Lohara (Dist. Akola, Maharashtra):
A woman driving a vehicle may be a common phenomenon in metros. In
rural India, people would still stop to have a look at such women.
And if the lady behind the steering happens to be someone covered
from head to toes in a Burqa, the disbelief in the eyes would be
beyond imagination. For Sara Deshmukh, however, the disbelieving
gaze and incredulous comments have become a routine. Covering her
entire body in a Burqa and most of the time herself driving the car,
Sara Deshmukh would visit various government offices located as near
as in Akola and as far as in Mumbai and Delhi.
am regularly traveling various places in the country and the world
in the same attire. But it has never been a problem for me”, she
says before adding, “Instead, it induces a sense of security in me
on one hand and on the other urges the others to behave with
Sara Deshmukh is the founder of Madrasa Banatus Salehat and an
English medium school at Lohara in Akola district, barely few
kilometers from Shegaon, a town associated with Shri Gajanan Maharaj
and considered as a sacred place for a vast majority of Hindus in
India. In fact the Gajanan Maharaj Trust is running a fleet of
institutions in and around Akola. Though having a Madrasa or school
in the vicinity that too especially for girls is in itself a
miracle, more miraculous is the fact that it is founded and run by
Sara Deshmukh, a lady coming from a very humble background and so
“orthodox” that she even refuses to dump the Burqa, a “sign of
subservience” for many. But thanks to the courage and determination,
the primary requirements to run a Madrasa that she has in plenty,
Sara has made this possible for the downtrodden and backward people
of Lohara. Not only this, she has done so in such a style that
Madrasa Banatus Salehat, founded under very challenging conditions
is now regarded as one of the safest place for any girl interested
in Islamic studies combined with home science and modern education.
Surrounded by Satpura mountains, today on four acre lush
green extremely beautiful land and having a plush building, Madrasa
Banatus Salehat apart from having luxurious accommodation and
hygienic quality food has everything to provide comfort to over two
hundred girl students. Above all Baaji, as the girls and the people
used to call Sara Deshkukh as, is there for their every
requirements. To further secure the future of these teenagers, after
much efforts, Baaji has got the approval from the State Education
board for Madrasa Banatus Salehat. The girls hence while acquiring
the Islamic studies and the arts including embroidery, sewing,
cooking, netting among others, simultaneously complete the SSC level
board exams from the same place. Encouraged by her success Baaji
recently established an English medium school that is running on the
basis followed by the convent school.
Madrasa Banatus Salehat a bliss though for the backward people in
this hilly area with hardly any amenities and Baaji certainly a
savior for them. But it was never an easy task for Sara to achieve
this status. The road that finally led her to this destination is
full of difficulties and barriers apart from her own limitations. At
the same time she was lucky to meet the right people at the right
time who came to her rescue every time she was in any difficulty.
And once the winds began flowing in her favour, there was no
stopping for Sara.
“There are many in the world who provide education to the girls but
very few to help someone to settle. Baaji is one among those coveted
few”, says Adeel. Adeel was no entity before Baaji arranged his
marriage with Yasmin, the girl she had found at Shegaon railway
station more than a decade ago at the age of seven. Yasmin - a
graduate and Adeel - Baaji’s trusted aid, both are now at Madrasa
Banatus Salehat to help Sara repeat the history for others.
Similar is the case with Aasia. She was an orphan whom her relatives
had abandoned. Baaji brought her from Surat and get her the required
education and the skill. Today Aasia with her husband Khalid
Saifullah – a convert to Islam is running Madrasa Banatus Salehat’s
branch in the United States (US).
That Sara Deshmukh has herself acquired the early education from
Jamiatus Salehat - a leading Madrasa for girls in Malegaon is
proving to be an asset for her. Having learnt lessons from Jamiatus
Salehat, while learning as well as later when she finished her
education, Sara has now grown into a perfect administrator. She
ponders on various innovations and then utilizes her wholehearted
effort for their implementation. This has resulted in making Madrasa
Banatus Salehat into a metaphor, clearly distinguished from the one
widely perceived by the people in and outside of the country.
Today, though her husband and eldest daughter are living in
Johannesburg and the son Mohammad who is accompanying her in Lohara
is too young to help the mother, Sara completely alone at the helm
of the affairs is not ready to stop with her experiments. She is now
working on further expansion and it would not be surprising if the
girls at Madrasa Banatus Salehat would soon have a technical college
besides having a college of education for them in the same campus.
While it is worth watching how Sara Deshmukh’s mission continues to
move on, meeting Sara Deshnukh too is no less than a pleasant
surprise. Waking up at 04 in the morning, wandering from one place
and office to other till 10 late in the evening, all this in a
complete Islamic attire covering herself from head to toes in a
Burqa, Sara Deshmukh clearly stands as an answer to the Western
World. Is Sarko around?