“This honour makes me happier than any of my awards,” Nawazuddin Siddiqui talks endearingly about his mother. BBC announced this year’s 100 Women List, comprising of the most influential women, who are the best in their respective fields. These women will take part in worldwide challenge to fight sexism, illiteracy and harassment. Nawazuddin’s mother, Mehroonisa Siddiqui, is also on the list and will battle against female illiteracy.
65-year-old Mehroonisa, is one of the few women from India, and probably the only one listed as ‘homemaker’. The news was received by the family when Nawazuddin was shooting for the Netflix original series Sacred Games in Mumbai and Mehroonisa was pursuing her passion of teaching young kids in her village Burhana, Uttar Pradesh. “She is very happy. I was here shooting and was not there to see her reaction, though. At this age, this honour has inspired her more. She wants to help more kids in villages,” Nawazuddin told us over a phone conversation.
Nawazuddin reveals that Mehroonisa starts off her day by waking up at 5 AM, daily. A habit that has rubbed off on him, he reveals. Back in the days she used to feed the cattle, milk the cows, and lend a hand on the farm. She still does, but also spends her days teaching kids in her village.
As we started off our sweet and quick conversation the actor revealed that his mother was approached by BBC to take part in this worldwide initiative after they did a survey. “Her hard work has paid off. She came from a small village, where there was no electricity, and there she inspired us to get an education. She got us out of that village. She did everything possible to give us a decent education. She wasn’t educated and belonged to a farmer’s family. She taught herself to read and write, and then she taught more than 500-600 kids in the village. She used to teach small kids, 3 or 4 years of age, so that they can later get an admission in a good school,” he told us. ALSO READ: Nawazuddin Siddiqui on his memoirs An Ordinary Life: Some people are going to be deeply offended when they read what I have to say
In fact education was so important to Mehroonisa that she made sure her son got one in whichever field he chose. “When I decided that I have to become an actor she allowed me but on one condition – get an education in the field first, take training in the field. She was really focussed about this idea,” he revealed.
Interestingly, this incident came after Nawazuddin had already taken off to Delhi to study for medical entrance exams. “So for my coaching, since we had no money at hand, she mortgaged her jewellery. I took an admission with that money,” he told us. Mehroonisa wasn’t disheartened after her son decided to ditch that field and move to acting. “When I earned money after doing street plays and theatre, the first thing I did was to get back her jewellery,” the actor revealed.
Nawazuddin also says that he owes his “hard working attitude” to his mother. For years Mehroonisa has been working really hard to teach kids – “especially girls” – in her village. But this is the first time her hard work is being recognised. “This is the first time she is being honoured for her work. She is on the same list as Peggy Whitson, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Mithali Raj – the women who have done great in their respective fields,” Nawaz exclaims.
Talking about the influential women on the list, Nawazuddin said, “These women inspire us. Women have to reach this level after a lot of struggle just because of their gender. Especially in our country. Women have patience, passion and the willpower to achieve something – which I believe they have more than men. They should be encouraged. And age should be no bar to encourage these women who are so inspiring.”
“She continues to learn even today!”, Nawazuddin said about his mother, inspiring me to my core.