This is the story of Roshni Mallick and her family living on Sudder Street in the center of Kolkata, India. Like life itself this is an ongoing project.
It all began 3 years ago in early 2009 when I made friends with Roshni quite by accident, in her home city. What fascinated me during the first few days I spent with her family was their tenacity for life, their optimism, energy and ability to find joy from the simple, seemingly unimportant little things.
The conditions they live in might be perceived as poverty in the eyes of people from so called developed countries: they stay in a confined, rented room where quite often – mainly during visits from the relatives – 15 people would sleep, squeezed into every inch of the floor at night; they have no access to safe drinking water nor any of the hygienic conditions we are familiar with. It’s not an easy life.
Yet, they are quite privileged by Kolkata standards where one third of the population live in slums. The Mallicks at least have a roof over their heads and Raja, the father, runs a small business which brings in a few rupees to keep them going. When the money is there, the kids attend school. Really, it could be much worse.
By staying with them and photographing the family I am trying to understand, or grasp their mentality, their state of mind, and the intuitive knowledge they seem to possess that doesn’t come from books or education. What this project is truly about is how to fully embrace life despite all the obstacles in their way. Roshni once told me: “I love my Sudder Street. I’m really happy and I wouldn’t like to live elsewhere.”
Is this really such a riddle?