Somy Ali is very special. Not only is she one of the rare people to actually do something good for society, but the former actress also made the impossible possible many years ago. When Maine Pyar Kiya had released on December 29, 1989, a 16-year-old girl in the United States of America fell head over heels in love with its lead actor Salman Khan. However, unlike the rest of the women fangirling over him, she flew all the way across the globe to meet the man who she thought she was destined to marry. She even acted in a few films during that time. Born in Pakistan but settled in the US, her story is nothing short of extraordinary.
“I have more ties to India compared to Pakistan. I came to America when I was 11 and moved to India when I was 16. I lived in India for almost nine years. My heart belongs more so towards India than to Pakistan. I don’t mean that in a malicious manner to my fellow Pakistanis. I grew up in Mumbai, where I lived most of my youth. So my heart definitely belongs to India,” Somy says.
She has a very valid reason to steer clear of her birth country. She works towards the empowerment and rescuing of victims, especially those from the gay community. “Pakistan is dangerous for me because of what I do. I have received a lot of death threats through emails from Pakistani men stating, ‘If you ever visit Pakistan, you will suffer.' It’s a norm for men to hurt women, and I’m taking away that power and control from them. I have been held with a gunpoint on my head as I was taking away a trafficker’s power because I was rescuing a victim that they had held in captivity,” she reveals.
While Somy loves what she does, she is aware of the constant risk her work brings along. “Social work is not easy. You have to be brave and strong, take a lot of precautions. I’m always watching at my back. Recently, we came across a young gay man who told us that his parents were going to have him murdered. Now, he is under our guidance and going to school. He is from New Delhi. We work for the gay community all over the world,” Somy adds.
She goes down memory lane with how her tryst with Bollywood and Salman began. “We used to watch Hindi films. I saw Maine Pyar Kiya, and I had developed a crush on Salman. I had a dream that night, and I decided to go to India. When I was 16, it was ridiculous for me to think that I could go to Mumbai and marry him. I dreamt of marriage and thought it was a prediction from God. I started looking for a suitcase. I told mom that I’m going to Mumbai to get married to Salman Khan! She was in the Amitabh (Bachchan) era, so she asked me, ‘Who is Salman?’ I informed her. ‘He is a big star and I had a dream from God! It is a sign.’ She immediately locked me in a room. Ultimately I told dad I wish to meet our relatives in Mumbai and see the Taj Mahal. I played the religious card to convince him. I went to Pakistan and then flew to Mumbai. I kept Salman’s photo in my wallet. By the time I reached here, his Baaghi (1990) had released, and Salman was already a megastar,” she shares.
A still from Somy-Salman's shelved film |
Somy was indeed on cloud nine when she met her crush and her dream came true when Salman reciprocated towards her feelings. They even shot for a (shelved) film together. “We were heading to Nepal. I was sitting next to him. I just removed his photo showing it to him. I told him, ‘I have come all the way to marry you!’ He said, ‘I have a girlfriend.’ I said that doesn’t matter. I was a teenager. Our relationship started after a year when I turned 17. He did tell me first, ‘I love you.’ It didn’t take a lot of convincing,” she says.
Salman and Somy were together for almost a decade and she has nothing but kind words for him and his family. “I learned a lot from his parents and household. I also learned from Salman. Ultimately, in any relationship, if you are not happy, it’s better to part ways. That was the case of the relationship between Salman and me. I decided to go back to America. What I learned from his parents is so phenomenal. They had an open house. Every day people would come and go. They would be loving and feed them. The door was never locked. Another pivotal lesson I learned is that we are all the same. They did not differentiate in religion at all. They never saw any difference in religion. It is very important to learn from them,” she enthuses.
Among many things, Salman’s kindness has stayed with her to this day. “Salman was a huge animal lover. He would pick up injured stray cats. He is generous. His foundation is doing phenomenal work. I commend him for that,” she gushes.
After returning to the US, Somy focussed on completing her education and opened an NGO named No More Tears. According to her, she never dated anyone else after going back and is happily single even now. “I had no affairs. When I came back from India, I immersed myself in education to overcome what I went through. There are no secrets about why I broke up with Salman and what was happening in public places. I was a dropout from grade 9. I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degree in broadcasting journalism. I went to the New York Film Academy,” she explains.
Elaborating further, she avers, “I’m very much single but happily married to No More Tears. I’m very picky, and it’s very difficult for me to date as I’m working 24X7 for my NGO. Hypothetically speaking, if I were on a dinner date and I received a call from the police that there is a woman victim who speaks only Hindi, I would walk off that dinner. I will have to find a person who will understand that I even get calls for help at 4 a.m. For me, there are a lot of roadblocks when it comes to dating in my life. It is almost like a horror-crime movie. My priority in my life is my NGO.”
Due to a constant danger that looms around her, she has decided not to have any children of her own, but she does wish to open a home for kids. “I am subjected to a gunpoint for the work I do. So, I don’t wish to endanger the life of my children. I can’t be a mother, so I chose to sacrifice. I’m not Mother Teresa. I’m healing everyone because I’m selfish. I get a kind of satisfaction. My mother was a victim of domestic violence, and I was sexually abused as a child. I wish to make a home for children in India. Its name will be Let’s Save More Lives. I’m planning to visit India in 2022,” Somy shares.
Her visa hiccups are a huge reason why she couldn’t fulfil her dream earlier. “The visa dilemma I face is that every time I apply for an India visa, it’s rejected as my country of origin is Pakistan. The irony is that I haven’t been to Pakistan since I left India. Presently, I don’t know anybody except my father there. I have an American passport. My Pakistani passport has expired. My heart is in India not in Pakistan. Why do you reject it?” she signs off.
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