mother river Ganges'
Buy Line/ Ravi V. Chhabra
Mireille-Josephie Guzennec is the author of Ganga in Search of the Source, published by Rupa and Co and in French Gange la appel des sources. Ms. Guzennec had received in 2007, the National Award for the best foreign photographer for India by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India.
Following are the excerpts of an interview:
RVC: Why this fascination with river Ganges?
Ganga is the keystone for the ancestral Indian civilisation. My interest for India had long back been deep-rooted in the many facets of this great and tremendous civilisation; its arts, philosophy, thoughts weaved in Sanskrit language, as well as several traditional knowledge that I have studied, while living some years in India. I teach philosophy in France and I have a lot of interest to understand spirituality.
RVC: Any comments on the plight of Ganges at present. Are Hindus to be blamed for it?
Indeed, it is sad that we have polluted this mighty river. However, I do not think it is any particular culture that is responsible solely. In tandem with the religious ceremonies, had we also retained the respect and conservation of nature from the earlier times, we would have retained the purity of the river. By only performing the rites and having forgotten the inherent conservation values which went with them, we have gone away from the cultures of the ancient times.
RVC: You study philosophy. Whose ideology would you prefer to subscribe to Swami Vivekananda or Bhagwan Rajnish (Osho)?
I was recently at Kanyakumari where the memorial of Swamy Vivekananda has been built on a powerful rock surrounded by the sea. What a wonderful as well extremely symbolic place where the three Oceans meet in the ultimate south of India! Swami Vivekananda is an eminent thinker and philosopher, his writings had a profound impact regarding tolerance and understanding between human beings claiming : Jiva is Shiva- or, in other terms, divinity dwells in every human being. I appreciate his profound thoughts for universal values and truths, as well his keen and generous compassion as : Within the heart is the ocean of Love!
By only performing the rites and having forgotten the inherent conservation values which went with them, we have gone away from the cultures of the ancient times.
RVC: What is good food for you? Are you a vegetarian?
The excellent food is obviously vegetarian for many reasons: for the health, our energy being more sattvic, regarding the compassion and respect for the animals and also for the equilibrium and respect of the planet. Mostly, I am a vegetarian, especially while I am in India, and I should succeed in becoming completely vegetarian everywhere in future, as these are my deep convictions.
RVC: Your next book is likely to be about? I was travelling extensively in south India as well in Orissa these last weeks in order to get more documentations and be completely involved in the spirit of my next book, which will be about spirituality and Indian philosophy. Again the photographs, as illustrations/references, or say more as symbols will be significant and prominent.
RVC: Any common string between the French and Indians?
India as well France are two countries with great traditions. Both cultures should work together in bringing and sharing their ideas and values. The exchanges should not be only at an economical level in the modern world of globalisation. We have a lot to grasp from India and similarly so much to share with India. So, I feel there are lot of affinities between French and Indians, and everyone should maintain intact its culture and traditions as they carry and convey unique as well universal values in different shapes again as if two Oceans are joining and meeting.
RVC: What attracts you most about India?
I am a traveller by soul, so I found in India so much scope for several interesting and deep subjects connected with its ancient wisdom and its great tradition as philosophy, arts, culture, languages. There are tremendous potential heritage in India that should be kept in mind, and effectively protected with great awareness for the future generations. If today we are concerned and dealing with the importance of modern and material values regarding the development of the country, one should always keep in mind the importance of the spiritual dimension of life and not only think for the material aspect, which is certainly also the one necessary to lookat for the well being of people and development of a country.
RVC: Photography for you means?
Photography is a way to look around and beyond oneself with detailed attention and awareness. A photographer aims to transplant or transfer some images from a context to another world, in the realm of art and of ideas. So it is like finding a second degree for everything, say a second life in the realm of symbols. With photographs one tries also or achieve to defy time, something just happening may be crystallised and gain some eternity! With photographs, I wish to also find and show the beauty lying in everything.
RVC: Do you believe in reincarnation, if yes, why?
I do believe in the samskaras the deep impressions rooted in ourself, in samsara and in the law of Karma. So, certainly reincarnation is an interesting hypothesis to believe. However, one has to understand what does it means precisely and which part is concerned by reincarnation or say transmigration. It is a metaphysical subject, but at a common or personal level of life one can experiment such a possibility of being re-born as someone somewhere.
RVC: Is there life after death? Does the soul live forever?
The Atma or soul dwelling in everyone is eternal and does live forever.
RVC: The French are fun-loving people, what makes them so?
We like life in all its dimensions and we are as goes the French expression: bon vivant!