Thank you for stopping by. This is a bit strange. It’s not every day that you get to write about yourself. But I’ll try my best to have the past 40+ years of my life represented in less than 40 minutes as I write this autobiography of sorts. While there’s a Wikipedia page about me, I don’t think it can give you the perspective of my life from my own vision. So here is my attempt to describe myself to you. Hope you enjoy reading through this page – About Jayanth Sharma, yes, that’s me.
Jayanth Sharma – Early Life
I was born to a couple in Mysuru, Karnataka. My father, Dr Nagaraja Sharma is a retired Photographer and research scholar from the University of Mysore. My mother Smt. Shashikala Sharma, worked in the District Court of Mysore for nearly thirty years before she obtained VRS (Voluntary Retirement) and now resides in Bengaluru. I have a younger brother Hemanth Sharma who is a designer and works for an IT firm in Bengaluru. I married Shruthi in 2007, who I know from Mysore. I must admit that being a member of my family is in itself a tough proposition. I am not the typical mall-going, movie watching person, and if I ever had to redo my life, I would probably love to be a better family man than I ended up being. Well, that’s what happens when you are a part of the family of – Jay of the Jungle. Very sorry though.
I can’t imagine my early life as a kid without talking about my grandparents. Especially, my father’s father and mother. Sri Ramashastri, my grandfather was a priest in the Veeranjaneyaswamy Temple in Vontikoppal, Mysuru. My ajji (Grandmother) though was a housewife, was probably the head of the family. She was a Tigress who surely did a balancing act as my taata, hardly spoke. He was a man of few words, with a fixed routine, simple lifestyle and dedicated to the temple. For records, it may seem like I am talking about 100 years ago when you hear this, but he passed away in 2003 when I was 23, years old. Until his death, he never wore footwear, a trouser. I have always seen him barefoot and even when I recall his toes being amputated during the last days of his life in his 90s, he never had footwear.
My dad, was the only child of the elderly couple and I am told, even he was born after a long time and according to my ajji, after the Nagara Pratishte (A certain worship done to the snake God) the child was born. Hence, dad was named Nagaraja. Speaking of worship, I must admit, ours is a traditional, God-loving, orthodox brahmin household. We lived in a temple and most of my early childhood was spent in 1 kilometre of the school and house which was a couple of hundred steps away from our temple-home.
My father, it seems was a very average student always interested in extra-curriculum and art. I remember ajji telling me that on the day of the exam of his Xth standard, he gets up and says “Amma, I don’t want to go to school and exam” and my grandmother who was so understanding would agree saying “Oh, okay, don’t worry”. Preposterous.
Only now, I realise she was blindly in love with her children and grandchildren. I have to recall a small incident to explain what kind of love this woman had for me. It seems I used to get up in the middle of the night or let’s say early morning, at 3 or 4 AM and open the door where my parents and I along with my brother slept and walked out in the darkness to my ajji’s room.
Reason? I was apparently hungry. So ajji would carry me and go to the milkmaid’s house which was around half a kilometre away and ask her to milk the cow for the temple prince, who would then drink hot milk with sugar and go back to sleep only to get up at 6:30 or 7 it seems.
About Jayanth Sharma’s school – CFTRI School Mysore
I must mention that school was the best part of my life and I remember every incident at school as I studied in the same school from LKG to class X. During my school days, I used to be a celebrated child, always into extra-curriculum and involved in dramatics, singing, NCC, painting, Karate, I was the school parade leader, class monitor forever and enjoyed being with my beloved friends who still happen to be my most precious people in this world after the family.
Winning several awards as an actor was a celebration of sorts. I remember being Ekalavya, Angulimala (ಅಂಗುಲಿಮಾಲ), Bhasmasura, A performer in the Sangolli Rayanna play, A police officer in the play “Gandaskatri” (ಗಂಡಸ್ಕತ್ರಿ), a Hotelier in the “Yellindalo Bandavanu” (ಎಲ್ಲಿಂದಲೋ ಬಂದವನು) play, and many small acts in dramas, skits and performances.
My father, a dramatist and artist himself, spent numerous hours creating a look for me for the fancy dress competitions or for the cultural program drama performances and the support I got from him was something that really is the only reason, I am what I am going to be, if not what I already am.
Check this singing video on Instagram.
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For years now, this song has been my companion when I need something to ignite happiness, love and pleasure. Hope you like it. I once met @kichchasudeepa the actor in a restaurant and how I wish he heard this song. This song and Huccha the movie screamed about his arrival in the #kannada film industry with a Big Bang. Have you heard his voice? Man! I wish I had a voice like that. Coming to the song, it’s a bit easier to sing without playing an instrument but I guess it’s possible to do both. Hope you like it? #singer #kannadasongs #kannadasingers
Thanks to the encouragement of teachers who didn’t mind my just above-average performance in studies, but excellent interest in the other aspects of development, they showered love and affection to me, sometimes as they would do to their own child. Love for my teachers is a mutual feeling and I cherish my relationship with them even today.
Here’s an audio message by a beloved teacher Smt. Varini who in Oct 2019, nearly 23 years after my graduation from school sent this message. It’s unfortunate she passed away less than a month after this message, but this is a precious record that explains my relationship with teachers at school.
Listen to this Audio Message by a high-school teacher who sent me this in Oct 2019. It’s in Kannada – so you may want to skip it if you don’t understand the language. Thank you.
Being a student of GTTC Mysore – Learning Tool & Die Making
As I wasn’t really a kid who was interested in by-hearting content to reproduce them in exams and score marks that meant nothing to me, I was very sure I wouldn’t waste my parent’s money and my precious time following the rest of the world and my friends, doing a conventional graduation course. I, instead opted to take up this 4-5 year long practical learning experience in the GT&TC Mysore wanting to become a Tool & Die Maker.
I believe, I had a reasonably good aptitude to become this tool engineer or injection mould designer of sorts and I enjoyed my tenure at college learning about this industry. This was a college where we would spend five days on the shop floor, working like factory workers, and one day of the week sitting in classrooms learning about subjects like Engineering drawing, Metallurgy, Strength of Materials, Chemistry, Mathematics to an extent and more about plastic engineering and the world of Computerised Numeric Controlled Machines (CNC).
In-plant Training in Nashik (Final Year at GT&TC)
I did this with great interest and even signed up for a remote industrial training exposure as a part of my “In-plant” training and relocated to Nashik for a year. This was the first time, I was out of home and these 10-11 months that I spent living on a shoestring budget being a bachelor trainee, was a beautiful learning experience.
I was deployed in a small company named “Microcare Toolings Pvt Ltd” which was all of 1000 sq ft, tiny little factory where myself and a couple of other classmates of mine, who were absolutely inexperienced and new in this field, were suddenly in control of any things due to our communication skills and education.
We brushed shoulders with experienced factory workers some of whom were, at least twice our age. That added only to our learning experience. Be it at the factory or looking at these men, run homes in a budget of 3000-4000 rupees a month, with wives and kids to take care of in the humble neighbourhoods of Nashik’s Pavan Nagar, near Ambad industrial area.
Accident – Life takes a standstill
Things were going great, I had even come to Mysore on a vacation in the month of May 2000, suddenly within a year, I had seen a massive change in the world outside of the factory. The Internet was a new word that was all over the place. Tens and dozens of “Browsing Centers” were the new joints where the youth would hang around. A childhood friend of mine, Tina who was constantly in touch with me through letters (Snail Mail) while I was in Nashik, wrote her last letter to me complaining that I had to learn about Emails and not expect people to write letters anymore like we were doing.
So the Mysore break was a great vacation back at home but also a highly educational one. I created my first Yahoo account during this break while my tech-savvy younger brother and dad who was in his early 50s back then were glued on to the computer and internet. Until this time, a computer was only a device where I would play the famous game, Prince of Persia and use a word application to publish, edit and print documents.
I went back to Nashik in the middle of June and started continuing my work, I remember I hardly had two or three months left. It was a Friday evening and the popular movie “Josh” was in theatres and as Saturday is usually a weekly off for the industry in Nashik, while Sunday is the beginning of the week, we had decided to watch this movie and I was working in a hurry to complete my task before I could head out to the theatres.
An unfortunate accident on a machine called the PowerPress halted not just our weekend plans, but my entire industrial training. I had two of my fingers smashed in the 50 tonnes pressurised machine an I as not going to get a part of these fingers back again. I have made a detailed video on this on my Instagram if you want to know more. Let me skip giving you unwanted details on this page. Please feel free to check this if you are curious.
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An FAQ to me! About my strange looking fingers again and again makes me set the record straight. In this video listen to my story as a young man and the biggest hurdle I came across then. And in these times of monumental battles all you need is hope and positive stories to overlook hurdles and focus on the goals. #hurdles #goals #problem #inspiration
Now being a frequent traveller, having an Emirates Skywards frequent flier Gold membership and having travelled across the globe, little did I know that day, I would be on my life’s first-ever flight in June 2000 not even being able to enjoy the flight, but trying to head back to Mysore to undergo a series of surgeries trying to get back lost inches of my finger.
After two plastic surgeries, I still have over an inch of my index and more than that of the middle finger on my right hand shortened for life. But I tried my best to not let this incident take over my life. It was just another scratch on the body as a 20-year-old, I didn’t really envision life stopping due to this.
Immediately after the incident, I had ample time to get back to the world of Internet, Graphic Design, Web Design and I spent numerous hours, typing in my left hand only, while the right hand was bandaged, learning about the world of web and internet.
I was so good at this that within a few months, that’s on the 1st of January 2001, I was employed as a Graphics Designer in an IT firm, while my classmates were eagerly waiting for the results of the exam we wrote in October 2000. We had an awards ceremony in Feb 2001, but I already had a job in Jarvis Infotech, known then as Khazana Software. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist anymore, but this was the place that changed my life and gave me a foothold in the IT industry.
My golden period in the IT Industry
After two years and two months, not to forget the 9/11 repercussions on the industry and our salaries, I had to move on to a new job. I worked in various companies like IT Contractors limited (was a short tenure) and then the lovely EXCELSOFT TECHNOLOGIES in Mysuru, where I enjoyed tremendous exposure to international clients being under the shadow of greats like Sudhanva Dhananjaya, the CEO.
Being a Mysore techie already, I was eyeing the dream city of Bengaluru and my wish came true when Accenture offered me a role in 2003 and I relocated to namma Bengaluru in Oct 2003. Suddenly, life was on a fast track. I was earning a salary more than my parents who were State Government Employees were earning. I had a little home of my own. While that was an honour, it also came with the household chores that weren’t interesting to a 23-year-old.
My stint at Accenture is perhaps the golden period of my IT career and I really enjoyed flaunting the brand on my ID card every day as I went to work, got exposure from peers and a world-class technology industry environment. What I loved the most about Accenture was the culture, the modern outlook and of course the cash that came in which was precious.
This is the scenario where I was nurturing my interest in Nature and Wildlife and since photography was a profession to my dad and a family business to us, I never had imagined photography would be an art I would embrace this seriously. I eventually quit my IT job and started exploring a career full time into photography.
I had been travelling frequently to places like Bandipur, Nagarahole, Kabini at times, birding destinations across Karnataka and practising my photography at Ranganathittu frequently. But only in the year 2006, when I photographed the Monitor Lizards Combat in Bandipur, I got featured on the cover of the famous Sanctuary Asia magazine in the Feb 2007 issue and that year was a dream.
The magazine featured a lot more of my pictures and out of the six issues that year, 4 issues had my photos on the cover including Feb 2007, Aug 2007, Oct 2007 and Dec 2007 issue of the year. In fact, the Dec 2007 issue had my Charging Elephant image which also won a prize in their annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest and there was no looking back after that.
My travel around the globe
In the last 15 years, I have travelled far and wide and here is a map that marks most of the destinations where I have had the privilege to work around the globe. Some of the places I really cherish are the polar regions, I have fallen in love with the Arctic, Svalbard to be precise, Antarctica, East-Africa – Kenya especially, Borneo in Malaysia, Kamchatka in the far east of Russia, Costarica, Ecuador, Chile, Iceland, United States, Raja Ampat in the Papua, Japan, and many other parts of the world where I frequent on assignments for Toehold, the company I co-founded and currently my full-time occupation.
Toehold – My heart and soul
So after struggling on freelance projects and assignments for over two years, I co-founded Toehold Travel And Photography Pvt Ltd in April 2010. Toehold provides a variety of services to travel and photography aficionados, we provide camera gear for hire, we teach photography through informative online and in-person workshops and courses, we take people out of photography expeditions across the globe and also act as a travel agency that plans and executes tours tailor-made for specific goals.
Today, we are based in Bengaluru and Kabini. Around 20 people are employed in this little organisation which is where most of my heart is at the moment. Over the last 10 years, we at Toehold have mentored over 10,000 individuals and I have personally conducted hundreds of workshops teaching photography and helping spread the love for nature.
Public speaking & Interviews
One of the important skills I have developed as a story-teller, photographer and a creative professional is powerful communication skills that complement my rich visuals like photographs and videos. I have spoken at various seminars and conferences in the past and some of them which are notable are, TEDX PESITBSC, TEDX MSRIT, Wipro Earthian Awards, Better Photography Wildlife India Awards, Adobe Photography Symposium, HP Changemaker and many such events.
Brands I evangelise.
I value my social equity and I have been only partnering with brands that are the best in the business. At the moment I am a Sony Artisan and a BenQ Ambassador for their Monitors for Photographers, in the past I have evangelized the Landrover Discovery Sport on promotion with the Overdrive magazine and I have also been an Ambassador of the HP Designjet Z9 printer.
Featured in the press
I have also been featured by many newspapers and publications and been interviewed by numerous media houses. Here’s a popular interview of mine by Pooja Advani on the Overlooked Platform discussing Wildlife Photography, Conservation and a Career.
Here are a few articles that feature me in the press.
Top Wildlife Photographers in India – HomeGrown
Interview with – Travel Rasoi
My Interview with Madhav Pillai, Editor, Better Photography Magazine
Amazon Launches Shutterbug – PC Quest
Featured by YourStory Media
The future of travel – Designup Conference, Story in YourStory Media
In to the Wild Featured by Mid Day – Mumbai
The Wildlife Photography Businessman – inMandi.com
Going wild with his lens – The Hindu is an article by Shilpa R Sebastian which features my passion for Wildlife Photography.
My Startup Idea – Economic Times
Mysore’s own startup man – City Today News
Amazon India’s ShutterBug Launched – Techlo Media
No right answers – Interview with Barefoot Consultancy post covid wildlife travel industry perspective
Indian Wildlife Photographers to Follow – Deccan Herald
It’s a wild wild world – The Hindu
How Bengaluru helped set up my dream photography career – Economic Times
Articles written by me in the press
Whenever time permits, I do write a bit for newspapers and magazines and here are some of my articles in the press:
For a Green and Responsible Holiday in the Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle
In Pursuit of the Beyond, Costarica – Deccan Chronicle
How to Build an Entrepreneurial Mindset – entrepreneur.com
10 Winter destinations for Indian Travellers – Outlook Traveller
2018 Budget should focus on Tourism sector – NDTV
5 Reasons your next trip should be Kamchatka – ANI News, Business Standard
The icy appeal of Svalbard – Deccan Herald
International Tiger Day 2018! 10 places in India where you can go Tiger-spotting! – The Free Press Journal
My first job – Times Jobs
Polar Bears of Svalbard – Outlook Traveller / Outlook India
Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society (ARPS), UK
Second Prize – DJ Memorial Photography Contest 2018
Third Prize – Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Awards 2007
Finalist – Saevus Nature’s Trailblazer Assignment
Honourable Mention – Global Arctic Awards 2014
Highly Honoured – Nature’s Best Photography Windland Awards 2016, USA
Special Mention – Better Photography Contest 2008
Special Mention – Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Awards 2008