From scourge poverty to financial stability

At the age of 19, Firoz has been through more than other teenagers could imagine.

“My life is very different from the other students in my college,” said Asha student, Firoz while working at his small roadside barbershop. Firoz along with his parents and two elder siblings resides under a makeshift roof at Asha’s Sonia Gandhi Slum Community. His father who hails from Muradabad, UP, due to extreme poverty migrated to Asha slum, in 2007. He started selling household plastic goods on a bicycle to make the ends meet but could hardly fetch any amount.

Firoz at his home in Sonia Gandhi slum colony
Firoz at his home in Sonia Gandhi slum colony

At an early age, Firoz understood the condition of his home. Like most children from the slums, Firoz started earning at a very young age. He worked at a denting and painting workshop to contribute towards the family income. When Firoz was in 7th grade, he started learning the work of hairdresser and started practicing in a shop nearby. When the good words spread about his work, Firoz and his older brother were inspired to open a small roadside barbershop. They mounted two chairs along with a mirror under an open sky; and started earning satisfactory.

Firoz working at hair saloon
Firoz working at his barbershop

In spite of all odds, Firoz wanted to study further but his father refused. Nevertheless, with his excellent marks in his school-leaving exam, he was supported by Asha to secure a seat in the renowned Motilal College of Delhi University. Presently Firoz is in the second year of his graduation studies in English major. He works at his barbershop in the morning and attends college in the evening. “Since people around me know that I attend college in the evening they take appointments before their visit” beamed Firoz.

Firoz working at F1F9 during the summer Internship last year
Firoz working at F1F9 during the summer Internship last year

“No one in my class knows about my work. While they enjoy their college days, I work hard in the barbershop, attend college, cook at home and do household chores,” said Firoz. “I don’t have any good childhood memory, but I want to share an incidence. When I was just 12 years old, I worked with wedding bandsman (drummer in an Indian wedding procession) to earn a meagre amount of Rs 30 per day. I used to return home very late but still attended school the next day. Never in my life, I dreamt that I would do Internship at the British High Commission in Delhi and UK based financial modelling company F1F9. The greatest moment of my life was, when I was given an internship certificate by the British High Commissioner, Sir Dominic” added Firoz.

British High Commissioner Sir Dominic with Firoz with other Asha students
British High Commissioner Sir Dominic with Firoz and other Asha students

With a dream to write a book and sell it around the world, he thinks “that even though we grow up in a slum, we can be educated, speak English and make a mark for ourselves.”