Divyesh and Vineeta Muni: Love at First Sight

Satti Kangri: With a moon above and clouds swirling around, the Satti Kangri peaks are bathed in the evening glow at 16,500ft in the Eastern Karakoram range. Photograph/Vineeta Muni

Satti Kangri: With a moon above and clouds swirling around, the Satti Kangri peaks are bathed in the evening glow at 16,500ft in the Eastern Karakoram range. Photograph/Vineeta Muni

Vineeta and Divyesh Muni

Vineeta and Divyesh Muni

Chandni Gajria discovers the love for the mountains shared by the husband-wife duo of Divyesh and Vineeta Muni.

Meeting people who have been in love with something that keeps them connected is refreshing. For both husband-wife Divyesh and Vineeta, I found that it was the love for mountains that had brought them together. For the past thirty years, they have been travelling from one mountain to another, for the sheer excitement of exploring wonderful, rugged landscapes. No boundary has ever stopped them from any expeditions. In their minds, they believe that nothing is impossible.

Taking the First Steps
Like many others, Divyesh and Vineeta were introduced to photography in their childhood. Divyesh’s first encounter with the camera was when he was gifted an Agfa camera in his school days. “I was excited,” he smiles as he continues to speak, “and shooting in film in those days always gave you a thrill. You could never be sure of what you have shot until the prints came in.” On the other hand, Vineeta tutored under portraitist Belli Homjee known for his evocative black and white photography. She remembers, “He would show us a colour photograph through a grey glass so that we would understand how the tonalities and intensity of contrast changed in a black and white photograph.”

Mountaineers at Heart
Divyesh and Vineeta are a duo who started shooting not because of their love for photography but because they are first mountaineers at heart. “Photography is a secondary hobby,” they both say. While Vineeta had started trekking the Sahyadris by the age of 15, Divyesh was still an amateur trekker in school. By college however, he along with Vineeta, joined the Nehru Institute for Mountaineering in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand for a serious training course in mountaineering. From then on, the couple has never looked back.

Spiritual Bliss
“I am not much of a religious person but I believe in spirituality. Being near the mountains, fills my being with a sense of calmness. I feel pure,” Divyesh confesses. One tends to forgets all their worries when nature’s play is beautifully set in front of you. Vineeta, who particularly loves to photograph water bodies, speaks of how the combination of waterfalls, reflections and rainbows has often enthralled her. “Sometimes you are lucky to get the perfect reflection if the water is still. At times, you have to really wait for that to happen.” Nature photography is spontaneous. One has to be at the right place at the right moment. Vineeta talks about the spectacular purple sky she has witnessed in those mountains, but only thrice in these 30 years. “It was a matter of luck and serendipity, if you call it that.”

Of Challenges Faced
Walking for days in the extreme cold, of course, is a challenge. But at 10,000ft, the view from the mountains is breathtaking and most of the times, it is worth it. With all the luggage that has to be carried around while trekking, both of them are usually restricted with the camera equipment they can carry. Vineeta says that at times, they have had to refrain from taking more than one picture because of the limited number of film rolls they have. Climbing in such circumstances also has it consequences. “Vineeta broke her jaw once when she fell down. I have broken a few bones during these trips too!” But Divyesh believes that danger is a part of this adventure and one should gear up and move on.

Being Careful and Lucky
The only time they ever went for a photography mission, Divyesh remembers, was when the Navy had asked both of them to document a trek their men undertook to Sujtilla in the Kumaoun Range, located in trek, he mentions an incident where they had been climbing up the mountain for the entire night. Divyesh was eager to take out the camera from his backpack. “Unfortunately it was difficult for me to reach to the back of my bag. So I found a place where I could comfortably stand, bought the bag to the front and took my camera out to shoot the scene I wanted to. Just then, my hand glove slipped out.” Luckily, Vineeta had an extra glove with her. It would have been impossible for him to continue without proper gear.Uttarakhand. As he speaks about this

No Boundaries
Could you imagine your lifetime experiences spread across a room full of photographs that express it? Quite a joy that would be. The couple’s first exhibition that was held in Mumbai summed up their journey to the mountains in all these years. But they both feel that their journey has only started. There is a lot more to explore. “Nature holds no boundaries.” After all, every landscape looks different at different times of the day and in changing seasons. “Even sunsets at Marine Drive in Mumbai look different everyday! You need to love the mountains to experience the kind of joy we do,” Vineeta adds.

Tags: Nature, Chandni Gajria, Vineeta Muni, Divyesh Muni, trekking, mountaineering, vistas, valleys, rifts