From not being able to afford a computer to working at one of the world's leading tech companies, from growing up in a slum to living in a spacious Mumbai apartment - Shaheena Attarwala has come out stronger from all the challenges life threw at her. Ms Attarwala, who is a Design Leader at Microsoft, spoke about her experience of growing up in a slum and how that shaped her life in a Twitter thread going viral online.
The Microsoft employee was taken back in time after spotting her old home in a Netflix series. "The Netflix series 'Bad Boy Billionaires: India" captures a birds-eye view of the slum in Bombay I grew up before moving out alone in 2015 to build my life. One of the homes you see in the photos is ours," she wrote on Twitter.
The @netflix series "Bad Boy Billionaires - India" Captures a birds-eye view of the slum in Bombay I grew up before moving out alone in 2015 to build my life.— Shaheena Attarwala شاہینہ (@RuthlessUx) January 26, 2022
One of the homes you see in the photos is ours. You also see better public toilets which were not like this before. pic.twitter.com/fODoTEolvS
Ms Attarwala told NDTV that she lived in the Darga Galli slum close to Bandra railway station. Her father was a hawker of essential oils who moved from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai. "Life in the slum was hard and exposed me to severest living conditions, gender bias, and sexual harassment but it also fueled my curiosity to learn and to design a different life for myself," she said.
"By the age of 15, I had observed many women around me were helpless, dependent, abused, and going through life without having the freedom to make their own choices or to be who they wanted to be.
"I did not want to accept the default fate that awaited me," she told NDTV.
Life in the slum was hard, it exposed me to severest living conditions, gender bias, & sexual harassment but it also fueled my curiosity to learn & to design a different life for myself. pic.twitter.com/RjLf4TfJzl— Shaheena Attarwala شاہینہ (@RuthlessUx) January 26, 2022
The first time Ms Attarwala saw a computer in school, she gravitated towards it. "I believed that computers could be a great leveller, that anyone who was sitting in front of it would have opportunities," she said.
However, poor grades meant that she was assigned to do needlework instead of attending computer classes. That did not deter her. Despite the rejection, she dreamed of building a career in technology.
Shaheena Attarwala forced her father to borrow money so she could enroll in a local computer class. To scrape together the cash she needed to get her own computer, she skipped lunches and started walking back home.
After that, there was no looking back for the determined schoolgirl.
"I quit programming and chose to pursue a career in design because the design made me believe that possibilities exist and things can change and technology is that tool to the change," said Ms Attarwala.
Last year, after years of hard work, Ms Attarwala and her family moved to an apartment with sunlight, ventilation and greenery. After a childhood of living in a slum and skipping meals, the move was a big step and a testament to her hard work.
"From my father being a hawker and sleeping on roads to having a life we could barely dream of. Luck, hard work and picking battles that matter," she wrote on Twitter.
In 2021 my family moved to an apartment where we can see the sky from home, good sunlight & ventilation. Surrounded by birds & Greenery. From my father being a hawker & sleeping on roads to having a life, we could barely dream of. Luck, Hardwork & picking battles that matter???? pic.twitter.com/J2Ws2i4ffA— Shaheena Attarwala شاہینہ (@RuthlessUx) January 26, 2022
Today, Ms Attarwala has some advice for young girls who are in the same position she once was. "Do whatever it takes to acquire education, skills, and careers, this is what's going to be a huge game-changer for young girls," she says.
Her Twitter thread has gone viral with nearly 4,000 'likes' and hundreds of comments.
How inspirational! #Onwards— Raheel Khursheed (@Raheelk) January 26, 2022
Truly awesome and inspirational. More power to you ????— I am Y (@zha47242972) January 27, 2022
Very wholesome Shaheena. So happy to read this. ????— Rajat Dutta (@RajatDutta13) January 26, 2022
Ms Attarwala also added a special note of gratitude for her father, who saved and sacrificed for decades to give his family a better life. "He has no formal education, but his art of perfumes changed everything," she said. "After decades of living in the slums, his patience and sacrifice has helped us elevate to a better life. We focused on savings, living below our means and sacrificing where necessary."Click for more trending news