Over the past two years I have been visiting the Park Circus Basti, the largest muslim slum in Calcutta, on a daily basis. This slum lies just behind my house, a very affluent, residential neighborhood. Over time, the slum dwellers and the slum association have adopted me as their local photographer and often invite me into their houses and ask me to photograph their families and special occasions.
Most of the slum dwellers are migrants from other states. They live side by side with affluent families; they are often moved out of their shacks to make way for new constructions. Sometimes they are paid, sometimes local thugs take their money away. Almost all the women are the prime bread earners, the men–alcoholics.
It surprised me how open and hospitable they were and ready to invite me into their small one room homes where a grandfather may be sleeping on the bed, a child studying on the floor, a woman cooking by the door. Everything they own from clothes to pots and pans are displayed in open shelves. Every aspect of their lives completely visible to me.
One Saturday morning, I happened upon a group of ladies doing their washing. I asked if I could photograph them. They agreed. A few days later, I returned, to give them prints. They were thrilled and invited me into their homes to take more photographs- photographs of their children, visiting siblings, cousins, friends; photographs of them cooking and playing and getting ready for New Years Eve. I took back more prints. They requested more shoots. And so it went on.
I am the didi who constantly takes their photographs and returns with prints in two days. I visit them almost every day. I call them my Saturday Morning Laundry Ladies.