Bil­lion­aire grants Mum­bai teen’s bal­let dream

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW BUNCOMBE

A TEENAGER from a poor back­ground in Mum­bai is to study at one of the world’s lead­ing bal­let schools af­ter the in­ter­ven­tion of an In­dian bil­lion­aire.

Amir Shah, 15, who has six sib­lings and whose fa­ther works as a welder, was of­fered a place at the Amer­i­can Bal­let The­atre’s Jac­que­line Kennedy Onas­sis School in New York, if he could col­lect the money. The teenager and his bal­let teacher in Mum­bai launched an on­line fundrais­ing cam­paign.

Now, it has been an­nounced that a foun­da­tion es­tab­lished by an In­dian bil­lion­aire has stepped for­ward to meet most of the teenager’s costs. An up­date on his Go­FundMe page said that the Yusuf and Farida Hamied Foun­da­tion had of­fered to pay for his tu­ition and res­i­dence costs.

“How­ever, we are still fundrais­ing to make sure Amir will be able to af­ford classes out­side of JKO to keep up his tech­nique when not at the school, English tu­tor­ing, dance equip­ment, as well as the high cost of liv­ing in New York,” it said. It said that they were also still try­ing to col­lect money to en­sure that the teenager’s teacher in Mum­bai, Ye­huda Maor, can visit his for­mer pupil in the US.

“Amir and Ye­huda have over­come all odds to get to this point, and he needs as much sup­port as pos­si­ble,” it said.

The foun­da­tion that has come to the teenager’s as­sis­tance was es­tab­lished by 80-year-old Yusuf Hamied, an In­dian sci­en­tist and busi­ness­man who chairs Ci­pla, a generic phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals com­pany founded by his fa­ther in 1935. He is said to have a net worth of $1.45 bil­lion (R18.74bn).

Hamied told The In­de­pen­dent he had been in­spired to do­nate the money af­ter watch­ing Amir’s video. “Have you seen that video. It’s amaz­ing,” he said. “I saw it and thought, ‘he’s got tal­ent’. I de­cided to do­nate. It’s no big deal.”

He added: “He called me two days ago and he thanked me pro­fusely. I hope he does well. I wished him good luck.”

Hamied, who was ed­u­cated at Cam­bridge Univer­sity, is known within the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal world for pro­duc­ing and cre­at­ing cheap, generic drugs to treat dis­eases such as Aids.

Amir has said he is thrilled by the prospect of com­ing to New York.

“I some­times think if I didn’t have bal­let, I would not have any­thing,” the teenager said in a video posted on his fundrais­ing page. “I didn’t know bal­let could take me so far. I didn’t re­alise I could be­come a bal­let dancer.”

A spokes­woman for the bal­let school, Kelly Ryan, said that the teenager had been ac­cepted for the year-long course af­ter au­di­tion­ing by video. She added: “We’re ex­pect­ing him to start this fall (au­tumn).” – The In­de­pen­dent

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