Born and brought-up on the footpaths of Mumbai, Salman Sayyed (25) was a ragpicker during his childhood. As he grew older, he started selling secondhand books on streets, while learning English from the books he sold. His street-smartness and determination to study paid off, as he not only finished his schooling with flying colours, but also made it to Houston, Texas; where he is now pursuing a business course.
This is Salman Syyed. He was born and lived on the footpaths of Mumbai. Sold books at Haji Ali signal. I met him and was so moved by his depth and knowledge, made a film on him and gifted him a Kindle. Today Salman is studying in Houston, Texas. Am choking up as I type this! ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/uFf16Blkct
— Ram Subramanian (@VORdotcom) December 15, 2017
Salman grew up in the streets of Mumbai. While his father did odd jobs in the city, his mother was a ragpicker. Although he wanted to study, he had to drop out of the school after finishing Class II due to his family's financial condition. Salman, following the footsteps of his mother, spent most of his childhood collecting garbage strewn across the streets of the city, and selling them for a penury income.
After a few years, he started selling secondhand books at Mumbai's Haji Ali signal. Over the next few years, he not only developed a keen interest in books but also started reading them. This was around the time when Caroline, a teacher at the NGO Akanksha Foundation, took notice of him and persuaded him to return to school. As a result, Salman went back to school and resumed his studies at the age of 12, while continuing to sell books in the evenings.
With some guidance from Caroline and his customers, Salman developed a keen interest in reading. "I would ask customers to explain words in the books I sold. My father had taught me basic alphabets," he told The Indian Express. Salman attempted Class X board exams in 2011, but failed. The following year, he attempted the exams again with greater determination and passed.
Having realised the importance of education, he studied very hard, scoring 91 percent in his Class XI. He scored 81 percent in his Class XII boards, and pursued a degree in Sociology at the reputed KC college in Mumbai. To support his studies, he worked as a tour guide in the city during his free time. Ram Subramanian, who runs Voice of Ram, a collective of social and political commentators and activists, made a video on Salman's life, which was viewed by many. Ram told DNA,
"We spent some time together and I was amazed at how he was able to perceive individuals. His observation skills are quite brilliant."
Salman came across a business course offered by Houston's Community College, which he applied for, and cleared. He is currently in the US pursuing his studies, and continues to be an inspiration for many.