Source: Humans of Bombay
“My father was very successful when we used to live in Pakistan, but after partition, we left everything behind and ran away to India. We used to stay on the streets – 9 siblings and our parents with very little food. I was the youngest sibling, so my education was heavily compromised — I wasn’t allowed to study because it was more important to educate my brothers. As a child, I couldn’t understan d why and I grew up with a lot of resentment. When we finally got a house, the roof used to leak who when my father was sleeping, I would have to hold an umbrella over his head the whole night — I was so angry because I felt so rejected.
One of my older sisters got a job as a teacher at a school nearby and because of that I was allowed to attend at a much lower price. I was desperate to prove to my family that being a girl had nothing to do with capability, so in my 10th I got 75% which was the highest score! But again, life took a different turn as my father passed away and there was no money for my college. But instead of sitting at home, I fought with my mother to allow me to work and I finally got a job as a telephone operator at Chicago Radio where I earned 100 Rupees a month!
While working, I became friends with a Gujrati boy who I used to confide in about everything. We would meet behind the Taj and spend time together…purely as friends. When I turned 23, my mother said she had found a great Sindhi boy for me to marry…but I wasn’t ready. She had heard of my friend from work and was livid that I could have a friend who was a boy! As she kept pressurising me, I went to work and told my friend that I had to get married and we would have to stop meeting. I left, got onto the bus and started crying…but I couldn’t understand why. When my stop came and I got off, there he was waiting in a cab. He got out, held my hand and said, ‘you can’t marry him, you can only marry me’ and then he just turned around and left! Well, that was my proposal and it was always a yes…how could I not marry my best friend? We faced a lot of resistance from both our families and my mother didn’t even sit through my wedding….but after 52 years let me tell you that it was the best decision of my life!
I was respected as a woman, allowed to work and given equal rights. In 1983, I was standing at my balcony one day when I saw 5 children in school uniforms sitting on the footpath and playing cards. I kept seeing them everyday, when I went upto them and asked them why they weren’t at school. They said, ‘We have shabby uniforms so the teacher beats us and doesn’t allow us to sit.” My childhood memories came rushing back to me, so immediately I bought them uniforms and paid their fees, but within a week 2 of those children ran away again. I still focused on those 3 and would take home cooked food for them everyday…when someone suggested starting a Trust. With the 900 Rupees I had saved over the years, I started a Trust and soon people started volunteering with me, visiting slums where children weren’t studying and enrolled them with us.
From those 3 students, today, there are over 10,000 such children studying under my Trust and there has been nothing more fulfilling. These children give back once they get jobs either by volunteering or helping us with finances, and let me tell you…our students have gone on to become doctors, lawyers and engineers. Even though I didn’t get to go to college, I’ve lived my every dream through these students and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”