Forty-one-year old Tabassum Ali from Patna, Bihar is a single woman riding a Bullet motorcycle and works tirelessly for promotion of the rights of women in the state and country.
Sami Ahmad, TwoCircles.net
Patna: On the morning of April 13, forty-one-year old social worker Tabassum Ali met with National Cadet Corps’s (NCC) group commander Brigadier Vinesh Rana at Patna, Bihar. Soon after, she had a meeting with Manish Mahiwal, a budding YouTuber, to discuss a play on the liberation of Bangladesh. Afterwards, she rushed to attend a civil society meeting to save India’s iconic Khuda Bakhsh Library in Patna from demolition. After the meeting, she came to meet a woman to discuss her legal case.
While attending to this busy schedule, she missed a meeting at Biharsharif, some eighty kilometres south of Bihar’s capital Patna to discuss the location issue of the minority girls’ hostel.
This is how a normal day goes for Tabassum Ali, one of the most visible faces in Patna.
Tabassum is single with no children. Her family include social workers and people she helps with her social work. She rides a 450 cc Bullet motorbike, with all the gears a bike racer would have – helmet, gloves, and boots etc.
She wanted to be a commercial pilot and still nurtures that dream.
During her interview with TwoCircles.net, Tabassum’s phone kept ringing. She was getting calls from CRPF asking her for some sort of support and calls for donating plasma for a Covid-19 patient.
A few weeks ago, she attended a meeting of the Bihar Rabita Committee, an NGO working for the educational progress of the Muslim community in Patna. When its Secretary announced that Tabassum loves to ride her Bullet, every head moved towards her. But this doesn’t deter her.
Social work and adventure are Tabassum’s two passions. Her love for social work started in New Delhi where she came to know about a minor rape victim who was being treated at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. She recalls, “Ignorant of her trauma, the girl always smiled after meeting me. This made me weep and I resolved to work for such girls.”
Her NGO ‘Make a New Life’ works for rape survivors.
Among many cases she has fought, one was a legal case for a newly-wed Muslim girl of Fatuha in Patna district. The girl was sent back to her home by her husband for no valid reason after only six days of marriage. It had come to fore that the girl’s husband was already married and his previous wife was alive. He had lied to the girl’s family that his wife was dead. The girl was divorced after a few months. Tabassum fought the case from Mahila Thana (police station meant for women) to the court. The girl’s Khala (mother’s sister) was known to Tabassum. This got Tabassum involved in the case and she succeeded in getting a compensation of Rs 9 lakhs for the victim.
Tabassum talks about another case of an 8th standard girl who was raped but the “police were not registering a case against the accused.” It was only after Tabassum intervened that an FIR was registered and the accused was arrested.
Tabassum’s ride on her Bullet for doing social work may seem smooth but she says the journey of her life has been bumpy.
Born to a Muslim father and an Anglo-Indian mother in a remote town of Jhaha in Bihar, she studied in a Railway school till class 6. She was moved to a girl’s school after much persuasion to study till matriculation.
“Unfortunately, I could not write the exams as the examination centre was away. Next time, I failed in one subject,” she said.
Tabassum was finally able to pass the matriculation exams on her third attempt.
To qualify for a commercial pilot course, she studied mathematics in her Intermediate and passed the examination of I.Sc but somehow could not qualify for the pilot course.
Meanwhile, she got married. Her attempt to start a new life in the national capital New Delhi with her husband was short-lived. She soon separated from her husband.
Being a single woman now, she worked as HR help and gave tuitions. Finally, she decided to move to Patna and reunited with her family with the help of some relatives.
“I love adventure,” she said.
She has travelled to 29 Indian states on a bicycle, covering nearly 12800 kilometres in 173 days, to create rights awareness among women. For two years, she has worked as a volunteer in AIIMS, New Delhi at its cancer centre for children.
Satyanarayan Madan, a well-known social worker from Patna describes Tabassum as “one of the most fearless and dedicated social workers of Bihar.”