Living on a footpath in Mumbai, 17-year-old Asma Shaikh dreamed of owning a house some day. Her dream came true yesterday when she and her family moved into a 1BHK apartment on Mohammed Ali Road, where they will stay for the next three years, the Times of India reported. Moved by Asma’s story, a group of people living abroad raised funds to pay the apartment’s rent till she graduates college.
Asma’s story first gained attention in 2020, when she cleared her Class 10 (SSC) exam while living on a footpath in South Mumbai and studying under streetlights at night. Her father, Salim Shaikh, used to earn a living selling juice on the same footpath, but his business was hit hard by the coronavirus-induced lockdown. He spoke of the pride he felt for his daughter, who went on to join KC College after scoring 40% in SSC examinations.
“I want to be a graduate,” Asma Shaikh told BBC in an interview in July this year. “I want to study so I can buy a house. I want to move my family away from this footpath,” she said.
Today a student of Class 12, Asma spent much of the lockdown attending online classes from the footpath as her college was shut. “It is very tough to attend online classes like this, that’s why I want to move,” she said. “I am forced to study at night under dim lights. At times, the police removes all footpath-dwellers – at those times we are forced to walk around all night long,” she told BBC.
Asma’s story touched thousands of people and offers of help poured in for the determined student. Aai Caretaker, a Mumbai-based NGO, said in a Facebook post Wednesday that Nausheer Ahmed Khan, a petroleum executive from Qatar, decided to sponsor her education by donating ₹ 3,000 every month till she completes her studies.
Moved by Asma’s story and her determination to study further, a group of people abroad also pitched in to help her live in basic comfort until she graduates. The group raised ₹ 1.2 lakh which will be used to pay the rent for the flat, electricity bills and take care of the family’s basic needs.
German Fernandez, from Spain, was one of the key persons who helped Asma’s dream come true. “I was touched on reading about this girl,” he told Times of India. “Education can help transform the quality of a person’s life.”
As for the teenager herself, she said it was a dream come true for her to be living with a roof over her head. “I am so happy,” was all she could manage to say.