“Hi! Can I talk to you for two minutes?” This is the question that has made hundreds of people share their stories with the team behind Humans of Bombay.
Founded by Karishma Mehta, the Facebook page inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, features stories of people stripped of judgements and stigmas.
Humans of Bombay (HOB) follows a simple routine. They walk through the streets of the city and document the lives of everyday people. The team recently visited Chennai, chronicling the essence of the city through its people.
- Pages like Humans of Hindutva, Non Humans of Bombay, Goats of Bangladesh and Humans of Patriarchy on social media have been taking satirical stands on burning issues.
“We were amazed at the number of direct messages we received on Instagram when we posted that we were in Chennai. We were clueless about so many people from the city following us. We visited Mylapore, Anna Nagar, Besant Nagar, Shenoy Nagar and Nungambakkam,” says Hanisha Mirchandani, a member of the HOB team.
Every person has a story to tell. Run through the HOB Instagram page and and you will be lost in a maze of stories. Stories that make you grin from ear to ear,stories that would give you pangs of guilt, the ones that would make you well up , those that cement your belief in hope and survival.
“Initially, the page was restricted to Mumbai and was solely managed by Karishma. But now, with a team of six permanent employees, HOB has decided to spread its wings to other cities,” says Mirchandani.
The page has an underlying theme of being inclusive — of people from every strata of society, of all ages and sexuality.“We are taking this element of inclusiveness a step forward and including different cities. We have visited Delhi and Pune, and now Chennai. Puducherry and Bengaluru are next on the list. We also plan to reach out to people from other countries,” says Shanaya Tata, another member.
So, what will the pages on people from these cities be called? “It’s a surprise. Our followers will have to wait for it,” says the two-girl team in unison.
Founded in 2014 with the cover photo made on collage maker and the logo made in Microsoft word, HOB has over 10 lakh people reading about the lives of strangers, carried along with their portrait photographs. “Basic questions such as what is your happiest memory? Or how are you today? are enough to make people open up, provided that you are actually listening. Unfortunately, these days people are not,” says Tata.
Tata has been associated with HOB for the past eight months and treasures the memories of every person she talks to. “I have spoken to hundreds of people and yet, I can look at their picture and recall their story,” she adds.
Of all the stories that Tata has encountered, the closest to her is the story of a man who had been a caretaker for his wife who was diagnosed with cancer, and their bond. While the stories on the page touch issues like abuse, homosexuality, and violence, these are garnished with quirky and fun Instagram stories with photos and boomerangs of food, dogs and streets of the city.
“Responses such as ‘this made my day’, ‘I can so relate to this’ keep us going. We have had people writing to us about revived friendships due to a post on our page,” says Mirchandani. Apart from garnering millions of likes and thousands of shares, the page has also been able to crowd fund and help people whom they have featured.“ With so many people following us, we realised that we had the power to reach out. And with that came great responsibility,” Tata said.
After collecting over 25 stories through scheduled interviews and spontaneous interactions, the team is now headed to Puducherry.