waved and said good bye. “Wow!! That surely was an amazing feeling“, I thought to myself. I had met the alchemist. While returning to the car, I saw this wild dog and clicked a few shots.

The mountain dog

Back in the car, the driver told me that these wild dogs are even meaner than wolves. They know only their masters and their only purpose is to protect the sheep and not let them get away. And that they got threatened when any stranger would come near them. “Thank God, I am in one-piece”, I thought ๐Ÿ˜€ I had gone way too close to take a shot. But anyway, c’mon it doesn’t look like a Tiger, ehh? Finally, as the dusk was falling, we sped fast to reach Manali, and in all that time thinking only about one thing — I had met The Alchemist.

The Silent Whispers …

In the December of 2010, I got this wonderful opportunity to visit the ‘beauuuutiful‘ hill-station town of Manali. Manali is a small town in the Northern part of India, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It’s a famous tourist place and a hill station with really peaceful and beautiful people. I call them ‘beautiful’ especially because, apart from having very warm hearts, most of the people there have these appealing ‘rosy cheeks’ ๐Ÿ˜€ Don’t get me wrong, but maybe its because of the climate, or their cheeky genes! Or maybe because they chew on a lot of apples all fresh from their orchards there ๐Ÿ˜€ (Would be wrong to make it a generalization, though)ย  And, I am sure everyone will be mesmerized by their helping and down-to-earth attitude.

Talking about climate, I bet you India has a lot of extremes all around. You maybe shivering {or, maybe also on the verge of dying ๐Ÿ˜€ } when you’re in Kashmir. It hits -30 degs below zero sometimes. And, in the same day at the same time your friend down in South India might be ‘sweating’ profusely, like a pig ๐Ÿ˜€ย  And, I am telling you, I have an experience of both. So its always better to do some research before going to places.

Back to Manali now. You will find a lot many Buddhist monasteries, and also some ancient temples. One day, while walking on the street for about an hour, I stopped inside a makeshift restaurant. The chilly wind, did little to keep me warm and so I ordered a cup of Chai. Chai is the Indian name for Tea. I stroke up a conversation with a man sitting across me. I got to know from him that Manali was also known as the ‘Valley of Gods‘. According to Indian mythology, there was a sage named Manu who had stepped from his ship into Manali after whole of the Human race was destroyed due to the Great floods. It was after the sage that this place was named. His story sounded similar to the Hollywood movie 2012. I was pretty confused as to whether this man was mocking me with his own made-up story ๐Ÿ˜€ I couldn’t stop myself from asking him,ย  “Hey man, are you kiddin’ me? You must be talking about the movie, right? and cooking up this story. Also, I believe 2012 has surely inspired you way too much” ๐Ÿ˜€ He gave me a gentle smile, and then said “Son! That’s the story of Manali. We heard it from our fathers and fore-fathers and that’s how it passes from one generation to the next”. He gave this innocent look, and I could do little to not believe him. At times, I really feel so foolish, either Hollywood is making a mockery of the mythological stories or the locals are ๐Ÿ˜€ But, naah I had to agree to what he said. He seemed to be a good man. And thus we chatted for about half an hour more.

Finally, when I thought it was time, and stood up to leave, I could hear the gongs of bells coming from somewhere nearby. I sat again and asked him, what these sounds were. He told me that just 100 metres from here, there was a Buddhist monastery. The smell of the incense sticks livened up the atmosphere. Wow! what more can you expect apart from a cup of hot tea in this chilly atmosphere and the smell of the fresh incense sticks. The feeling was awesome. I thanked him for his time and started walking. I was pretty excited as I could feel the hymns as I came nearer. Finally, I entered the huge gates. Just outside the pagoda, there was a woman sitting alone. I was curious what she was doing.

I went to her and saw her holding a Buddhist Mala or a rosary. A mala or a rosary is used to keep count of the number of times you recite the hymn or the chant, the mantra. The most commonly used mala contains 108 beads made of Tulsi wood, although malas made of many different materials can also be found. Some of the malas also contain more or less beads, but normally are in multiples of 9. I didn’t know why it was only “108”, and so a quick Google search tells me this as the reason . Now, you might be wondering how I know so much about these rosary beads. I have a funny story here.

When I was a really small kid, I was sitting on my mom’s lap in one of the store-rooms. She was delicately cleaning some stuff that she thought, she would put in the living room as ornamental decoration. She opened a box, and inside it were about 7-8 malas that others had gifted her. While she was cleaning, I picked up one with bigger beads and put it in my pocket, without her noticing. I still kept sitting there, and my mom told me how and when these delicate things were used. Earlier the previous day, I had actually lost my ball in the gutter, so I had nothing to play with ๐Ÿ˜‰ Finally, when I was alone, I pulled the mala from my pocket and kept on staring at it for about 5 minutes. The innocent mind in me started thinking, “Wow! I had lost just one ball. Now, I have 108 balls to play with (literally speaking so as to say) ๐Ÿ˜€ And BOOM !! I pulled apart the string, and one by one all the beads started falling. Fact is, after almost 16 years from when it happened, I still have one bead as a prized possession that reminds me of that innocent and naughty childhood, haha PS ~ I just hope my mom isn’t reading this !! ๐Ÿ˜€

Okay, so back to the monastery now. I watched as the lady continued her prayers and then she picked up the rosary bead and started with her soft hymns (which I couldn’t hear BTW!) I walked up to her, and asked her what she was doing. She didn’t reply. At first, I thought I was disturbing her. And so I waited for another 2 minutes. As I slowly grew impatient and irritated that she didn’t answer me for so long, I was about to go. Just at that moment, I found what it really was. There are some Buddhist monks and nuns that take their vows very, very seriously! They don’t speak at all!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ All of you who must have watched the movie “Hangover Part 2” will surely know what I am talking about. Immediately, I turned back and she was smiling. Maybe, I had made the connect, or maybe she did ๐Ÿ˜‰ And it was then that I realized that at times, we humans are so full of our own thoughts that we completely forget, that there’s also another side of the story. I signaled to her that I was taking her picture. She didn’t mind. I clicked. Then, I bowed and thanked her. She smiled. I left this beautiful, spiritual lady in her zen world and felt good that she had taught me a lesson for the day. And then, I walked from there hoping that a new story awaited.