London Underground fanatic who defied parents’ lawyer dreams now drives trains and dances

A North London Tube fanatic went from a career as an Indian classical dancer to work on the London Underground.

Maryam Shakiba, 35 and a life-long Hendon resident, has ended up exactly where she wants to be and said the journey at times felt like “like a magical story”.

She starts her new job with TfL’s Transport Strategy and Planning department later this month.

Maryam’s Underground obsession started when she joined the TfL grad scheme shortly after leaving uni over ten year’s ago.

READ MORE: The abandoned London Underground line that would have linked East and South London 100 years before London Overground

Maryam driving a train as part of her grad scheme

She told MyLondon: “I was at the platform at Edgware Road and looking at one of the trains and the logo. I just thought about seeing if TfL had a grad scheme. I wasn’t as obsessed with transport then.

“But when I joined, the more I learned and got more involved, this genuine obsession developed.”

After leaving the grad scheme she spent five years training to be an Indian classical dancer focussing on the dance form known as Odissi.

She said: “I felt I was going from one thing I loved to another thing I loved even more. It was a difficult decision to leave TfL but it’s what I knew I had to do.

“I knew I had to throw myself at dance or I’d regret it later on. That was ten years ago. I didn’t know what life as a dancer would even hold.”

0 Maryam Odissi Flowers 1

Maryam travelled to India to the learn the dance form known as Odissi.

Although she was excited about the big step, her parents… not so much.

Maryam said: “It was difficult for my parents. I’m from an Iranian background so they wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer.

“For me to leave something secure and go pursue dance was difficult for them. But I’m a stubborn person and they knew I was set on it.”

She continued: “I spent the next few years going between London and India. Focusing on my own training. It takes a long time to become proficient in, you’re a beginner for four years.

“By year four and five I began to establish myself in the UK. My profile as a dancer in the UK. Indian classical dance is so niche, not something you can make a great living off.

“But I knew that from the start.”

After years of supporting herself with waitressing she decided to work in transport consultancy to give her the money to keep dancing.

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Maryam getting her hands dirty under a train

After five years of doing just that, a role in TfL came up.

Rejoining she said: “It feels like a magical story sometimes. One day I was sitting at home working and I got a voice in my head to check.

“I checked and the deadline for this amazing position was that day. I applied, got the interview.

“I asked about part-time and they offered me the job for three days a week.

“I was so happy I literally cried.”

Thankfully for Maryam and fans of Indian classical dance, her new part-time contract gives her a chance to keep pursuing her other passion.

Growing up in Hendon, she used the Jubilee or Northern lines to get into the city and they remain her favourite lines.

Favourite station?

“Westminster,” she said, “Hands down. Every time I go through there I feel a sense of awe. All that concrete, lighting, steel pipes across the escalators.”

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