The Quintessential Babru – Amrita Sahu – Aug 2019

The Quintessential Babru

A profile by Amrita Sahu

The snap of a shutter cements the moment, capturing it for years to come. The world changes in a streak of color, and present moments are lost in the blink of an eye. Amidst such an impermanent world, we need to capture those few beautiful moments and nostalgic memories that we would otherwise miss.

Photography is the art of freezing time and finding beauty in the simplest things. Meet Dr. Babru Samal, who was born and brought up in Basudevpur, Bhadrak in Orissa and came to the USA in 1973 to study genomics. He has a Ph.D in Molecular Biology from University of Southern California and lives in Rockville, Maryland with his wife, Jayashree Samal. They are blessed with two children, Nihar and Manisha.

“I try my best to capture the human interaction.”

Babru Uncle, a respected member in our Odia community, has come to every OSA function, rain or shine, to take these pictures. It is a testament to his incredible dedication. Though he has no formal training in photography, he uses his intuition to click when the moment demands. As he said, “We come across many things every day, but seeing essence in those is worth our endeavor. Seeing beauty where we least expect it makes our search worthwhile.”

Babru Uncle first started photography in his college years, when film was an expensive commodity and the development of pictures was time consuming. However, with the advent of digital photography allowing for more experimentation, he became fascinated by the simple things that people missed in life. By talking to Babru Uncle, I realized how vital it was to pay attention to everything happening around us. In his words, “People can get happiness from revisiting things in the future that they might not have noticed in the moment. I take two kinds of photos; one is of people and the other is of beauty I find in nature.”

“Seeing beauty where we least expect it makes the search worthwhile.”

For his photos of people, Babru Uncle enjoys the opportunity that OSA gives in the form of human interactions and the enactment of traditions that have been passed down for ages. With all these cultural functions and pujas, photography becomes the best way to “freeze moments in time.” In OSA, he sees people from all walks of life come together and celebrate the bonds that tie them together. He aims to portray the pleasure that comes from being with friends and family.  In addition, performances of Bollywood dance, Odissi and other classical dance, classical music, and elaborate plays provide him access to Odia art in its truest form. “In traditional Indian classical dance, there is plenty of expression of amorous moments between a lover and his beloved. I derive joy from capturing those fleeting moments.” Each dance tells an intricately woven story designed to impart a message to the viewer.

Families that look back at all the photos Babru Uncle has taken can see the evolution of their own family over time. Be it the addition of a new family member or the passing of an old, these photos document the passing of time - the only constant in life. His website is like a timeline for all of us. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, be it a celebration or a solemn occasion, one can always find a repertoire of pictures to go back to and reflect upon.

I have known Babru Uncle all my life. My parents, my brother, and I all have been chronicled over time from Babru uncle's photography. It is incredible to see all the photos of my friends and family, all the celebrations and the various OSA functions we have had in one consolidated website:

His nature photos aim to find small details of life that he sees differently. “As a life scientist, I see things differently from, say, a mathematician or a physicist.” To find these minute details and be able photograph them with such ease and skill is truly an incredible feat. Babru Uncle’s website has many examples of his talent for artistically framing flowers, trees, or simple leaves in such a way that they impart a deeper message to the viewer.

However, finding subject matter for these pictures is not easy. To satisfy his thirst for exploration, Babru Uncle and Mami Aunty have traveled to almost twenty-six countries across four of the continents, and many individual states in India and the USA. From exploring the rocky Incan countryside of Machu Picchu to a walk in the colorful culturally rich city of Venice, they truly have travelled across the world. For all of us at home who cannot pursue travel with as much rigor and enthusiasm, Babru Uncle documents every portion of his trip, providing us with a gateway to everywhere he has visited.

Interestingly, Mami Aunty is also a firm believer in the power of art and pursues fine art combining our traditional Indian styles with modern digital techniques. Not only do Babru Uncle and Mami Aunty complement each other but they are a perfect example of how two individuals encourage each other to follow their passions and dreams to the fullest.

Ultimately, Babru Uncle believes that following his passion helps to liberate him and allows him to express himself in the best way possible. We, as the OSA community, should look to Babru Uncle for inspiration to chase our dreams and do what we really enjoy. After all, creativity coupled with passion is the key to unlocking one’s inner self.


Amrita is 14 years old and is in 8th grade. She is an avid reader and spends her free time writing, drawing and painting. She lives with her parents Prakash and Manaswini in Herndon, Virgina.