Not often does a conversation transcend its worldly purpose to become a space in which you can share your thoughts freely and be yourself. But with our patron Jayasree, what can begin as an exchange of thoughts on photography and experience in the wild can become a tête-à-tête in which a sweeping love for life brims and flows…
On International Women’s Day, we bring you the story of an accomplished lawyer to whom art means a vital form of human expression and experience. Not only is Jayasree’s story fascinating as an achiever in the field of law or as a voyager in the world of photography, but because it contains in it unmotivated warmth and empathy and immense love for being.
She tells us that her journey as a maker of images began because of her husband Venkatesh’s infectious passion for wildlife and photography. The courtship of this couple often involved Venkatesh narrating his ‘affair’ with the wild, observing animals and being in the face of nature’s grand beauty.
After getting married, when the Delhiite began living in Bengaluru, her husband proposed the idea of taking her on wildlife safaris, beginning with the National Parks such as Kabini and Bandipur in Karnataka. And Jayasree yielded because by then, she had understood Venkatesh’s animated conversations about – and an unrelenting love for – venturing into the wild.
“It piqued my interest, as the same man who was consumed by this passionate love for nature, is otherwise calm and nonchalant in his ways. There’s an indescribable spark in his eyes when he talks about wildlife, and that’s how my tryst with wildlife and photography began,” says Jayasree.
She shares her experience of being in the forest with an infectious zeal. In her own words, “To let the natural wonders of the environment sink in – all the smells, the colours – was as close I could get to our own primitive connection with the wild. And on my very first safari in Bandipur, I even got a fleeting glimpse of a tiger and I couldn’t be more fortunate. But what always stays with me even after coming back to the city is the stillness of the forest.”
She also remembers going to Ranthambhore in December 2014, to which her husband couldn’t accompany her, and the solo trip affected her in ways she hadn’t anticipated. The eight safaris in a span of four days in the changing landscapes of the Ranthambhore National Park not only made her love the forest but also got her more acquainted with the camera physics.
Tigress Krishna and her three cubs were generous throughout the Photo Tour and Jayasree had a great opportunity to make some heart-warming images of the feline beauties. However, there is one incident she fondly recalls: “I was a little averse to the wildlife kills, although that’s simply the way it is. But I finally got to see the mother and the cubs with a sambar kill and somehow, my repulsion to kills got neutered! And to watch the relationship between the mother tigress and her cubs unravelling in different ways with each passing minute was like meditating with my eyes open.”
Jayasree plans to explore portrait and landscape photography, especially in a place like Ladakh, in the near future. As for wildlife photography, she loves places such as Ranthambhore, Corbett, Kabini and Bandipur, and wishes to visit Kenya soon.
She tells us how being in the wild, she finally ‘understood’ what really ‘living in the moment’ means: “To talk about being in the now, the present is something we all do, but it was only when I spent those moments of stillness, devoid of any sort of hurry or plan, that I really understood the soul of that idea.
“The sheer possibility of new sightings in the changing landscape, at every bend, at every curve brings quietude and excitement that’s edged with it. It’s so meditative that it calms me. In the forest, you could be quiet and be a tree, you could be a tiger, you could be a bird… you could be quiet and be any of it!”
In the context of International Women’s Day, Jayasree doesn’t forget to mention how important for women it is to support each other, and the significance of becoming one’s best, rather than being better than someone else.
She remembers all the support she has always received from her parents, in-laws and her husband, and emphasises that we need to celebrate accomplished women now more than ever so that it inspires every dreamer to set out to achieve their dreams. She also asserts that it is important to ensure equality every single day, and that being human is more important than being anything else.
Jayasree explains the role of Toehold and Toehold Skippers in her graduating from being a photography novice to someone who can now use all the camera equipment with confidence.
She elucidates, “Toehold Skippers’ passion is contagious; there is no escape from it! I cannot believe their patience when they are guiding someone who knows absolutely nothing about the camera, even if it means explaining the same concept again and again. And the way they can kindle your interest in learning – technology as well as natural history – is inspirational.”
She also says how the Skippers, while on Photo Tours, can be generous in certain situations to make a participant click a great image even when they themselves can make the best shot of a wildlife scene. “Their capacity for being happy for others and enjoying others’ art and the whole process of making it is humbling,” adds Jayasree, and continues, “that way, not only will you take a lot of learning and laughter back, but also sustain a healthy, warm friendship even after the Tour is long over.”
On International Women’s Day, not only do we wish this woman of mettle and insight, Jayasree, a great day but a great life filled with more art, beauty and adventure.