Looking at the sunset through the lens of my Canon 350D at Adayar beach in Chennai, I couldn’t be any happier. I was finally doing what I really wanted to. Studying cinematography and getting one step closer to my dream. But the truth is I got lucky.
I belong to a middle class family based out of Faridabad. My father was a broker and our only source of bread-and-butter. My parents could afford the education of only one child so they wanted me to pursue further education as they didn't want my sister to go ahead with hers. She was a brilliant student, she scored 93% in her CBSE boards. I knew that she wanted to become an engineer and I was convinced she deserved the education more than me.
So I gave up on my dreams of getting an MBA degree for my beloved sister. I convinced my parents to allow her to study further, they were reluctant but somehow they agreed one day. My mother cried all night begging me to pursue my education.
Instead, I started interning with a local newspaper where I met a reputed cinematographer who introduced me to the world I fell in love with. I remember the day my sister completed her engineering course with distinction, my mother asked me to get sweets for everyone. She was happy that I could pursue my dreams of doing an MBA now that my sister could help my father with the house. But I told her my plans had changed and I wanted to go to Chennai for a cinematography course.
My mother was not happy with my decision but I had made up my mind. With my little savings, I left for Chennai to pursue the course. I even grew a beard and my hair to look my part! They wanted me to have a secure career and I understood where they were coming from.
But working as a photographer, after reporting news in the trickiest of situations had made me stronger. I was open to any challenges in life. I thought to myself — I am just 26 and if I could complete the course soon, I could work as an associate or shoot my own film asap to keep my family at ease.
However, what happened next with my family wasn't a part of the plan.
I have a habit of keeping my phone on silent because it gets disturbing at shoots. My friends and family hate it, but anyway… I got 18 missed calls from home that day. I called maa back instantly but my distant cousin who had just arrived in Delhi few days ago kept answering the phone. Which was odd.
He told me there were policemen at our house. They were there to arrest my parents because apparently my sister had filed a complaint, which said they weren't letting her get married to a guy who hailed from a Dalit family. I was shocked out of my wits. I had moved to Chennai just three weeks ago. Everything was fine until then. Technically I was too lost in my arrangements of moving to Chennai. Also, my sister had started working at an IT company in Gurgaon six months back. She already fell in love with a guy who she wanted to marry, a Dalit boy. If this wasn't funny enough...
Because my parents refused the marriage proposal, my sweet sister mentioned my name in the FIR too. I was charged in a case where I wasn't involved. I had no idea what had happened in the family in the time I was gone, I just knew I had been charged by my own sister for no fault of mine.
My cousin asked me not to call my parents or pick up any of their calls. I was too lost in the moment so I called one of my friends who runs a grocery shop near my place. I asked him to go to my place on the pretext of a home delivery and figure out what was happening. Meanwhile, all my calls to my sister were being rejected. My friend called me later that night and told me that my father had been arrested and my mother, hospitalised. A few days later, Delhi Police arrested me from my college and took me into custody.
Today, my mother is no more. She died of shock. My father is still in jail. I work as a professional wedding photographer. When I am gone for work, I am worried sick for my father.
We are fighting a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Act. I have to attend court hearings and fight my ‘family’ to prove that my family is innocent.
Well, my sister is happily married to her boyfriend and is working as a team leader in a reputed software company. I am implementing my cinematography ideas in the weddings I shoot. I try and shoot them like films. I am earning well during marriage seasons. Well that's the story of my life.