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The journey from street home to Buckingham Palace - Vicky Roy

One more testimony to the thought that dreams are the sole drivers of our lives is back here. Life offers the strangest turns and twists and puts us through unbearable penance only to reward us with the dream that we deserve. Here is a story of a young boy who worked on streets, but later went on to showcase the life on streets through his passion and won a chance to have lunch with the Prince Edward in Buckingham Palace. If he could realise his dream, you too can. Let's discover how it happened.
the journey from street,vicky roy
A young lad from Purulia district of West Bengal was left by his parents, beaten with poverty, at his grandmother's place to be taken care of when he was hardly 3yrs old. As he grew up, he bit the bitter side of life with loads of work on his tender shoulders and beatings on his back, both of which made his life sad stricken. Unable to bear this torture, in 1999, when he was 11 years old, Vicky Roy stole some money from his uncle's pocket, and reached station to find a train to Delhi. He knew that he could never get back home because of utter poverty. Staying somewhere outside was a much better option.

Vicky arrived in Delhi and was crying sitting in the station. A child came to him and knowing his story, took him to Salaam Baalak trust, a shelter home for kids. It used to be locked always so that the kids don't run away. Young Roy felt suffocated as he was stuck up in a wrong place. He stayed there for a day, but ran away the next morning. He came back to station searching for the kids and found them. He started working with them picking up plastic bottles. They used to pick up plastic bottles, fill cold water in them and sell for Rs.5/- each in general compartments. With no shelter, they used to sleep in Ram Leela grounds or platforms and get beaten up by police. During special checking, police wouldn't allow them to even pick up plastic bottles, but still punish them. Finally, he quit working in station/platforms and joined a roadside restaurant as a cleaner to earn just Rs.500/month. It was the most struggling part of his life because he had to wash plates and work in cold water, and would often get wounded. He used to sleep at 12.30am after washing all plates and wake up by 5am to cut vegetables.

One day, a volunteer from Salaam Baalak trust came and told him that his age was to study. Then he was transferred to 'Apna Ghar', where he started going to school. He scored 48% in 10th Std. His teacher advised him to study in National Institute of Open School and do some formal training along with it. A photography workshop was conducted in 2001. He told his teacher that he wanted to learn photography because he felt that he would get a chance to travel more as he had ran away from home only to travel more. A British photographer by name Dixie Benjamin was shooting a documentary on Salaam Baalak trust. On teacher's request, he agreed and took the young chap along with him to carry the tripod wherever he went. Unfortunately, the professional used to teach the boy in English which he couldn't understand. Since he got busy with other work, Salaam Baalak looked out for one more mentor for Vicky Roy. He was a Delhi-based photographer by name Anaiman. With him Vicky had to work for just 10-12 days per month and rest of the days he would be free up to 3 years. Salary was Rs.3,000/month and Vicky felt very happy. The journey started as Vicky borrowed some money from Salaam Baalak to buy a camera. He used to return the loan by paying Rs.500 per month. Moreover he wasn't staying in shelter home but outside as one cannot stay in Shelter Home after 18 years of age. He had to sustain with Rs.2,500 for an entire month and that was very difficult. Many a times, he didn't have money for bus fare and had to travel by walk. He wouldn't have money for food also but still used to work.
Soon Anay Mann sir started sending Vicky to library and to attend exhibitions. Whenever he saw others' exhibitions he felt that one fine day there would be an exhibition of his photos too. He started making documentary through children. In 2007, at the age of 19, he organized his first successful exhibition of his own photos in India Habitat Centre in Delhi. British High Commission and DFID had sponsored his exhibition and Alka Pandey had curated it. Then he travelled many places like London, South Africa, Vietnam. Name of his exhibition was "STREET DREAMS". He had clicked photographs of children, below 18 years of age, living on streets, but who wanted to achieve a lot in their lives. Some children used to go to school in the morning and sell newspapers or balloons in the evening. These children had dreams just like how Vicky dreamt to become rich. He wanted a good life better than the one he had led earlier. So, for the same reason, after the exhibition was successful, he joined his mentor and started travelling. He used to travel out of Delhi 3-4 times every month. He had started travelling in flights and had a collection of around 250 boarding passes in 2.5 years.

Maybach foundation from US had organized a competition and selected 4 people from across the globe, 2 from USA, 1 from Hongkong and the other one was Vicky Roy from India. He won that competition in 2008 and went to New York in 2009, for the first time outside India. He was very excited because in his schooldays, he had never won, but this time he participated and won a trip to New York directly. Later, he got the working Visa and flew to New York. He got an opportunity to capture the reconstruction of WTC and also was given admission in ICP (International Centre of Photography) where he read about documentary and photography. Later, he organized an exhibition in USA on WTC Photos by name 'WTC NOW' and also in India after returning. He won the Gold Award by Salam Baalak trust, through which he was invited to London in 2009 to have lunch with the Prince Edward in Buckingham Palace.

In 2011, he started a Photography Library with his friend, Chandan Gomes in Delhi. Since existing books on photography were expensive, youngsters couldn't afford them. Vicky and his friend approached reputed photographers informing them about library and requested them to donate their books. Currently, the library has 500-600 Books and Catalogues and runs every alternate Sundays. A group by name 'Rang' organizes talks and workshops on photography. In 2012, they organized an exhibition called 'Apna Ghar' which portrayed photos taken from Vicky Roy's experience at shelter home. In that exhibition, the Trustee of Nazar Foundation, came to him and told that they were very impressed with the work and were keen to make it into photography monograph. Work on the book started and they launched it under the name - Home.Street.Home in Delhi Photo Festival organized by Nazar Foundation in September 2013, which portrayed Vicky Roy's life from streets to shelter homes in pictorial form.
Vicky Roy's favourite photographer was Prabhudda Dasgupta. He was inspired by his work and work style. He always thought about what new he could give this young generation and that was his daily inspiration. Vicky Roy dreams of becoming a good photographer. He wants to be counted among the Top Photographers of the world whom the entire world remembers as someone who created history. When asked for a message to all budding photographers he replied, "In my opinion, in life, however big the problem is, we should never stop our work for it, because only our work will help us progress in life and if one delays, s/he will keep going back and it will be more difficult to strike back. So, it's better to forget all those problems and continue with the work!"

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 20th November 2013.

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