No matter who we are, which race, religion, society status we belong to – we all have dreams, don’t we? But do we talk about them, may be, may be not. When Suvarna was asked what is her dream, she blushed and laughed uncontrollably. “I have everything already, and all I want is wellness for my family. I hope they get good food, and stay together always.”
Suvarna who earns her living as a house and office helper in Pune was the first feature of an Instagram project #TellMeYourDream2015. The ambitious 365 day project is the initiative of Siddhartha Joshi (Sid) – a photographer, travel blogger and a highly motivated industrial designer extremely interested in working on healthcare products.
Along with an active travel blog and a Facebook page for the same, he also has a very popular Instagram community with more than 7.5K followers.
I first came across his Instagram account after I saw the smiling face of Raja Yadav and read his heart touching dream. “My dream is to build a house for myself and my mother in our village. My father was a village goon and died in an accident right after I was born, and since then my mother has been living with my maternal grandmother. However after my grandmother dies, my uncles will not let us stay there and we will have to move out. So I need a house as soon as possible.”
Sid wasn’t only taking amazing pictures but also adding an emotional angle by sharing their dreams. “Dreams are always positive, if you ask anyone it always brings a divine smile on their face which I was capturing,” Sid shared with Lighthouse Insights while sipping his Americano on a Saturday afternoon.
After I found out Sid has been stationed in Pune for the last two years, I decided to say hello and understand the thought process behind this amazing project. “I have been very interested in portraits, taking pictures of strangers and love capturing smiles.” He added that taking pictures of strangers wasn’t easy so he started talking to his subject and made them comfortable before he could click them. “I took pride that I was not taking pictures but I was also talking to people. I used to think that I am the real cool guy.”
Soon he realized that what he was doing was pretty shallow since he was doing the conversation bit just for getting the picture. “Picture was the focus and not the people. When this realization happened, I really didn’t like it since I was not doing justice to what I was doing.”
Over a period of time, it was clear to Sid that people attracted him more than pictures, which were just a reminiscence. Looking back at the older posts that Sid has shared they are obviously interesting with just a small note. “People used to ask me, is there anything more to this picture.”
#TellMeYourDream2015 project started this year but the habit of having conversation with strangers started working from last year. He wanted to break the barrier and get more comfortable in asking personal questions to complete strangers about their dreams. “I wanted to do this and did it by asking dreams since they are always positive. This led to the project #TellMeYourDream2015 on Instragram since I think it is the best medium to share stories and not just photographs.”
Instagram has worked better for Sid; he thinks it gives a personal touch and discovery is very easy focused with interests. The other reason the project, which is just a month old, has received a great response is because it is open for everyone. “Lots of people are showing interest. People from places like Pakistan and UK have come up and said that they want to add stories from their land to the project.” On Sunday Sid shares dreams submitted by others on his wall like he did recently in the below post.
The project has been a revelation for Sid himself as he has known his friends better after they joined in for #TellMeYourDream2015. “I recently met a friend and everything he spoke to me in the interview of 30 minutes was new. This really helps to connect with the subject. I think this is more energetic than what I was doing earlier by just taking pictures. Now the story has become the important thing than the picture.”
Further on every month, Sid plans to send all the portrait pictures to the respective person with their short story at the back. “I also want to give back to them as they are giving me a very important element of their life. Dreams are very personal so I am thankful to them for opening up; its my way of saying thanks.”
Besides this he also wants to do some analysis on the demographic data that he keeps collecting such as age, education, etc while talking to his subject. While he candidly says that he isn’t a psychologist or an expert in this field, he wants to do it as a qualitative design research project and see if he can deduce something. “Every quarter I want to do this and see if I can make any sense of the data.”
For now Sid told me that it is a 365 day project where he talks to a person every single day. When he started he had very few questions to talk about but in the last two weeks the interaction has become more structured. “I now have a whole bunch of questions, even though I just summarize the discussion in four to five lines in Instagram, I tend to have conversations going more than thirty minutes depending on how comfortable the person is to open up.”
Conversations start disarmingly. “I generally first talk about myself, why I am talking and what I will do with this conversation. So I basically tell them everything so that the person is comfortable for a conversation.” This way of opening up has worked for the project as till date no one has said no to a conversation.
Going further Sid wants to bring stories from across all societies and different places. He doesn’t want poor people stories to come up or just from India. “Tomorrow if I travel to Africa, I want to get their stories too. It isn’t a 365 day project only in Pune it is for where ever I am.”
Like a week ago before he was in Chattisgarh and he had the opportunity to share some dreams of people living there. “I don’t know how to answer this question, no one has asked me this before. I think my dream is to provide well for my family, especially my kids, and live harmoniously with the community, ” shared Ravi Patel whom Sid had met in Raipur, Chattisgarh while he was on a early morning hunt for samosas.
“People relate to real stories. When people really open up and talk from their hearts those stories go really deep and become an instant conversation point on my Instragram page,” informed Sid while finishing his coffee.
Before bidding him good bye with gratitude, I asked him, “what is your dream? He wasn’t expecting that but he shared his utopian dream with me. “My dream is to see a borderless world where one could travel across the globe without restrictions and travel barriers. I believe that travel will actually help us come closer to others in the world, breaking all the barriers in our hearts and also help us accept everyone else just the way they are.”
The guy who considers himself to be from Himalayas, was born in a small village in northern Bihar. I remember him telling me that he will be sharing his dream too – on his birthday, and which he did today.
So what’s your dream? Thinking about it gives a special kind of feeling, like I felt on my way back home after meeting Sid who hopes to travel all his life.