“When I was 3, my parents left me with my grandfather, but he’d often beat me up. I used to hear about people leaving the village for a better life in the city. So one day when I was 11, I stole money from my grandad and took a train to Delhi. But when I came here, I had to rag pick, sell water in trains and sleep in open grounds -- so that I wouldn’t starve to death. I even worked at a dhaba as a dishwasher, they would make me work non-stop and the only thing I could eat was other people’s leftovers. I was in such unhygienic conditions, that I’d often get infections. Once, I went to a doctor to get treated. Looking at my state, the doctor told me about an NGO called Salaam Balak, that helped rehabilitate abandoned kids. There life got better. I’d get 3 meals a day, clothes to wear and a roof over my head. They even put me in school. Around that time, a British photographer visited us, and showed us all the ropes of the trade, and I was so fascinated by his work. Living on the streets showed me shades of humanity that I’d never seen before, and I wanted to show it in photos just like he did. So after I turned 18, the NGO gave me a camera worth Rs. 499 and helped me get an internship with a local photographer. He was the one who helped me curate my first exhibition, ‘Street Dreams’, photographs depicting my life on the street. And that put me on the map! People started buying my photos, and I got to travel the world! I was invited to New York, London, South Africa, and even San Francisco! I’d never even imagined that I’d be able to change my destiny, to this extent. Today I’m getting featured on Forbes 30 under 30, being felicitated next to globally acclaimed people, and even coming on TV. Recently someone from my village recognised me, and I was flooded with calls! I’ve realised that not all of us are born with the stars shining in our favour, or have to experience the dirtiest dumps to be able to rise to the top. I’ve come from nowhere, and with nothing but today I’m closer to the dream than I’d ever been. So the only thing you really need to make it to the top, is the ability to hope for sunshine, after the storm.”