Rest Of My Family is a Social-Work-Through-Art/Documentary project founded by Akshatha Shetty (Writer/Journalist) and Piyush Goswami (Documentary Photographer/Film Maker) in 2013 and officially registered in 2015. We are both engineers by degree. We graduated from National Institute of Technology, Karnataka. (Piyush — Mechanical Engineer, Akshatha — Electrical and Electronics Engineer). After working in the corporate world for two years, we realized that our passion and interests lay elsewhere. So, in 2010 we quit our jobs and decided to pursue what we were truly interested in — to explore art and philosophy as our medium and understand how they can be used to do socially relevant work; to understand and explore life and society with travel intrinsically placed at the crux of our exploration. Since then we have been traveling as much as our resources allowed us to into rural areas to experience, understand and document lives of different individuals and communities. In 2013, we gave up our home and everything we owned to live a life on the road and dedicate ourselves completely to the cause we believed in — Rest Of My Family. Fundamentally, Rest Of My Family is all about honest human connection and how we stay true to that spirit. It is about understanding and accepting the fact that we are all an integral part of the human family, and coming to terms with the responsibilities that come with being a part of the family. In a nutshell, the project is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled ‘Rest of My Family’.
For the past two to three years, we have been traveling extensively through rural India, understanding, experiencing and documenting social issues and human interest stories. The people we met, despite all the hardships they were going through, treated us like family. We were so overwhelmed with kindness and compassion shown to us by these folks. To us, these people we were writing about were not merely names, faces or yet any other figure in any statistics. They were family. We formed a strong connection with each and every one of them. We wrote about their struggles and issues. And, over time, we realised that while we were satisfied to tell the world their stories, it made no difference to the struggles they faced. And, we couldn’t just move on. We felt incomplete in our journey. So, rather than leaving it to someone else we took it upon ourselves to get them the necessary support they required.
So, the project came into existence as a result of a personal/spiritual journey. We always felt that our work was incomplete. And, we needed to do more. This gave birth to ROMF. Now we travel, live with and document situation with different communities and also undertake development, empowerment, support projects to empower these neglected communities.
Documentary films, Photo Stories, Artistic collaborations are used to raise awareness and start healthy dialogue about these issues in public domain. Our collaborations with regional NGO partners and funding agencies allow us to undertake development projects.
We have dedicated our lives completely to this project and philosophy we believe in. We have complete faith in what we are trying to do. And, we are big believers in the power of humanity and its ability to come together. We are quite certain that as long as our journey is honest and we stay true to our philosophy, we will be able to continue to do what we have been doing for the rest of our lives. We have come so far only through our dedication and sincerity, and support of the rest of our human family. And, we will let that decide our future…
Born in a small town in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, for the first 10 years of my life, I lived in UP and studied in a Hindi medium school. In 1996 I was sent to Bangalore to continue my education in English medium. I joined National Institute of Technology, Surathkal in 2004 to pursue my bachelors degree in Mechanical engineering. In 2008, after my graduation I joined an IT firm and worked there for one year and eighth months. But soon I realised that purpose of my life lay else where, and after much deliberation I concluded that I wanted to dedicate my life to art and philosophy and explore both of them with absolute sincerity and honesty. Over the last few years, I have understood how these two branches of humanity can efficiently come together in form of socially relevant positive action. 2010 was a turning point in my life. Between 2010 and 2012, I dedicated myself to understanding the craft of photography and storytelling through photo essays. Since then, I have had the opportunity to document some meaningful social/cultural/human interest stories. In 2013, I wrapped up my apartment, gave away most of what I owned so I could dedicate all my time to travelling into some of the most remote regions in rural India in order to understand the most effective ways in which I could do socially relevant work with my strengths and tools. As a result of this move, I was able to deeply observe issues plaguing our society today, challenges faced by the common man and the existing gaps in our current social welfare efforts that I could fill with my skills. Over the last few years, I have been fortunate enough to spend most of time in various regions of the country. Through this I have been able to experience, understand and document situations like farmer suicides, Tribal exploitation across the country, Naxalism, Dalit situation, fading tribal and indigenous cultures and other common problems that have shaped and continue to shape India as we see today. My purpose in life now is to put together and connect our increasingly fragmented and shattered world through my social work-through-art efforts.
I am an Electrical and Electronics Engineer by academic qualification. After graduating from National Institute of Technology, Karnataka in 2008, I worked as a Systems Engineer with Infosys Technology Limited for about two years. I worked in technical support assimilating everything that the IT industry had to offer. However, over a period of time, I realised that I did not belong in the corporate world. So, I decided to quit my job and take the plunge to do something that I am really passionate about. I wished to live a life dedicated to exploring writing as a medium of expression. And, that is how my tryst with journalism began. I joined The New Indian Express, Bangalore in 2010. As a Sub-Editor/ Reporter in City Express (feature supplement), I have had the opportunity to cover various lifestyle segments including music, dance and theatre, visual arts and cinema, literature, travel and human interest stories. Undoubtedly, this field has provided me a platform to not only voice my opinions and nurture my own individuality but also connect with people on a deeper level. In 2013, I quit The New Indian Express and along with Piyush decided to travel all across rural India to get a fundamental understanding of issues plaguing the society today. Through my writings, I wish to share the profundity of our journey while documenting and shedding light on the fundamental social problems.