April 18, Thursday: NRIs of Dallas got together in a banquet hall for a quarterly event called "Chai PeCharcha". The objective of this informal get together is to discuss events, progress, issues, and problems in their motherland Bharat. NRIs also draw out plan on how they can collectively help people of India. Indian immigrants in Dallas are prosperous, successful, and influential people with full of love and attachment for their homeland India. The desire for something to do in the progress of India is very strong.
The event Chai PeCharcha was attended by many community leaders of Indian origin. Among many things, people discussed the general elections currently underway in India and what us good and bad for the country.
"This time the opposition doesn't have any issues. All opposition parties have come together just to defame and bring down the most credible leader in history...Mr. Modi" Said Subhash Shah, a journalist in Dallas area.
"It's similar to Mahabharata....A war of good over evil. We need to do our part to help our Krishna (Modiji) win and convey to masses in India via social media and other channels to not vote for Mahagathbandhan" said Vigyan Gotewal, an IT entrepreneur.
Shri Gaurji who called himself Chowkidar explained how Hindu dharma defines the role of a king or leader to be Chowkidar of Nation's wealth and pride. Though opposition has done the opposite when they were in power last 60 years. Opposition treated the national wealth as their personal wealth and misused it. Modiji understands the Hindu dharma real well and how to protect, preserve and use wealth as a Chowkidar.
"Whatever we say for Modiji will be like showing a lamp to Sun. Opposition parties believe in Dynasty and share national resources with their family, kith and kin. Modiji does everything in national interest." Said Roshni Kataria.
Media is negatively portraying Hindu Muslim divide. BJP is not a Hindu party. It respects and cares equally for all Indian citizens" said Mr. Talsania. "Modiji started his journey alone. But now whole world is marching with him. He is respected in every part of this world. We, NRIs of Dallas are solidly behind Modiji and his work for the country" quipped Dr. Kiran Parikh
The meeting adjourned with a resolve that everyone will put efforts to call Indian citizens to vote, and the desire to meet again soon on another Chai Pe Charcha. Lot of solidarity was created in the meeting.
“Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya , Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya, Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya”, meaning “Lead us from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality”. These are the prayers and affirmations we say to the one and only one, who have given us this life to experience and at the same time guide us to the path of spiritual upliftment and enlightenment.
Temples are not just the places to worship and pay our homage to the Almighty, but also are the spiritual hub of the community. One such place is DFW Temple Society, Ekta Mandir. Located in the heart of Irving, TX, DFW temple society, Ekta Mandir is one of the oldest temples in the DFW metroplex area, since early 1990s. All year round, many spiritual, cultural and community based events happen here. Toppick media is fortunate to speak to currently serving president of the DFW temple society, Ekta Mandir, Mrs Kusum.
Arun: Kusum ji, lets talk about your association with the temple.
Kusum: I volunteered as a teacher in the temple almost about 20 years ago. I joined the executive committee eight years ago serving in different roles of treasures, vice president and currently as a president of the temple.
Arun: Please tell us about the activities in the temple.
Kusum: Temple has many events and celebrations all around the year. Starting with the new year celebration, which goes nonstop on the new year eve and new year day. We have many other regular festivals, such as Holi, Diwali, Mahashivaratri, Navdurga puja happen throughout the year. We also have special events, which are published on our temple website regularly such as we are doing the Navagraha Puja for the first time in Feb. We are also doing Pran Prathstha of Shri Hanumaan Ji and Satyanaran ji idols in Feb.
Arun: One of the events that I along with my family and friends look for is Holi Celebration. This is that time of year, where we love to come here with our friends to play with colors.
Kusum: Yes, this is the major festival celebrated in temple with Holika Dahan a day before the actual Holi event. This year Holika Dahan will be on 23 rd March and Anand Bazaar which is the grand celebration with colors, food, festivities will happen on Sunday 24 th March.
Arun:The environment in the temple is highly spiritual and divine all the time.
Kusum: We have 8 priests from different part of India, representing different part of India, and they keep doing Pujas, mantra recitals throughout the day, which keeps a very peaceful atmosphere. I believe in faith and coming to temple always keep my faith up. I urge to everyone to come to temple, participate in our events and also serve as volunteers if you can.
Arun: Please let us know about other activities that happen in the temple.
Kusum: More than 500 students as part of Vidya Vikas School learn ten different languages, traditional dances, Indian classical music, scripture classes etc. We have meditation hall, Yagna Shala and many other facilities.
Ekta Mandir has the blessings of Maha Lakhsmi Devi, which has blessed our community. I always say three things – “Seva, Sadhana and Sankirtan” which you can do when you visit the temple.
In the words of American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams “A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety. Photography, as a powerful medium, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.”
When you visit the exhibition titled “The Big, Wide, Open” at the “Gallery at North Haven Gardens” in Dallas, you would agree to the fact that it is an illusion that photos are made with the camera, they are made with the eye, heart and head.
We had the pleasure of talking to Rajesh Jyothiswaran, the man behind the powerful images on display. Rajesh is based in Dallas and he is a self-taught photographer. The seeds of his landscape and astro photography journey were sown through his love of horticulture and landscaping with Texas Native plants. Photography has taken him on a path of self-discovery, learning, and meaningful friendships across the world. His images have been displayed at several exhibitions overseas. He has also won several awards for his work including the 2017 International Landscape Photographer of the Year Top 101 award and a Top 10 finalist in the Smithsonian 15th Annual Photo Contest. He is also the Grand Winner of the DCP Travel Photographer of the Year 2018 which he received recently in Mumbai.
Arun: Let’s begin by talking about your journey into this amazing world of photography.
Rajesh: It all begin quite by accident a few years ago with my passion for gardening, totally unrelated to what I am doing now. It all started when I converted part of my lawn into a native plant garden. I have a passion for growing native plants, adaptive plants that our Dallas area needs as we do not get much rain and soil is hard to grow anything. A picture taken in 2015 of my native plant garden went viral on social media. And it occurred to me that I have eyes and a talent for photography.
Arun: That’s the best part of being creative as one form of creativity opens the door for unlimited opportunities. As we can see from your pictures that your quest for capturing the amazing places of the world has taken you to long journey away from home.
Rajesh: That’s true. Thanks to my interest into photography as I can travel to different places to take photos and it is also other way around, as I am able to take pictures while I am travelling, so it is like ‘buy one get one free’. Some of my favorite photos happened by accident and some involved lot of pre-planning and execution. But I haven’t scratched the surface as there is still a lot more beauty to be explored. But whatever little I can see, I am glad that I come back with something that I can go back, look and be happy that I have been to those places.
Arun: What kind of photography you do?
Rajesh: I do both landscape and astro photography, they kind of both go together. For night astro photography, you want a clear sky however on the other side, you need to have some clouds to add interest to the photograph. So it’s like again the best of both the worlds.
The night photography for me is more of a meditative, more spiritual experience for me. To be out by myself in the elements and to be able to see the things that we do not usually see and take for granted, like you cannot see the milky way living in a metroplex area such as Dallas. There are very few and hard to find places, where there is minimal or no light pollution. This (my photography) gives me an opportunity to visit some amazing places.
Arun: It is said that a picture is equivalent to thousand words, but there is always a story behind every picture. We do not spend enough time either writing about an image or do not spend time reading about it. But each of your image truly has a story behind it.
Rajesh: As you have rightly said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes even thousand words are not enough to tell a story, that’s why I always tend to tell a story with my images otherwise it is just an image, there are no emotions attached to it. That’s why I add a story about what happens around that day when the photo was taken. And there is always a title to my images, which reflects the emotions and story in a nut shell. Like this image was shot in the Alabama hills. I was looking for something which is very specific to that location and I found the barrel cactus growing there. I had to visualize how different element of this photo should look like so I was in a kind of meditative state, focused on how can I bring this amazing picture into one frame. So, I had to take three shots to have my composition right.
Arun: There is an entire journey to be taken between a photo to be taken and photo that can be presented to the world.
Rajesh: Post processing is an aspect you need to think even before you take a picture and not after when you come back home. When you are in the field, you want to visualize the experience you would like to give to your viewers. Despite the best of camera, sensors and equipment one may have, it sometimes fails to capture what you see. Your eyes do a better job than any expensive equipment you may have, so rely on your instinct and the view that immediately vowed you. The Purple Mountain Majesty is a great example of the same, as generally a great scenery is taken in landscape mode, but to bring the elements of foreground and background, I had shot it in portrait mode that is able to reflect the true essence of the scene.
Arun: Your work reminded me of my childhood when I could see milky way from the roof of my house.Alas I cannot see it any more of milky ways living in a metroplex. How do you find such amazing places?
Rajesh: Your mentioning of not seeing milky way easily also reminded me of the time when I just started taking astro photographs and one of my friends invited me to his farm as he could see thousands of stars. That was the first time when I shot and saw the milky way on my camera screen and it was a moment I can never forget. My dad was with me and he said that he had not seen so many stars since he was a child, and he is in his late seventies. Imagine how much light pollution has taken over in our lives. It is very important to conserve the dark places that we have. This is one of the topics that is close to my heart as it requires lots of effort and education to change people’s perspective about type of lights, we should use that will still enable us to see nature’s wonders.
As far as finding the places, there are great resources available on the web that can tell you the places with least light pollution, there are many apps that can tell you the position of the milky way, sunrise, sunsets.
Arun: Anything that you want to talk to upcoming photographers?
Rajesh: First believe that you can do it. Like I tell, three-four years ago, I did not know much about the photography, even two years ago I was shooting in auto or aperture mode. There are so many great blog sites available, youtube has great contents. Your goal is to do lots of shooting, go shoot every day, take atleast one picture every day and study your own compositions. More you work with your images, more you will understand your own style of taking photographs and that will become your unique style.
Arun: From the entire family of Toppick media, we wish you all the very best in your photography journey – may you explore the unexplored and bring back to us the amazing stories.