I always carry a pepper spray in my bag,” giggles 24-year-old Munira Chendvankar, a supervising producer for a production house who goes about clicking pictures of strangers and documenting an interesting facet about their lives. A month ago, she began cataloguing this project on Facebook with the aim to capture happy stories.
“If someone gives you their time and talks to you attentively on any given day, it feels like a relaxed Sunday moment, and so I named the project Sunday Strangers (SS) — The Bombay Chapter,” says Chendvankar.
We are convinced that this energetic and talkative Borivli resident is high on life, as she orders a double chocolate truffle pastry for breakfast when we meet her at a coffee shop in Andheri.
We begin at the very beginning. The first stranger Chendvankar documented was a migrant auto driver. “He came to Bombay around 1998 because he wanted to travel. The best option he felt was to become a rickshaw driver so that he could roam the city on passengers’ money,” laughs Chendvankar, who also put up a photo exhibition at Kala Ghoda titled Bombay Dreams Mumbai Reality. “I spoke to strangers about the dreams they wanted to fulfill in Bombay.
My main purpose for SS is to know more about strangers,” says Chendvankar, who finds it fascinating to link two separate stories by asking strangers common questions.
Strangers turn friends
One encounter with Sunday Stranger #5 resulted in a deep friendship between Chendvankar and the 70-year-old subject, Ashwin Sanghvi. “When I interviewed him on the road and asked him to share a little about himself, uncle spoke about how he missed his late wife and his love for painting. Today, we are friends. Two days after the Shakti Mill rape incident, he called to check on me, as I keep wandering about the city with my camera. So many of the Sunday Strangers have kept in touch with me and have even ended up becoming good friends,” smiles Chendvankar, who studied Bachelor of Mass Media (BMM) in KC College and completed a distance MBA from Welingkar College.
Not shying from rejections and a self-proclaimed crusader, Chendvankar approaches her subjects with an open mind. In a city like Mumbai, people are always in a rush. “I make it a point to ask them whether they can spare five minutes to talk. While some claim to be busy, some people don’t like to be photographed,” she says, adding, “One thing that flows spontaneously are the questions. I never plan what I am going to ask. I allow my instinct to feel the vibe of the person and strike a conversation accordingly.”
Chendvankar, whose page has already got 331 likes, is surprised when we mention similar projects such as Humans of New York that catalogues the city’s inhabitants through pictures and text.
Firm, yet affable
“I don’t hesitate snapping or using a stern tone while dealing with miscreants,” she informs, adding, “I have met such wonderful people through Sunday Strangers and I want to spread the philosophy that not all people are bad. Due to the recent rape incidents, people have lost faith in humanity, and which doesn’t feel good. Sunday Strangers is all about happy stories, that gets people emotional,” says Chendvankar, who recently captured Mohammed Ali Road in her camera.
“This area is one place where so many strangers come together, and the binding factor is food. Isn’t it a moving thought that the food we eat has the touch of so many strangers, and we are brought closer as a community,” says Chendvankar.
“I love listening to people and knowing what drives them as a person, and as a child I was quite a blabber. And I truly believe in serendipity,” she grins.
Check out the project on to www.facebook.com/sundaystrangers?ref=ts&fref=ts