Prologue: Where are the real life Slum Dog Millionaires, the Anil Kapoors of today? Where are the stories that make us believe that dreams are still worth dreaming and hopes are still worth hoping? If you believe they belong to a quondam era or they are only fictions on screen, then you have not heard the story of Sanjay Padiyar, whose life turned into a movie – or where a movie became a real life story.

Exposition: The story starts approximately 30 years back in Gujarat, where a family of Lohar people (traveling blacksmiths) decides to follow a nomadic tradition, like many generations before have done, and move to yet another place. This time their destiny is Delhi and its promise of a better life. But in Delhi, too, fortune does not grow on a tree. The family lives in a little extemporized street side tent alongside a big road in Camp Gitan, Kalkaji. Everyday they are trying to forge a better destiny in the sweating capital that exhales exhaust fumes.

Introduction of the protagonist: On the 17th of Oktober 1987 another traveler reaches Delhi: Sanjay Padiyar is born. He is one of seven children in the Padiyar family. The government school raises them in the morning, and the streets in the afternoon. But like his forefathers, Sanjay will most likely become also a blacksmith supporting his family. Of course Sanjay has a big dream – all children do. But he opines that some dreams are too quixotic to be dreamed aloud.

Fist turning point: Sanjay is fortunate and gets the chance to join the Sri Ram Goburdhun Charitable Trust (SRGCT), a charity-funded non-governmental school, which also organizes open-heart surgeries. The SRGCT gives 800 children a better future (among them also disabled children) and works predominantly with staff from the community. After finishing school, Sanjay, who turned out to be a pulchritudinous and charismatic young man, takes on a job as a teacher in the trust. For four years he will teach children, what has been taught to him. He loves the work, the children, but he still has to take showers on the street side convinced that his dream is too utopian.

Second turning point and confrontation: One day a French filmmaker, Camille Ponsin, comes to SRGCT where he has a serendipitous encounter with Sanjay. Camille Ponsin is instantly overwhelmed by Sanjays energy and appearance and decides to make a documentary film about him. During the shoot Camille asks Sanjay a question, which is too often forgotten to be asked: “What is your real dream?” Without realizing that a part of his dream has already become true, Sanjay replies: “I want to be on the stage of the world. A model, a Bollywoodstar!” 

So Sanjay and Camille travel to Mumbai to get Sanjay a shot as a model. But the path to glory is rocky and hard; success will not come overnight. That is not the only problem: Sanjay has to lie to his parents that he is looking for a different kind of job, since they would certainly not approve of his ventures.

Nevertheless, Sanjay has learned one thing: to believe in his dreams. Maybe this is the main reason that he eventually gets the opportunity to run a show for Narinder Kumar at the Lakhme Fashion Week. The first step on the ladder to success is a walk in the park for Sanjay. The times of street side showers seems to be gone forever. Now more shows and shootings follow. Even his parents loose their doubts as soon as they realize the magnitude of his success.

Yet, in every story there are some obstacles to be overcome. Due to the Common Wealth games, the government forces people to remove their improvised tents and huts from the roads. The dirt has to be cleaned of the streets in order to present the world an unsoiled lie. Indemnifications a promised, but who can trust these promises? Luckily, with Sanjay financial help, the Padiyars have saved enough money to buy a little house. Nonetheless, the Padiyars rely heavily on Sanjay’s income, if they want to sustain their home.

While visiting Paris for the premier of the documentary, Sanjay is so lucky to find a modeling agency. Some dreams can even be dreamed globally: Sanjay makes it into the Paris Fashion Week and gets various assignments for shootings. No more washing on the street side.

Resolution: I meet Sanjay at the audition for the third men’s fashion week. He looks and behaves as if he has always been part of the fashion industry.Not even his broken English can reveal where he comes from, the ordeal he has gone through, and the roads he has traveled. When I ask him what his dreams are, he replies confidently: “Of course I still want to go to Bollywood, but most importantly: I want to be successful. No matter what I do.”  And indeed, Sanjay is successful. He is not only modeling, he has also opened up his own gym and will soon go back to Paris. “I am happier now that I am modeling”, says Sanjay, although he admits that he misses the children he used to teach. Now he scarcely finds time to visit the children, who need to be told an important lesson in life: dreams can be dreamed aloud.

 Sanjay Padiyar


4 thoughts on “Dreamers

  1. Pingback: Discernibly better looking people « Triptychon

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