Often, simple, silent workers achieve through their consistent efforts what learned, loud-mouthed remain from attempting. Pune's Ms. Mulla Ashraf Adam is one such iron-willed woman. For over 30 years, Ms Ashraf—Ashrafi to most of those who know her in Pune—has been at work, devoting every single moment to the cause of the children, their education, health and overall welfare.
The rustic woman had been relentlessly mobile, balancing her teachers' job with social work and domestic chores. Three years ago she earned her retirement, only to engage herself in newer assignments.
Service with devotion rather than success and fame had been fuelling Ms. Mulla's life. A humble Government primary school teacher, few can imagine that the rustic woman today presides over half a dozen institutions that she went about setting up during her nearly 30 years of service. She built them from scratch and guides the destiny of nearly 1,200 kids who are either inmates or students.
A passionate social worker, Ms. Mulla has never learnt to sit quiet. It was in 1984 that she gathered a clutch of social activists and began the Rehmani pre primary school in Syednagar, a locale inhabited by the underprivileged people of Pune, The outfit called itself Muslim Samaj Prabodhan Sanstha (MSPS). The school would gather local poor women who would engage themselves in making vanity bags, paper covers, shikakai powder (rural variant of shampoo) and embroidery. Looking at her zeal, Shamsuddin, a local philanthropist donated a plot of 1,000 sq ft for school. Shamsuddin's widow later contributed an equal measure. The school was upgraded into a high school in 1998 and even began to get government aid from last year.
As it is realized, the more one tries to tackle the people's woes, the more he or she is likely to get drawn into them. Ms. Mulla soon became aware that mere bringing the kids to school would not address the problem. Poverty had the people in its vice like grip. Hungry kids fainted in school, girls from broken homes faced insecure living conditions and women deserted by their husbands were pushing kids into jobs.
Circumstances were urging her to address the question at much more basic level. She set up 'Darul Banat' (Home for the Girls) in 1993. Mumbai philanthropist Abdul Qadir Supariwala turned it into a concrete reality in 2003. Today 80 destitute girls live, eat, study and receive vocational training in the elegant building called Yasmin Iqbal Aashiyana.
By this time, Ms. Mulla and her scientist husband had retired. With her own (all male) children settling in life, she was freer to attempt bigger assignments. In 2005, she came up with a junior college with a gentleman donating her 1,200 sq. ft of land next to the Aashiyana.
I have seen Ms. Mulla struggling with her stitching class in Syednagar from 1991 onwards. When I visited her earlier this year, she was organizing a polyclinic complete with an X-ray machine and diagnostic lab next to the junior college. Few would disagree, we need hundreds of Ms. Mullas who could grapple with poverty, illiteracy and deep-seated social maladies.