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Mar Nicholovos turns nature photographer while on holiday in India

His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos with his camera in front of the new Bishop House at New York

His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos’ penchant for photography knows no bounds.

The Assistant Metropolitan for North-east American Diocese during his recent sojourn to India went on a clicking spree capturing spell-bound landscape pictures of the North Eastern states.

Visits to Sikkim, Darjeeling (West Bengal) and an eco-friendly resort in Kerala saw him enriching his album with nearly thousand pictures from his old Canon camera. 874 of these images were uploaded into 18 Facebook albums within a space of 48 hours last week.

The relaxing sojourn also saw the New York-based Metropolitan virtually chance upon a ride on a yak, taste local delicacies of yak except its meat, view spell-bound views of the snow-clad Kanchenjunga or the Himalayas.

Some of the pictures and posts evoked few interesting comments from his huge circle of friends on the social networking site.
Letha Jacob from Boston who has commented the most hails the metropolitan for his ability to appreciate intricate details of the beautiful creations of God, especially nature as a gift from Almighty!! She thanks Thirumeni and says: “ Breath taking pics!! the photographer in you brought to us the beautiful silence of nature..which can be felt in these pics (pictures)…it surrounds us…

“Escaping the mad schedule and rest for a few days” at Gods own country, the metropolitan preferred to stay at Aquasserenne Resort near Kollam. The heritage ambience on the water front was paid for by his brother when an inquisitive friend on Facebook desired to know if it was covered by any government official or friends…

Enamored by the beauty of the mighty Kanchenjunga, the bishop posted about 196 pictures on Facebook album with some having breathtaking views, sharp and hazy images from Pelling where he stayed at the Elgin Mount Pandim, a heritage hotel.
Well-known as a popular honeymoon spot, Sikkim (Switzerland of East India) boasts of some of the most famous destinations in the eastern Himalayas. Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world after Mt Everest and K2, with an elevation of 28,169 feet.

Besotted by ‘The Five Treasures of Snows’, as Kangchenjunga means, His Grace comments thus: “I just kept on clicking my camera. You will get this view only for some time in the early morning. So I was concerned I might not be able to capture it from all the angles. In the attempt to capture the moment into the camera, I was not able to enjoy the beauty of the moment fully. This is a genral (general) spiritual problem. In our attempt to make the future safe we forget to enjoy the moment. But still I wish I had a better camera…”
13 people liked his Kangchenjunga posting and brought about 15 instant and interesting comments.

Letha (a Facebook friend) goes poetic when she quotes John Keats: “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.” “WOW..amazing snap shots!! A real treat for the beholder’s eyes!” was how she put it. She goes further in another comment saying: “It (photos) should be enjoyed at the moment, preserved and also shared. The photographer is definitely enjoying the scene at the moment and making a conscious effort to snapshot it (out of joy or passion) and share his joy with others…My point is when a photographer takes a snap shot, he decides to preserve it in the form of a photo only because he enjoyed the moment….

This was in response to another post from Fr Philip Mathew who appreciating the Bishop’s work as “Great photos” remarked about an article by a Catholic liturgist arguing against photography in church precisely for this reason: by focusing on preserving snapshots for future enjoyment, we never really enjoy the moment as it is happening, and so it’s never as enjoyable or memorable as it could’ve been anyway.

It was a truly splendid and sincere effort by the metropolitan who while sacrificing the beauty of the moment yet came up with laudable pictures which are shared with all and many getting the opportunity to view how the famed peaks look like.

Debu Prem from Bangalore comments: Thank you for taking us to Sikkim and other places, it was really wonderful, so beautiful…, I’m sure weve (we have) enjoyed more……… in such short time.

Sunrise on the Kanchenjunga is another marvel which he seems to have made a sincere attempt but failed. 34 photos were added to the album. “One of the star attractions of Darjeeling is watching sun rise over Kanchenjunga. I was trying to capture it in camera and as you can see, miserably failed. It is an experience you cannot express it in words or through camera so I do not dare to say anything…”

Another friend Decon Gheevarghese John jocularly commented of drilling oil in the high altitudes. “…just kidding…it’s beautiful…and capturing the moment on camera allows us to enjoy the beauty as well…” he writes.

Mar Nicholovos replied saying drilling reminds him of having to go to Alaska (largest US state by area) before people destroys it, while another friend Ruthamma Chacko thanked Thirumeni for posting interesting pictures and for his hard work.

Lachung seems much to the metropolitans liking since he snapped the maximum number with 116 pictures. The road to Lachung is placed as another album with 28 photos. “These are random shots taken on the road to Lachung from Gangtok. Being in the Himalayas all the places are great scenic views,” he opines.

There is a picture separately of a simple meal taken at a small restaurant on way to Lachung. “Most of it was from Yak, Yak butter, Yak yogurt (Moru curry) and Yak meat. I skipped the meat and enjoyed the rest. Yak yogurt has a very strong taste,” he reminisces.

About Lachung he wrote: “remeber (remember) this is happening in Himalayas and not downtown NYC (New York City) Elizabeth Varghese liked his posting when he wrote about an interesting trip riding on a yak. But there is no picture of the ride in the album. An amazed Elizabeth writes: Ooooo! Now its a parishuda Yak to which Nicholovo’s commented: hope it is not eaten…!

Though at Pelling, the metropolitan didn’t indulge in any trekking, the place forms as the base where trekkers and adventurers undertake the strenuous and arduous treks, but he has managed to capture the land around Pelling in all its entirety.

Known for its virgin territory, the area is bathed with alpine vegetation and numerous waterfalls lining the hillside. He has captured 33 photos of the shimmering waves and icy waters of the Seven Sisters Water Fall in North Sikkim. The state famed for its waterfalls with one present in very other corner of the road. Here the water falls through seven steps and hence the name and is compared to the famed Seven Sisters waterfall consisting of seven separate streams in Geirangerfjord, Norway. There is also posting of Rimbi Falls and Kanchenjunga Falls totaling about 42 photos.

Another attribute is his liking towards monasteries. Buddhist monasteries like Enchay, Pemyangtse and Rumatek Monastery in Gangtok were also visited. He describes 12 photos of the Enchey Monastery as belonging to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism.

Relaxing from the bustle of Big Apple, the bishop seems to have done some home work with his postings when he writes that Enchey was established in 1909 above Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim in the Northeastern Indian state. It belongs to the Nyingma order of Vajrayana Buddhism. The monastery built around the then small hamlet of Gangtok became a religious centre later.
65 pictures of Samdruptse Hill are really awe-inspiring. He comments thus: “It is just a huge statue of Guru Padma Sambhava built pretty recently. It looks sort of majestic from a distance on close watching it is nothing impressive. Just huge poor quality concrete statue of Gur Padmasambhava.”

Different postures and angles of the statue have been snapped and this monument reminds one of the giant monolithic statue of Gomateshwara statue at Shravanbelagola, Karnataka.

Darjeeling, famous for its tea industry, in West Bengal was his next halt. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (a Unesco World Heritage site) is one of the most outstanding examples of hill passenger railway. Opened in 1881, it applied bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problems establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty.

His Grace has posted 31 random pictures from his walk through Darjeeling streets as he travelled from Darjeeling to Ghum which is on a higher altitude than the former. Ghum boasts itself as the oldest and highest altitude functioning railway with steam engine in the world. Various pictures of St Andrew’s Church at the Mall are also posted.

Rony Varghese, another Facebook friend, terms it “koool. Hopes so like the train u too will reach in the highest point of divinity…”
Thirumeni may not an expert on geology and rock formation since his visit to the Sewaro Rock Garden fetched only 22 photos..as he candidly admitted. “There is nothing much to say about this rock garden. I did not see much of anything other than some rocks and as an arch at the entrance. Seems like it was a project to get money from Indian government.

Another outstanding feature of the album is the statue at Samdruptse having focused it from different angles. Metropolitan has displayed 65 photos and says: “It is just a huge statue of Guru Padma Sambhava built pretty recently. It looks sort of majestic from a distance on close watching it is nothing impressive. Just huge poor quality concrete statue of Gur Padmasambhava…”

The metropolitan who initially experienced idyllic setting at the home water front at Aquasserenne Resort prompted another friend Saju Varghese to know about its location and tariffs..

He enquired: this place looks great…where in Kollam is it? i have a few days that i could use off…any idea on the price range? I’m sure that someone, maybe your brother, or some government official, covered your tab…but any idea?

Mar Nicholovos replied thanking his brother for arranging his stay which in a way enabled him to “escape the mad schedule and rest” before taking off to the North East.

Other photos included from the trip are on Kachoedpalri Lake, Tashi View point, Rabdentse Ruins and others.

Conspicuous is the absence of individuals in his pictures except those of innocent looking school kids at Sewaro., which is another hallmark. Even Buddhist monks from the monasteries he visited were not on his agenda.

His Grace has snapped up pictures at his own will with some have precise timing. It is in the final product that one gets to notice this. He has not even used a tripod or any other extra photographic equipment. Since most of them were landscape pictures taken outdoors, even flash was not relied upon.

Mar Nicholovos enters a new bastion where none of the Malankara metropolitans have ventured into. He has also earlier captured some moments on frame like the construction of the new Aramana of the Southwest American Diocese, Notre Dame Basilica and many others. What next from this tech-savvy young metropolitan is the question on everyone’s mind?

Pictures [1]by Mar Nicholovos selected by the author