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Wednesday, July 01, 2009 12:14:58 PM, Aleem Faizee

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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.


“I 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 respect.”


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.


Mission Sara

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).


Sara’s Strength

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?




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