Tuesday, February 03, 2009

City Hero – Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Lensman

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City Hero – Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Photographer

Delhi's own 'slumdog millionaire'.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi; black and white pictures by Vicky Roy]

Born in a godforsaken village in Bihar, he stole his dad's money, fled home, boarded a train to Delhi, lived the hard street life, stole some more (like sneaking lunch packets from Shatabti Express trains), and is now flying to New York City.

Some significant things happened between the theft and the flight. Former ragpicker Vicky Roy, now 21, was just another street kid growing up in a Salaam Baalak Trust shelter in Paharganj. A chance participation in a photography workshop changed his life. He enrolled at Triveni Kala Sangam, worked as an assistant to portrait photographer Anay Mann, clicked fellow street kids and ended up with an exhibition at the Capital's snotty India Habitat Centre. That was in 2007.

A year later, Delhi-based Ramchander Nath Foundation nominated Vicky for a mentorship programme by the US-based Maybach Foundation. Under it, he will work on the photo-documentation of the reconstruction of the World Trade Center.

Vicky is one among four chosen from applicants across the world, and the only one from South Asia.

"I'll live in an apartment near WTC," says Vicky. "I've never been abroad." He had to apply twice before he was given the visa. "The embassy guys were afraid I wouldn't return," he grins.

The happy boy, who couldn't watch the televised coverage of the 9/11 WTC attack, as he couldn't afford a TV, has big plans in the Big Apple. "I'll improve my English, wear rough 'n' tough clothes, get a new haircut and change my personality." He rushes to add, "But photography is the main cheez (thing) or else I won't be recognised."

Anyone he'll miss once in NYC? "I had a girl friend but she married some guy in Uttam Nagar," he shrugs his shoulders.

Did Vicky himself imagine that he would come this far? "Everyone who flees his village has somewhere within him the dream of becoming a hero," he says. "Though I never thought I'd become this kind of a hero."

Will our photographer now love New York more than New Delhi?

"I'm returning after six months," Vicky exclaims. "Delhi will always remain the place that give me my pehchan (identity)." And much more.

A decade ago, when Vicky got off the train at the New Delhi railway station, he had nothing but the clothes he was wearing. Now he's all set to fly out of the Indira Gandhi international airport with three sweaters, three jackets, one overcoat, two sets of shoes, two cameras and, of course, a pehchan. Stuff 'slumdog' tales are made of.

The New York state of mind

City Hero – Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Photographer

Picture by Vicky Roy

Pictures by Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Photographer

Picture by Vicky Roy

Pictures by Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Photographer

One more please

City Hero – Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Photographer

Picture by Vicky Roy

Pictures by Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Photographer

Good luck, Vicky

City Hero – Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Photographer

[The Delhi Walla met Vicky Roy during his exhibition at India Habitta Center, too. Click here to read that story]


ramesh_lalwani said...

Best of luck Vicky baba

Sandhya said...

what a beautiful story! Good luck vicky!

,...the phoenix said...

everybody can do anything

Raluca Sidon said...

If you dig in the histories of fortunes, there is a compromise somewhere, big or small, but still a compromise. In Vicky's case, he stole his father's money. Let's make an exercise: think to some sucess people you know, and dig in their past, up to the moment they started to ascend. See any compromise?

Anonymous said...

kudos to Mayank for finding dimond in the rough. Does this guy Vicky have a web blog for his pictures?
Delhi's own "Slumdog Millionaire", well put... :]

Which main? what cross? said...

lovely story

Magnus Linde said...

All the very best, Vicky Bhai! Come back to Delhi and tell us your story!

Anubhav said...

He really is a great guy and I wish him all the best, always.


Anonymous said...

Good luck, Vicky, and welcome to New York!


Wanderer said...

All the best vicky

manya said...

A truly amazing rags to riches story. Vicky's photographs are truly beautiful. I stumbled upon a similar tale about a European female A similar tale that I recently came across is the splendid effort of Zana Briski, a New York based photographer who went to Kolkata and taught photography to the children of the prostitutes there. The amazing story of the kids and their films made into a inspiring documentary called "Born into Brothels" which actually went on to earn the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Vishal said...

@ Raluca: I agree, got personal compromsie of mine too in Sydney but wont mention here, happy to tlak to anyone over a drink though, not as juicy as stealing, mugging, etc.

@ manya: Just google "Born into Brothels", they have a swanky websites and pics and copy righted and yu can purchase online, money goes to trust that will house and educate these kids. There was a controversy as come of the video clips, associated with these pics, were shot using hidden camera without teh permission of prostitutes and their kids (no protection of identiy of kids, immpact on kids, ethics, etc). Thoug that video won some intenational award.