Read an excerpt from All You Need is Josh: An anthology of stories of courage and passion in modern India

Supriya Paul
·7-min read

Resilience, ambition, and determination are the qualities that make up the narrative of the book, All You Need is Josh: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Conviction in 21st Century India, written by the founder of Josh Talks, Supriya Paul. As the rather extensive title suggests, the book is an anthology of tales of fortitude and grit of the people who found a way out of the difficult situations and circumstances that governed their lives. From a transgender individual being thrown out of home to a Dalit child bride who became a businesswoman, and a domestic worker who turned author, the stories capture the strength of conviction that propelled each of these individuals to chase their dreams. In a prose that is as simple as it is motivational, the real-life anecdotes bring to young adults and grown-ups alike, the importance of being passionate about one's dreams in order to overcome all obstacles that stand in the way. Paul's book builds on the work she is engaged in as part of Josh Talks, a platform striving towards bringing to the fore stories of great courage and strength from all corners of the country.

The excerpt that follows describes the childhood of actor Vipin Sharma who grew up in a slum in Delhi. It was here that his love for cinema was born which eventually led him to graduate from the National School of Drama and carve a lasting career in Hindi cinema. Sharma would come to be known for his portrayal of a dyslexic child's father in the award-winning film Taare Zameen Par along with roles in critically acclaimed works like Paan Singh Tomar, Hotel Mumbai and most recently, the web series Paatal Lok.

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Vipin Sharma is a film actor known for his work in Taare Zameen Par, Paan Singh Tomar and Gone Kesh.

This story is about a boy named Vipin, who grew up in Delhi. The slum where he lived had no electricity. There was just one pole with a bulb on top which was the only source of light for all the slum dwellers. Vipin would spend hours under that pole during his exams so he could study. He rather enjoyed school; he participated in debates and played cricket. Even though he was a good student, what Vipin truly loved was something very different for a boy who lived in a slum. He loved movies. But, how can someone, whose only access to electricity is the sole bulb on the street, actually have enough opportunities to love movies? Well, a lot of his friend's mothers worked as a domestic help at nearby houses. Occasionally, these people would let the kids inside their house to watch movies on their television sets. Vipin would always tag along. They would all pile up on the floor and watch every movie they could. Sundays they would watch Hindi movies, Saturdays regional movies were screened and Wednesdays they had 'Chitrahaar'. A lot of times, these rich people would have guests over or would just get annoyed and not let the kids into their house to watch the television. This often enraged Vipin as that would mean missing the movie of the day.

One day, they were supposed to watch a movie called Achanak, starring Vinod Khanna. The movie didn't have any songs and that had intrigued Vipin. He was very curious about the movie and was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, no one let him inside their house to watch the film that day. This angered him to no extent and he banged the gate as he stormed out of one of the bungalows. The gate came off its hinges as it broke with the impact. Vipin got scared and ran away from there. He would often get scolded and beaten up at home for watching films but now he had even damaged someone's property. However, at that moment, more than feeling scared for what he'd done, he felt angry. He was furious. He felt hopeless at the hands of fate. 'Why can't I watch this film? Why are we so poor?', he kept asking himself these questions again and again. That day, this young boy promised himself that those people living in their bungalows who threw him out would one day watch him on their TV screens.

One evening, Vipin was roaming through the narrow lanes of the Lajpat Nagar market. Those lanes are always congested and crowded and have a distinct smell of their own. He heard a radio show playing in one of the shops. The show had a series of celebrities coming in to dedicate songs to the soldiers at the border. At that time, Sanjeev Kumar was on air and he said something that stayed with Vipin for a long time. He said, 'If you want to be an actor, you must do theatre.' This was the advice that he needed. A lot of kids used to run away from their homes to Mumbai to become actors, but that wasn't a path Vipin could take. He couldn't hurt his parents like that. And this advice was all he had to follow to pursue his dream whilst staying in Delhi. It felt as if a path opened up in front of him. So, with this guidance, Vipin went on to find theatre groups in Delhi. He joined a Punjabi Theatre group in Mandi House. His job was to sit at the ticket counter, prompt the actors and do other odd jobs.

One Sunday morning, Vipin had to come in early to set up the ticket counter as there were advance bookings on Sundays. The name of the play was rather vulgar. An old sardarji with a really long beard was sitting at another ticket counter right next to his. The sardarji asked him the name of the play. When Vipin told him, the elderly man inquired whether he'd ever want someone from his family to come in and watch this play. His words made the young boy question himself. He realized that he was in the wrong place. This wasn't where his dreams would be fulfilled. He decided to begin his search again. A friend of his was doing a Hindi play nearby; Vipin went to watch that play. After watching the play, Vipin's intent became stronger and he decided to quit college and apply to study at the National School of Drama. 'A strong intent helps build courage and courage goes a long way in helping chase our dreams,' believes Vipin. Not only did Vipin get through the interview, but he also bagged a state scholarship. All it took was the courage to quit college and aim higher.

Around that time, the government was breaking down slums in Delhi to replace them with resettlement colonies. Their house too was demolished and they moved to a new place. That was the first time Vipin and his family had access to electricity. Soon after, he moved to the NSD hostel and was excited to see not just electricity but even the fact that there were geysers in the washrooms! That was a welcome change from the hand pump that he was used to in the slum. This contrast incredibly wowed Vipin. It felt like he was in this new world altogether. After moving to NSD, Vipin's exposure to the world of films grew as well. He had always been a big fan of mainstream cinema, but now, he started to appreciate good stories and wonderful acting. He started looking up to legends like Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. His role models made him look at movies from a different perspective altogether. Cinema wasn't just about entertainment, it was supposed to make one think.

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The above excerpt from Supriya Paul's All You Need is Josh: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Conviction in 21st Century India has been reproduced here with permission from the publisher, Bloomsbury India.

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