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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Salman was never abusive to me: Somy Ali

Neha Sharma, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 15, 2012
First Published: 16:39 IST(15/7/2012) | Last Updated: 00:20 IST(16/7/2012)

Actor Salman Khan recently made headlines with reports that he had hit former flame Katrina Kaif on the the sets of their film, Ek Tha Tiger. Now, Khan’s former girlfriend Somy Ali has come to his defence, insisting that the actor is not abusive as widely believed to be. Somy, 36, who runs No More Tears, an organisation devoted to rescuing victims of domestic violence in USA, recently saved her 200th victim. Considering that Salman is rumoured to hit his girlfriends, is there a personal experience that led her to work for women facing domestic violence? “No, Salman was never abusive towards me, nor have I witnessed him being abusive to anyone else. I have seen domestic violence growing up in Pakistan and in India, but not personally,” she says.


When asked about her take on the Kat incident, she says, “Honestly, I am completely clueless when it comes to the gossip in Bollywood.”

Clarifying reports of the infamous incident when Salman had smashed a cola bottle on her head while they were dating in the 90s, she says, “No, if he had done that, I would have been hospitalised and bleeding profusely. He was not happy because I was trying alcohol for the first time, thus in his frustration, he poured the drink all over the table. Of course, yellow journalism at its best blew this completely out of proportion and fabricated various versions, rather than what actually took place.”

Somy Ali (HT Photo)
There has been buzz that the two have rekindled their romance after they met in Bangkok last year. “Absolute silliness. Our lives are so different, it is almost as if we speak different languages. I have grown so much and seen so much in the past 12 years that these rumors are so trivial and unworthy now,” says Somy, who plans to visit India in November, 12 years after she flew out.

On No More Tears
I always wanted to initiate a nonprofit, but I was all over the place in terms of a mission. I wanted to help everything and everyone. I needed clarity and a specific cause. It was during this time, in October of 2006, when a Bangladeshi woman, Nazneen, came to my door asking for help. It was evident that she was beaten badly as she was bleeding from her forehead and had bruises on her arm. I took her in my home and called the police right away. She lived in my neighborhood and I had often seen her in the community when I walked my dog in the evenings. I recall thinking to myself, there was such sadness in this woman’s eyes, but we never really spoke to one another until she came to my door. After filing a police report and taking legal action against Nazneen’s husband, I helped her find an apartment and paid her rent for a few months. I enrolled her in nursing school, approached a divorce lawyer for her, and then arranged for therapy sessions due to the abuse she has endured. If Nazneen coming to my door was not a sign for what kind of nonprofit I should start, then I am not sure what else could be! It was so blatant that this is what my purpose is and was going to be for years to come. After Nazneen was on her feet, I registered No More Tears with the Internal Revenue Service and in two months time, I received a letter stating that my organization’s mission was approved. It was perhaps one of the happiest days of my life. So it was Nazneen, who is now a nurse, living an abuse free life, that lead to the beginning of something that would go on to save so many more lives.

On the challenges NMT faces
We have numerous challenges; the obvious is that of finances and recurring donations. I had initially used my savings to fund my charity, but those depleted last year and if it were not for private donors, NMT would have undoubtedly shut down. Our economy has a lot to do with it as well; many small nonprofits are shutting down because government grants are not coming through. The country as a whole is struggling due to the debt we are in because of the unnecessary wars.

Other hurdles we face are those of victim blaming. Many ask why can’t the woman just walk out of an abusive situation? Well, she can’t! Imagine being 25-years-old, from a small village in India, and then married off to someone in the U.S. Imagine having no friends, no family, no money, you are not even aware of your geographical surroundings, and your husband, the only one person you depend on, is beating you on a daily basis. You have children from him that are born in the U.S. and your husband consistently threatens you of being deported back to India if you do not put up with his abuse. This is a typical scenario of the kind of rescues NMT does. The women find our brochures in places of worship and grocery stores written in different languages and it gives them the courage to call our crisis line.

 

Somy Ali's No more Tears rescued this child from abuse

On Bollywood's contribution to NMT
Aside from two of Salman’s friends, that prefer to remain anonymous, no one from Bollywood has donated or lent a voice to No More Tears.

On quitting Bollywood
I was never truly into it. I had no interest in acting or trying to make a career out of it. I was a 16-year-old kid pursuing a crush on an actor. When the relationship was concrete and we were living together, I was fully content and had no interest in working in films. No, I would not like to work in a bollywood film again

On life in Bollywood
It was a learning experience, I was too young and naïve, I made many mistakes, however, in hindsight, not much different than any other teenager. I am not up to date with Bollywood at all, but try my best to catch, always highly recommended, “Amir” movies. All his films entail a substantive quality and his performances are simply remarkable. I have heard some great things about his talk show as well, but have not seen it as of yet. My favorites of course are the 80’s with Rajesh Khanna, whom I had a huge crush on as a little girl growing up in Pakistan. Sometimes, when I am nostalgic, I watch his 80’s songs on Youtube. You can’t compare those scripts and that music to what I saw a little of in this generation. The authenticity back then was simply breath taking.

On relationship status
Yes (I am single). I have realized, as we get older, we get so set in our ways, we know ourselves so well, our idiosyncrasies, our likes and dislikes are so concrete that we get ridiculously picky on a romantic level.

On adoption plans
I have always wanted to adopt children as far back as I can remember. However, I live on a tight budget as I do not want a salary for my work with NMT, thus saving for an adoption will take some significant time, but I am working on it.

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