Dilli ka Slumdog Millionaire

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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Born in a remote 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 trains), and is now all set to fly to New York City! Some significant things happened between the theft and the flight he would catch.

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 and exhibited his work at the India Habitat Centre. That was 2007.

Luck not by chance
Last year, Ramchander Nath Foundation nominated Vicky for a mentorship programme of 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 or else I won’t be recognised.”

All coz of Delhi
Did Vicky himself imagine that he would come this far? “Every- one 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 gave 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. Later this month, he’ll 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.

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