Varalaxmi Pillai can probably be the best brand ambassador for Mumbai as the city of dreams.
This 21-year-old’s luggage occupies quite a bit of her tiny Kanjurmarg house — she is preparing for her first trip abroad.
She will be flying to London to start her one-year Master’s in international management, something no one in her family ever dreamed of. Her father, a factory worker, passed away when she was five and her mother worked as a domestic help.
Two months ago, she filled out an application for the University of Westminster with her qualifications and wrote out an essay with her goals. “All through my study years I had to depend on others for my textbooks and occasionally even clothes but now I my dreams have been realised,” she said.
After her father’s death, Meher Moos, India’s intrepid traveller now a consultant with Thomas Cook, became her guardian and helped get her funds for her education. They were borne largely by the Thodumal Shahani Trust and other beneficiaries. She is also one of the first to receive the Sheriff’s Scholarship, which was instituted by Sheriff Indu Shahani in collaboration with universities in the UK and US.