This article was first published in The Times Kuwait on December 02, 2012
Saulat Ali Khan’s book ‘Destiny’s Destination…’ is a memory-evoking compendium of photographs and letters that take us on a journey spanning nearly half a century. The book, which impels stimulating discussions among readers, is a collection of engaging images, many of them clicked by Khan, as well as letters and notes of appreciation of, and from, friends, family and acquaintances.
By freezing moments in time, the book’s photographs give us glimpses of an age gone by; it also chronicles the many interactions with prominent personalities, including national leaders, ministers, politicians, businessmen and ordinary people whose path Khan had the privilege of crossing. We recently spoke to Khan, about his book, what prompted him to come out with a work of this nature and his views on the various destinations that destiny has taken him.
“As a young boy, growing up in a small village in rural India, I was always convinced that if there were any changes to be made in my life, it would have to come solely through my own efforts. Life in those days was a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Being the only son, among seven other siblings in a conservative Muslim family, responsibilities came my way very early in life. But from the onset I was determined that no matter where destiny took me, I would make the best of the destinations I landed in. And so it was that in January of 1977, I landed in Kuwait.”
‘Destiny’s Destination…’ traces the exciting and extraordinary journey of Khan, as a young man from Sihali Jagir, a small village in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, to a successful businessman and eminent personality among Indians in Kuwait. The book documents Mr. Khan’s rare ability to meaningfully touch other people’s lives, a gift he has carefully cultivated during his three decades of stay in the country. As Khan says in the foreword to ‘Destiny’s Destination…’
“This book is not only a journal capturing the heart-warming experiences, documenting some historical, at times poignant memories; it is also an expression of the heart… In every circumstance, in every challenge, in every joy, I have discovered the ‘Destiny’, as I continue to progress towards a ‘Destination’ that is yet unknown.”
“The urge to publish one’s life experience can often be a soul-searching emprise. Why should I publish, what do I publish, how I should publish and for whom I am publishing, were only some of the questions that had to be answered before I set about this project. The more I thought about these and other related questions, the more I became convinced that there was a case to be made for publishing this large collection of photographs, letters and notes that I had collected over the years, so that it could be available to my friends and the public at large.”
“There are many moments in one’s life that needs to be cherished and remembered. One of the reasons behind coming out with ‘Destiny’s Destination…’ is because I felt the photos which I had accumulated over the years had a compelling storyline that narrated the passing of an era. These snapshots of life, freeze-framed forever on the pages of this book, are fond memorabilia of past events and shared memories.”
“The concept for compiling a book of this nature began in early 2009; the idea eventually evolved into ‘Destiny’s Destination…’ This photo anthology of my journey through life provided an amazing opportunity to indelibly record the many enlivening relationships that I have nurtured with a wide section of people in India and Kuwait. Three decades or more, from when they were first taken, these images still manage to awaken strong feelings, and to recall events and moments that have tenaciously clung to the walls of my memory.”
“I began photographing as a hobby at the age of 15, when I was presented with an old Nikon camera. The thousands of photographs that I had accumulated since then were lying around in old albums, envelopes and cardboard boxes. Some were discolored, some were dog-eared around the corners and some had distinct crease marks from inadvertent folds, and from being stuffed into overflowing containers.
Obviously, I thought to myself, something had to be done to preserve these images for the future and to disseminate it to a wider audience.” While one way to safeguard old photographs would be to scan and store them permanently on electronic media, the idea of uploading images to a website and sharing the link with friends and relatives did not appeal to Mr. Khan.
“To me, sharing photographs is a collective experience among friends and family. There is something special about sitting around a family table turning pages in an album or book, while commenting on this or that photograph, that simply cannot be replicated by sitting in front of a monitor and clicking through photographs. So the idea of publishing the images in a book form came to pass. Sharing this book with old acquaintances and friends has often meant being involved in an enriching communal experience with kindred souls.”
The book, which is presented in a lavish coffee-table book format, was released in New Delhi on 6th January, 2010, by author and former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor. The glittering book launch ceremony was attended by a galaxy of senior government officials, VIPs and several prominent Indians from Kuwait, who lauded Mr. Khan for compiling this photographic compendium of milestones in the long and remarkable relations between India and Kuwait.