Buku Sarkar is a photographer and writer who lives in Calcutta and New York. Her fiction has been published in n+1, her nonfiction in Live Mint, and her photographic work has appeared in The New York Times, Documentum, and F-Stop. (September 2020)

NYR DAILY

Sharmila, the Chaiwalla, and Me

When I first moved to America, I had been aware of the Basti, or slum, as it’s known in English, just behind my parents’ home. No more than a five-minute walk. But I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere near. Not even to pass through in a car. Now, I would venture into this no-mans-land that my family all knew of but never discussed. I started taking pictures along these walks—of broken windows and dilapidated houses and barber shops. Soon, the local boys would run up to me, parents holding their little ones in their arms, a shopkeeper hugging his one precious belonging—a broken blender—“Didi, Didi,” Sister, Sister, “One photo, please.”