Hospital for poor is top priority of Pune's 77-year activist Ashraf Mulla

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 02-05-2024
Ashraf Adam Mulla
Ashraf Adam Mulla


Shah Taj Khan/Pune 

Ashraf Adam Mulla, the founder of the Muslim Samaj Parbodhan Sanstha which runs an orphanage and several schools for poor children in and around Pune, Maharashtra, is finalizing the building plan for a charitable hospital. The 77-year-old social worker had felt the need for a hospital where the poor could be treated free of cost during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Feisty Mulla Madam, as she is called, said her plans for starting the construction of the hospital got delayed because of an accident in which she was injured. Due to this, she had to stay home for six days and could no longer move freely on her two-wheeler.

“Although I have returned to work, I can no longer drive a two-wheeler,” she says. The two-wheeler-borne Mulla Madam was famous for running around and never missing an appointment or her scheduled work. “Never mind, I will continue to work tirelessly for the hospital"’ she says with a smile.

 An award distribution function at one of Ashraf Adam Mulla's chools

Mulla has been running Muslim Samaj Prabodhan Sanstha for 39 years. Besides setting up schools where children of poor from all religions can study, she runs Samina Iqbal Ashiyana, an orphanage for Muslim girls which has 32 inmates presently as against its capacity for 65.

She says her Sanstha has been trying to equip the backward and extremely poor people with modern and quality education. 

However, for three years, she has been focused on building a charitable hospital. “I am about to turn 78. I have no time to waste. There is still a lot of work to be done. For younger people, it can be said that their enthusiasm is still fresh but I have no time to waste,” she says while showing me around the place – a vast ground – where the hospital’s foundation stone will be laid this month.

Mulla Madam is all praise for her late husband Adam Mulla who worked as a chemical engineer and passed away in 2015. “He did his responsibility and work. Due to his nature, he could not support me in social work, but he always supported me financially,” he said.

“I started my work with my husband's money.” 

Morning Assembly in one of the schools run by Ashraf Adam Mulla's trust

Ashraf Adam Mulla Madam retired as a teacher from Chanta Mani Vidya Mandir, Thevar, a Marathi medium school. With her three sons married and settled with their families, Ashraf Mulla is full-time into her projects that have the potential to change lives.

When she was working as a teacher, she recalls that about 1200 children were studying in her school but there were just two or three Muslim children. Although there was a Muslim settlement near the school, the enrolment of Muslims was poor.

When she started her primary school under a tin shed at Tan Patre in Syed Nagar, she also introduced a sewing class to get Muslims interested in coming to it. At Rahmani, her organization runs Urdu Balwadi which has 66 children. Shamsuddin Inamdar is an Urdu Primary School where 597 children are studying and Rahmani Urdu High School has 235 students.

Likewise, Rahmani Junior College has 191 students. Her organisation also runs Industrial Training Institute where 23 students are enrolled. Besides, special computer learning classes are conducted for students from 5th to eighth where 345 students including girls are learning.

Students in playing in one of Ashraf Mulla's schools

Mullah Ma'am told Awaz-The Voice that the girls living in Ashyiana are attending school, skills and Islamic education. The Sanstha also takes the responsibility of finding partners for the inmates and arranging their weddings.

The girls who want to pursue higher education get support till they are 18 years old. Among the skills taught at the Ashiyana are artificial jewelry, sewing, embroidery, and ceramic paintings. 

Ashraf Mulla is disappointed that a senior college she tried to establish did not have enough students and she had to close it down while Rahmani Junior College, established in 2006, which offers arts, science, and commerce is doing well.

She says the idea of setting up the Sanstha came to her while she was trying to deal with the grief of losing her parents. “when my mother died, I was very sad. My father passed away in 1979 and my mother also left this world in 1984. I wanted to do something in memory of my mother. To ease my grief, I founded the Muslim Samaj Parbodhan Sanstha in January 1985.”

She remembers while she was studying in class 9, Pune saw a massive flood. “I was living in Andapur then. The children of our school collected money for the flood victims and it gave us a feeling of peace and security while doing that.” She says it’s that empathy with the suffering and sense of peace to being able to help the needy that stayed with her to set up the NGO.

Girls eating dinner at Ashiyana

Speaking of her failures, Mulla Ma’am says, "I wanted to work for widows, but widows were not ready to come out of the house and work." She says, “At that time widows liked to be a burden on their families and all our efforts to convince them failed.”

However, after some years her efforts paid off. When she set up Ashiyana (orphanage), many widows and divorced women came to stay with us. I realized times have changed.”

I visited Ashiyana and realized it’s a cozy home for girls and women. The home space is sparkling clean. The Auntie running the kitchen announced that food was ready and everyone must perform prayers. The girls went to the prayer room for Zuhr Namaz.

The food was simple Dalcha-chawal, a Naharashtrian delicacy, followed by a delicious Sher Khurma desert. The girls sat on the mats and everyone had a small table in front to put their plate on it.

Mulla Madam however says she prays that no child should feel the need to come to a shelter/orphanage. “We can do everything for children but not be their parents.”

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She says the women from Ashiyana who are married continue to be in touch with them.