This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Vicky Roy. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Vicky Roy’s Story: From Surviving Life On The Streets To Becoming A Successful Photographer

STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

As told to Abhishek Jha:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s begin by talking about this one.

It is the first photo you’ll see on my website. It shows a child with a bandage on his right cheek, surrounded by darkness, sitting on a broken chair and looking up to a shaft of sunlight with eyes closed. I clicked it for the exhibition ‘Street Dreams’, because I felt it captured the project’s essence – the dreams that float in a child’s head when they close their eyes to the street’s violence.

I don’t know what this child was dreaming about that winter day in 2005. But I do know one thing, because like him, I too was once a child of the streets. I know that these dreams also need an opportunity, the proverbial light in the darkness, to make them  a reality.

Let me explain.

I came to live on the street around the time I turned eleven. My parents were too poor to look after me. They had sent me to my grandparents, who would beat me up and make me work. I couldn’t take it and stole some money to run away from my grandparents’ home in West Bengal.

When I reached New Delhi, I was taken to a shelter. I didn’t like staying there and ran away to the New Delhi railway station. First I sold water, but couldn’t save any money. Then I started working at a dhaaba. Here, I had to work all through my waking hours. I was fortunate to get a second chance too. A Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) volunteer found me and took me to another shelter.

This time, I decided to go to school after I saw a child at the shelter going to one. But I wasn’t good at studies. So when high school was about to get over, my coordinator encouraged me to get trained in a field that would not require me to go through the regular education system.

I told my coordinator that I would like to pursue photography. I had become really interested in the craft after attending a workshop at the shelter. I kept talking to people about becoming a photographer, tried to learn the art, and when it was time to leave the shelter, a photographer agreed to make me his assistant. Soon I met the photographer who would sponsor my first solo show – Street Dreams. My persistence had paid off.

Learning photography wasn’t easy for me though. My first exposure to professional photography was through a British photographer Dixie Benjamin, who had come to document SBT’s activities. He explained everything in English and I could barely make sense of what he was saying.

Benjamin encouraged me to pursue photography despite the language barrier. But in today’s world, not having that basic education can be a difficult hurdle to climb. That’s why I tell children in street situations to study as much as they can. I understand that, after a while, one feels that they are too old for school. But acquiring knowledge is important, for your own future.

Young people who have access to resources can help children in street situations in this process. This is because there are many children in shelter homes who acquire knowledge to pursue some goals, but don’t have all the skill-sets for doing so. After all, I too learnt photography when young people volunteered to talk to us about it at my shelter.

Today perhaps a young person can volunteer at a shelter. This could be as simple as teaching English to those in shelter homes who go to Hindi-medium schools. It will take a few hours in your week, but this can help children on the street in becoming employable in the future.  If somebody is good at some sport, one can also help them get better at it. There are a lot of such options.

It is because of the skills that I acquired that today I am judged like any other professional photographer. When I meet fellow professionals now, they ask me what my next project is going to be, when a new exhibition is happening, where they will get to see the new project. My life on the platforms of New Delhi railway station, being beaten up by goons, the sores I got on my hands from washing plates in blistering cold water – all that is now background.

Professional success has also helped me contribute to society. I am building an organisation right now, for example, to create a library on photography.

All this has been possible, however, because opportunities existed when I needed them. When I dreamt of becoming something, I found mentors guiding me at every step. This is what the photo of the child with the bandage tells me. It is one of my most favourite photographs. If you create opportunities for children in street situations, hopefully there will be many such favourites.

You must be to comment.

More from Vicky Roy

Similar Posts

By Ankita Marwaha

By Merril Diniz

By STC INDIA

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below