RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN meets young photographer Vicky Roy whose "Street Dreams" are a reality today.

Ten-year-old Vicky Roy was happy picking garbage at the New Delhi Railway Station. Not only because the ‘job' fetched him Rs.250 per day but also because roaming from one place to another gave him a sense of freedom. He was no longer under strict instructions of the parents to stay home all the time. They wouldn't let him go out to play with other kids on the street. His school too, was all about corporal punishment at the slightest of provocation and cramming torn books. So he ran away from home, in Purulia, West Bengal, and landed in New Delhi.

Two years later, Vicky moved on, to become a waiter at a dingy hotel in the city's Ajmeri Gate — to earn double the initial amount — Rs.500 per month. The only dream he had was to become a “big man with pots of money” which never let him feel tired while washing dishes all day long and sleeping on a hotel bench. The 12-year-old just got luckier one day. A volunteer from Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) spotted him and took him to its centre at Connaught Place.

”My first day was like a fairy tale. The Trust had lot many boys of my age, wearing neat clothes, eating on time and going to school in a uniform. I was in Class five when I ran away from home. The Trust admitted me to the Government Boys School at Choonamandi in Paharganj in Class 7, everything seemed to fall in place,” recalls Vicky, now a handsome boy of 23 and a photographer by profession with many an achievement to boast of.

Vicky has just returned from New York. With his camera, he has chronicled the rebuilding of the Twin Towers and some parts of New York City now vibrating with life after recuperating from the 9/11 attack. A good part of his pictures has formed a solo photographic show at The American Center, New Delhi.

So, how did Vicky reach New York? Says the boy with twinkling eyes, “I obtained less than 50 per cent in my Class Xth. So, the teachers suggested me to enrol for some training programme of my interest. I had only photography in my mind as I had seen two Indonesian photographers' exhibition at SBT.” SBT put him under a fashion photographer Anay Mann who advised him to do a six months' course to learn basics of photography from Triveni Kala Sangam in 2001.

First exhibition

In 2007, Vicky held his first solo exhibition at the India Habitat Centre, “Street Dreams” (sponsored by British High Commission and Department of International Development and SBT). In “Street Dreams” he relived his childhood days at the railway station and photographed those children who had a dream to follow.

Meanwhile, Ramchander Nath Foundation (RNF) received a letter from U.S.-based Maybach Foundation inviting young underprivileged boys/girls to chronicle the rebuilding of WTC. Anubhav Nath of RNF, who looks after the Maybach chapter in Delhi, had seen Vicky's “Street Dreams”. He nominated him. Maybach chose only four photographers from across the world for the job, including Vicky. Vicky stayed in New York from March to August, 2009. There, he was mentored by well known photographer Joe Woolhead.

Vicky's photographs, all untitled, have construction workers and engineers meticulously working on the site, a few taking a break at the ‘coffee booth' rechristened by youngsters as ‘Kissing Booth'. An aerial view of the unfinished WTC displays the extent of damage. It looks like a paper torn from the middle. All the pictures of construction are in black and white while the celebration of life at the Times Square, Easter Festival at the 65 Street, an aerial view of Columba's Circle and a café at 42 Street are in colour.

Now, Vicky is shooting a “Dandi Yatra” of 16 artists from Delhi to Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat. It has been undertaken by RNF.

Talking about his father, who died in 2008, Vicky said, “I surprised him by inviting him to my ‘Street Dream' exhibition. When he saw my pictures in newspapers, he couldn't believe that I had made it so big. Now, I go home every year.” Earlier, his mother “used to cry when I would leave but now she has sent my younger brother to SBT. He studies in Class XIth.” He now adds with a childlike excitement, “Now I have bought my own cameras — Nikon F-80, and two Canon digital cameras — D-400 and 5D Mark II.”

Vicky now lives in the city's Lado Sarai area with friends and is free — to pursue his dreams.

The exhibition concludes on February 19.