Humans of Bombay

Catalogs the beat of humanity, one story at a time. Collabs: CSR & Stories:

“As a kid I refused to wear boy’s clothes. I’d wear my mum’s dupattas & hold drag performances for family. But when I did the same thing in school I was ridiculed. I couldn’t understand why they’d laugh when this made me so happy. I grew up in an Indian community in Texas–being different wasn't an option. When I spoke about becoming a designer or dancer I was told those were only for girls. At 17, I came out as gay. My parents & friends were very accepting. My mom asked me to give time to read up so she could get me better & my dad joked that I was a romantic like him & would get my heart broken easily. So that’s who I thought I was. I finally had an answer. Then why did I still feel uncomfortable? I didn’t want to be a boy, but being a girl didn’t feel right either. I loved dressing the way I felt. Not feminine or masculine, but in a way that felt more ‘me’. Things changed when I met other LGBT people. I remember the first time I tried on high heels. It felt right & powerful. I performed a lot & started dressing the way I did on stage, everyday. When I shared that with my friends, someone said I could be non binary & I said, ‘You can do that?’ I finally knew–it was never about sexuality, it was about gender. It’s assumed that the struggle ends when you find out who you are, but coming out is just the start. I was finally at peace with my identity, but the world wasn’t. My clothing was loud & colorful. I was constantly harassed for it. Being non binary isn’t defined & can’t fit in a box–it scares people. They spit on me & told me to die. Once, a man punched me & said, ‘Being gay is fine but this is too much.’ Nobody stopped him. But I’ve also found love & support. A trans woman took me to a gym, gave me a pair of pink gloves & taught me how to box. Another woman reached out online & thanked me because my poetry helped her understand her kids. I’ve learnt to channel all hate into my art. I’d always written poetry to express my pain & now I use it to forgive those who hurt me. Because my identity celebrates freedom–they are the ones who are weak & I know that their hate won’t change me, but maybe my love can change them.”
“We’re married but one of my best memories with her is on my birthday, right after we started dating. She isn’t really the expressive type. Back then, I often complained that she hardly ever spoke about her feelings. But that day, we met and she gifted me my favorite pastry, a bouquet of roses and a note that she asked me to read after I got home. In it, she had expressed her feelings for me – she said I meant a lot to her. The way she poured her heart out to me confirmed what I felt all along – she was the one for me. It was so overwhelming, I couldn’t contain my feelings. I immediately called her up, and told her that I wanted to spend my entire life with her. She said yes! It was the best gift ever!” #HoBLoveStories
“I knew I wanted to be an actor since the age of 10. There was a girl I had a crush on in the 5th grade, I joined a theatre group to spend time with her. It worked for a while, but she started dating a senior, while I had a love affair with acting. My parents were lovers of art & supported me. Their only condition was that I should study the craft properly. So, after college, I went to a university in Canada to study acting. There, I joined a theatre group. I even worked part time as a translator for a company that held French plays to sustain myself. I’d get paid $10 an hour for it. With the dream alive, I kept going to LA for auditions. I wanted to test my destiny. But they wanted me to speak in a different accent. I wasn’t being my true self–something I needed to do. And my savings were running out. So I moved back home… hoping things would work out. I met a method actor, Rob Reece in Bombay, who taught me everything I know. Soon, I started working as a casting agent or an art direction assistant… anything to be around the sets. I’d also go for auditions daily. I must’ve received 3000 rejections before I got a role in Titli! But even then, there were things I still haven’t forgotten–a big movie star met me at a studio. I respected him so much, so I went up to him… & said they were considering me for the main role. He looked me up and down & said, ‘Restaraunt westaraunt khol do.’ This was my first heartbreak. But I realised I didn’t need validation, I just needed to focus. I needed to work on my acting no matter what. So I continued to learn–after each rejection I reflected on how I could be better. After Titli released, I got more projects & put in my all–everything I knew & learned. I still haven’t made it–but I’m going to keep moving forward. To keep getting rejected & keep learning from each heartbreak. It’s a part of this life that I chose for myself. So I’ll ride each wave of ups and downs happily until I reach the shore.” — Humans of Bombay in association with Amazon Prime Video India brings to you the real stories of people which showcases the good, the bad and the ugly – all that is a part of the chaos of life, through their new show #MadeInHeaven
“I work as a spot boy in the film industry. It all started when I came from UP and got a job with a caterer. The company used to organise meals for the film crew so I spent a lot of time on set. That's how I got recommended for the job of a spot boy! And I was good at it! In fact, I was working for the director Prakash Mehra once who was really impressed with me. He said that actors start saying their dialogues immediately whenever he says ‘action’, and the same way if he asks for something I get it – ‘phat kar ke’! So he named me ‘Action’. And it stuck! Everyone started calling me ‘Action’. It’s been 40 years since, and everyone in the industry still knows me by the same name. There’s only one difference – now that I'm in charge, they call me ‘Action Dada’!”
“I met him through a mutual friend. We got along well & started hanging out. Over 3 months, we fell in love—& he proposed! I said yes—I was in love. I asked him to get our horoscopes matched since his family believes in it. He assured me it was done. So we had a roka ceremony in Jaipur. My family paid for the whole thing—the flights & the stay, but I didn’t think much about it. Things changed after that. He wouldn’t talk as much or go on dates. One day, his father called it off! He said our horoscopes didn’t match. My fiancé admitted he had lied. I just wanted to save our relationship. So we met an astrologer and fixed it. But things got worse. When they gave me a low budget for my lehenga, I offered to buy it myself. His father was unhappy about that. He hinted that I’d have to give my salary to them post marriage. Then they told me to pay my share for the banquet hall—in black! When I didn’t have cash, I was told to withdraw 10,000 every day. My fiancé blamed his parents, he said I had to understand. He sweet talked me into believing him. A few days later, he went to Kerala for his bachelor’s. For 3 days he didn’t call. He refused to talk about the trip. Finally he confessed that he had gone to Bangalore to meet his ex—to ‘cut off ties’ with her. I wanted to call it off, but he said he cared about me. The last straw came a month before our wedding. We had an argument about our honeymoon & his father got involved! After that my fiancé stopped talking to me. So I reached out to his uncle. He told me that my fiancé had been engaged before & his father had done the same thing. He advised me to not marry him! It felt like the ground had slipped from under me, but I knew what I had to do. The marriage was cancelled. I can’t believe it took so long—there were so many red flags. But that’s what happens when you fall in love. You can’t see beyond their promises—love really is blind. But my friends & family were my rock. They helped me move on. Today I can say that I’ve put this incident behind me. Whatever maybe their reasons, they taught me the biggest lesson—to know my worth & own it! Because what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger.”
“We met each other at our hostel in Dehradun. We did everything together – eating, sleeping, pulling pranks, food fights, breaking into the tuck shop to steal chips and ice cream! You could say we were the naughtiest of our batch, maybe even the whole hostel! We were a pain in the neck for the warden. Every morning we’d lock ourselves in our cupboards to avoid PT, and she literally had to drag each one of us out! In fact, once in 10th grade, we were really bored in class, and weren’t in the mood to study. So we went to the washroom, broke the fire alarm glass and pressed the button. Within seconds, everybody in the entire school rushed to the field! Our antics got us blacklisted 5 times! We got into trouble so often, we were almost permanently in detention. But it was all worth it – we’ve been stuck like glue since then. It’s been 15 crazy years and we wouldn't trade it for anything in the world! We ended up finding our tribe!”
“Like most young girls, I dreamt of finding ‘Mr. Right’. I grew up watching my brother & his girlfriend’s beautiful relationship. It was proof that I could find true love. But I came from a traditional Marwari community, whose ideas about marriage were different. The boy & girl are matched based on how much dowry the girl’s family can afford. It isn’t openly called ‘dowry’, but is termed as the girl’s ‘budget’. Every girl has one & the boy’s family tries to get the highest one. The same happened to me. I wasn’t allowed to study BMM because MBA or CA would ‘look better’ on my biodata. When I turned 21, my biodata was circulated. I wasn’t ready for marriage, but had no choice. My relatives said my low budget was a ‘disadvantage’. My dad being no more & my mom’s Vitiligo were ‘minus points’ too. It didn’t matter that I started my own crafting business and was financially independent. Instead, I was looked down on. In fact, when I was meeting prospective men, one of them said I would’ve to stop working post marriage. I even went for the Parichay Sammelan–a matchmaking event. I had to announce my name, height, complexion, education & after all that, we had to discuss ‘my budget’–it was the most humiliating moment of my life. Still, money wasn’t the only demand. The boy’s family asks for a big wedding & ‘gifts’. A guy that I liked came from a higher budget group. When we reached out to him, his dad said his son would get married at Grand Hyatt. If we could afford it, it would move forward. I’ve seen my cousin sisters get married like this. Their budget chose their husbands. Most of them became housewives, while those who worked had to give their paycheck to their in-laws. I’m at a loss. I want to expand my business & take care of my mother. I’m willing to compromise, but I don’t want to marry someone I don’t like. I’m waiting for the day when nobody is represented by a budget. When the world finally sees that we are more than just a number.” --- HoB with Amazon Prime Video India brings to you real stories of people which showcases the good, the bad & the ugly–all that is a part of the chaos of life, through their new show #MadeInHeaven .
“I’m a driver. I’ve had this job for 2 years now. I don’t have any dreams to become a big man. I don’t want to get into business or anything. It doesn’t matter how much money I have. All I want is to live my life peacefully and enjoy the little things. Like right now – I had some time off so I decided to have some tea, but there were no stalls nearby. So I asked around and someone told me there was a guy with a tea stall but he had left a little while ago. So I started running in that direction and finally caught up with him! I got my cup of chai. And now I’m here, relaxing and enjoying my break. I must have run for almost three hundred metres but it was worth it – the small pleasures of life are always worth it!”
“I grew up in a small town in UP. I come from a family of farm workers; we were 11 people–my parents & my 9 siblings. I was the oldest, so it fell upon me to take care of them. I made them follow a time table & do their homework. If they were mischievous I’d shout at them–of course, I was the naughtiest! In fact during Diwali, my friends & I would steal diyas! Our family would watch Ram Leela together–my first encounter with acting. My friend played Ram & seeing him left me starstruck! I imagined playing the role myself! After college, I worked in Baroda. There, I watched a play for the first time & the thought of being an actor became a dream. So I went where everybody with a dream of acting goes–Bombay. My parents, who were uneducated, supported me. They said I could do anything as long as I worked hard. My first impression of Bombay was how fast it was. It took me a month to get used to the pace of life–I thought I’d never be able to match up! But slowly I joined the rat race. I wasn’t well off. I’d borrow money from friends, saying I’d return it in 2 days. Two days later, I’d borrow money from someone else and pay the first person back. I lived in a flat with 4 people–it was about survival. But my family had my back. They told me to not give up! My mom didn’t have a mobile, so she’d send me letters & they got me through some really tough times. She’d tell me not to worry & remind me that I was only human & doing my best. So that’s what I did. I did odd jobs–as a watchman, or a coriander seller. I went for a 100 auditions & took every role I got, no matter how small. It took 12 years to get a ‘breakthrough’. It wasn’t easy–the struggle wasn’t beautiful, it was just a struggle. But I did it. I went from a tiny role in Munnabhai to winning a Filmfare for Lunchbox. I went from being unrecognised in Sarfarosh to being known as Ganesh Gaitonde across the nation. I went from being a watchman to becoming the ‘watch me’ man & I’m nowhere near being done, so keep watching–I’m here to stay!” ---- HoB with the makers of #PhotographMovie bring to you the story of Nawazuddin Siddiqui; an ordinary man with an extraordinary journey.
“The four of us are really good friends and have come here for the evening Namaz. He’s a Hindu, but he still comes with us everyday, after work, so that we can spend some time together. We pray for him and he prays for us – he even knows certain parts of the Quran by heart, and we’re learning the Gayatri Mantra from him! There’s just one person up there, and He listens to all, no matter where you’re from. If the whole world understands that, then wouldn’t it just be heaven on earth?”
“5 years ago, my mother passed away because her health wasn’t keeping up. We were devastated… my older brothers & I wanted our dad to be happy no matter what, so we encouraged him to get married again. That’s how our mom & Iranna came into our lives. He was the happiness we all deserved. Everything was going well, my oldest brother was a newspaper delivery boy, my dad drove a rickshaw–I was studying commerce & hoping to be a CS & help my family. But our world turned upside down last year. Iranna complained of stomach aches, & we ignored it at first. We thought he was making excuses so he could skip school. But when it got really serious–we took him to the doctor, & after a few check ups, we learnt that he has liver cancer! He’s only 4 years old. No one knew what to do. The doctors said to admit him immediately & he started chemo therapy soon after. He had to leave school because of the hospital rounds. My dad even had to stop driving his rickshaw because he had to bring Iranna to the hospital every day. We were all stressed because we didn’t know where we would get that sort of money. My father used his savings, my step-mother sold her jewellery & we asked our family & friends to help us as much as they could. But we can’t go on for much longer. My brother is sick, & my father doesn’t have any more savings to support his treatment. We don’t know what to do. He lives at home with us, he can’t eat whatever he wants & he can’t play because of the pipe in his arm. But we can’t tell him the seriousness of the situation. We can’t watch him lose his smile. He used to love eating chocolates–& I’ve promised him, when he gets better, I will buy him a bunch of chocolates… but I can’t stand losing him. He’s our little brother–he came into our lives & stole our hearts, & all we want is to see him get better.” —- Iranna is only 4 years old & he is suffering from Liver Cancer. His family has used up all their savings & cannot keep funding his treatment anymore. If he doesn’t keep getting his chemotherapy, he will lose his life. Let’s come together & help save this little boy’s life. Please consider donating & tag someone who can donate through the link in bio.
“I leave my home at 7 AM every day, take a ferry to work and then spend all day in the heat, selling these flowers to take care of my family of 8. It’s hard work, but everytime I feel like life is hard, I think of both my children being successful businessmen someday and all the exhaustion is worth it...and I just break into a big smile and keep moving along.”
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