A photographer and travel writer, Deepankar Aron has contributed several articles on travel and nature in leading magazines and newspapers over the years. He authored a pictorial book, titled ‘World Heritage Sites of Uttarakhand’, a first on the subject, about Valley of Flowers National Park and Nanda Devi National Park. He has also done photographic exhibitions, including a solo titled “Uttaranchal– A Natural Treasure to Explore”. A B.Tech and a M.Tech from IIT Delhi, after spending 20 years traveling in the IRS (Customs and Central Excise), he was selected for Presidential Award of ‘Specially Distinguished Record of Service’ on the occasion of Republic Day, 2016. He has represented India as Consul in the Consulate General of India, Hong Kong and undertook the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra, as the Liaison Officer in 2009. He is currently working as Commissioner in the CBEC ( Central Board of Excise and Customs) Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India.

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What is your perspective of Uttarakhand? How do you think has it evolved over time?

Uttarakhand is a very unique state besides being novel. The primary feature which distinguishes it from other states is that it lays in the lap of the Himalayas. We, of course, have other hilly states, but, the presence of Chaar Dhams, towering Himalayan peaks and most significantly, major rivers like Ganga and Yamuna along with their tributaries, that have together bred much of the North Indian civilization over past thousands of years, makes Uttarakhand what it is. Besides religious dimensions, Uttarakhand is famous for escalating the adrenaline rush owing to a range of adventure activities that the cliff face of its Himalayan region provides.

Throwing light on the evolution, I believe that even though the state is merely 17 years old, Uttarakhand has had major industrial development in its plains at the foothills of both Garhwal and Kumaun, following the New Industrial Policy of 2003 that offered fiscal incentives (Central Excise, VAT ( now GST) and Income tax exemptions) to various industries that were set up afresh or that had undergone substantial expansion. However for the next wave of development, Uttarakhand would have to charter a unique development path harnessing its enormous tourism potential, while conserving its ecology, agriculture and floriculture and developing the service sector further, especially, on the IT (Software) and HR ( Educational Institutes) front. Like Bangalore or Pune, we could see Uttarakhand emerging as a major global IT hub in the north!

Kindly tell us about your book, 'World Heritage Sites of Uttarakhand'?

The book encapsulates an elaborate discussion of the rich floral diversity that the Valley of flowers National Park boasts of and the stunning Nanda Devi National Park, which is like a bowl of Himalayan peaks, drained by Rishi Ganga, through one of the deepest gorges in the world! The Nanda Devi NP, was the second most popular mountaineering destination in the whole world after the Everest, when it was declared as a national park in 1982 and all the mountaineering that was taking place until then was banned with an intention to preserve the ecology. The Valley of flowers National Park is famous for no less than 500 floral species that it comprises, which keep flowering year after year without any manual assistance and the with God as its only gardener!

The flowering keeps changing every fortnight and is a function of space and time inside the Valley! This immense floral diversity in a compact high altitude valley is what basically sets it apart and makes it unique in the whole world. The book takes you on a virtual journey to these two national parks and along side attempts to give you a flavor of not just the unique flora and fauna, but also the towering Himalayan peaks, glimpses of Uttarakhand’s unique culture, and its story of environment conservation…

Being a natural photographer, what, do you think, are the factors which influence one's photography?

I believe that photography is driven by instincts and the vision of how you want to capture the thing in front of the camera…. Composition and Light are the two key factors that decide on the picture that you take. Composition is the art of picking out the elements in the landscape that you are seeing. Once you have your desired composition, the other crucial element is about bathing of the subject in the right amount and in the right color of light! You would obviously pick what appeals to your senses and that’s why your and somebody else’s pictures from the same place or landscape would always be different! Besides, equipment and technique which includes the right equipment, for nature photography in particular, you also need a high level of patience and resilience. Moreover, one needs to be adventurous enough to be able to walk through those extra miles to uncover different perspectives and new vistas…

What message do you have for students involved in academics yet with aspirations of doing something in the extra curricular field?

I strongly feel that presence of co-curricular activities makes your life more fuller and meaningful, as life is not merely about an exam which you take towards the end of a session. It also helps you satisfy the self-actualization need, which is what really sets a human being apart from others in the animal kingdom! Besides that, co-curricular activities offer a strong social identity and significantly, also help us by taking our academic or professional pursuits more than a notch higher as they boost our levels of passion, adrenalin and enthusiasm towards life, from which, our work or academic lives do not remain unaffected!

How are you looking forward to the Art and Literature Festival, Valley of Words?

The fact that Uttarakhand has a long tradition of Literature makes me really look forward to the upcoming festival. There are thousands of stories tucked away in the hills and the plains of Uttarakhand. It has already been a retreat for many a writers and artists, past, present and the budding ones! The festival could indeed become an institutionalized platform for the existing and the potential talent of the state to co-mingle with the best in the literary world from outside to ignite the minds, to infuse them with ideas, to engineer passion, to make us better and more responsible citizens, to make us more ‘green’, to fill us with a greater sense of adventure and finally to make us better human beings and help us all realize the true meaning of life…

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