Somy Ali and her Amazing No More Tears Organisation

Somy Ali and her Amazing No More Tears Organisation  0
Somy Ali and her Amazing No More Tears Organisation  0

February 23, 2012, 2:11 AM
From Bollywood Starlet To Florida Women’s Rights Champion
By SARAH KHAN

Today she runs a non-profit organization in Florida that rescues women from domestic violence, but in another life, Somy Ali was just a girl with a Bollywood crush — and a girl on a mission.

And so, in 1992, at the startlingly young age of 15, she moved from Miami to Mumbai with one goal: to marry Bollywood megastar Salman Khan. “At 15, you have a license to be stupid,” recalls Ms. Ali. “I had a crush, and I thought in order to meet him, I’d have to join films. So I did.”

She makes it look just that simple. Despite having moved to Florida from Pakistan at a young age, Ms. Ali somehow persuaded her father to send her to India under the pretext of wanting to experience the culture. She had celebrated photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha shoot her portfolio, and was approached by Dharmendra’s agent in a hotel lobby, asking to screen-test her for a project designed to launch his son Bobby Deol. To call what happened next serendipity would be an understatement — Ms. Ali says Salman Khan himself randomly chanced upon her photographs at a modeling agency, and he called her, offering her a role in his next film.

“I was a silly teenager, it was very surreal to go after something thousands of miles away and have it actually happen,” she says.

Ms. Ali acted in nine films during the 1990s, most of them big-scale but forgettable duds like “Andolan,” “Yaar Gaddar,” and “Aao Pyar Karen,” and opposite A-listers such as Sanjay Dutt, Om Puri, and Saif Ali Khan. But her focus was always Salman Khan. “I had zero interest in being an actress; you can see that by seeing my films,” she says. “I was madly in love with him.”

Mr. Khan broke up with then-girlfriend Sangeeta Bijlani to date Ms. Ali, and the two were together for eight years … until Mr. Khan then allegedly moved on to Aishwarya Rai. “It was probably karma for me — I was so engrossed and selfish about my dream that I’d ignored the fact that he was with someone else. It was so wrong, ethically and morally, but I realized this at 35, not at 16,” Ms. Ali says. “And if I had not broken up with him and come to America, I would have married him and been unhappy.”

When Ms. Ali moved back to Florida in 2000, she was severely depressed for a year and unsure about her future. She graduated with a degree in psychology from Nova Southeastern University and went on to study film-making in New York, then immersed herself in activism and producing documentaries, including one on Pakistani gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai. She aspired to found a non-profit organization, but had too many causes to choose from. “I wanted to help animals and children and plants and everything, I wanted to help every being,” she says. “It was scattered.”

Then a Bangladeshi woman living five houses down from her showed up at her door, bleeding badly. She told Ms. Ali she’d been beaten for 10 years, and her father-in-law had just raped her. Ms. Ali called the police and helped her get an apartment and paid for her divorce attorney. The woman has since graduated from nursing school, and Ms. Ali carries her graduation picture in her wallet.

“My brother told me, this is a sign. Why don’t you help women who are brought to the U.S. from different countries and are abused by their husbands?” And so No More Tears was born. The organization partners with area police departments, top-notch attorneys, therapists, optometrists, dentists, physicians, and even spas. They offer English classes and driving lessons, a range of services to help get victims back on their feet.

Knowing that many of the women she wanted to save were only let out of the house to go grocery shopping, Ms. Ali posted fliers at various ethnic markets, which led to her first case, a Jordanian woman, in 2008. “She wanted to study, and her husband said no, your job is to cook, clean, and produce children,” Ms. Ali recalls. When she went to rescue her with a police officer, the woman had been locked in a room and fainted because she hadn’t seen sunlight in three months. Last year, thanks to the assistance provided by No More Tears, she graduated with a doctorate in pharmacy. “It was the proudest day of my life,” Ms. Ali says. Today, No More Tears has rescued 175 victims of domestic violence.

But now Ms. Ali finds herself at a crossroads, with funds dangerously low. “I’ve put $286,000 of my own money into No More Tears, and it’s depleted,” she says. “There’s no paid staff, no one on salary, just interns and volunteers; 100 percent of the money goes to the victims. We’re struggling very badly financially. I’d hate to see No More Tears shut down.” Ms. Ali encourages people to donate via the Web site and pledge even as little as $10 a month.

Have any of her former Bollywood contacts helped her cause? “Salman’s friends donated $150,000 last year,” she says. “He and I are friends now, we’ve moved past what happened, and he’s very supportive of No More Tears.”

One can’t help but wonder if there’s any personal history that’s led to domestic violence being dear to Ms. Ali’s heart. One Bollywood tale, of Mr. Khan allegedly smashing a Coke bottle over Ms. Ali’s head, is now part of Bollywood gossip folklore. But Ms. Ali is quick to jump to his defense. “I was out with some friends and had a rum and Coke; he felt I was in wrong company and didn’t want me drinking, so he poured it on the table,” she clarifies. “Now I think he did the right thing. But a media guy blew it out of proportion. It went from one thing to another, that he broke the bottle on my head, that he dumped it on my head, but he just poured it on the table and said, ‘You shouldn’t be drinking.’ He’s just overprotective, that’s how Salman is in relationships.”

“He has the most generous heart I’ve ever seen. He will give the shirt off his back to someone,” she continues. “In my teenage years if I learned a lot about being good and doing good, I learned it from him and his family. He was beyond wonderful to me … aside from the cheating,” she adds as an afterthought.

Ms. Ali has not returned to India since the breakup that ended her tryst with Bollywood. “I don’t really have a reason to go back,” she says. “I don’t think I’m ready. I need to make No More Tears a little more established first. My women and children need me here.”

As far as whether she’d ever consider a comeback: “Never. It was fun, an amazing experience, but I just can’t compare it to what I’m doing now,” she said. “Every day is like a movie here at No More Tears.”

Sarah Khan is an editor at Travel + Leisure in New York. You can read more of her writing at www.bysarahkhan.com or follow her on Twitter@BySarahKhan.


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Anonymous's picture

salman you are the best no one of your ex girlfriends deserve you

  • 1 year ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    somy, truly amazing woman. if these power house greedy super stars and their kids start donationg even ).1% of their income, they can make the world a lot better place to live.
    All the money bachans make, you think they will think about doing something like this or even donating their pocket change.

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    shocking.. even on such a positive thing-- there r haterrsssssssss to rain on the parade. ahhhh.. .pinkvilla...

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    geezz.. now the jealousy and hate starts on Somy ! (* Sat, 2012-02-25 09:25 — Anonymous *)

    egg throwing is the #1 thing on pinkvilla... and the pinkvillians have a ball with it.

    dude, get your info right. it was Somy who walked away from Salman as he cheated on her with Aishwarya... and it was Salman who still kept in touch with Somy in Florida (which irked Aish.. supposedly). If she had stuck with him during his Aish phase- she very well could have been married to him today when Salman + Aish broke up-- but she refused to get back together with him, as she's got too much pride for that.

    Salman's only fault was not that he didn't care for his gals-- his mistake was he cared for too many .. and none of his gals were willing to share him.

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    Sat, 2012-02-25 09:25 — Anonymous.. : hmmm... trying to be in the news for selfish stardom? no... it sounds like jealousy.

    if it's she trying to be in the news for her charity program-- so what??? it's benefiting charity.

    come on, some of u Aish fans, we know you can't be happy when one of Salman's side does something good.. but at least drop the blame game.

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    Sat, 2012-02-25 09:25 — Anonymous: you got it reversed. Somy was living with Salman (yes!)-- and by all accounts everyone thought they would get married-- when he met Aish later. Somy broke it up with him-- as he cheated on her with Aish. the minute he met Aishwarya, he obviously wanted to marry Aish instead of Somy--- and so Somy held herself high and walked out of the relationship.

    you got it reversed! (( strange that Aishwarya later mentioned Salman cheated on her (with Somy?)).. when in fact Aish+Salman jodi broke up the Somy+Salman jodi pair.

    and yes, Somy met him when he was dating Sangeeta-- so he cheated on Sangeeta with Somy.

    that's what she meant.. being selfish.. so she acknowledges her mistakes.

    you really got it reversed... rose glasess on Aishwarya , eh?

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    why is she trying to be in the news ... always with the same story... i went to india to meet my dream man salman... get over him... and her statement, if i would not have broken up with salman i would have married him and were not happy. how can you marry him, when he was dating aishwarya and was not interested in you... she is still dreaming

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    salman she is the right gal for u... marry her

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    its good thing that she left salman coz salman is someone who cant stay with one woman. otherwise she would have been a victim

  • 3 years ago
  • The Muse's picture

    I admire the cause she's dedicated her life to, but really...this woman seems like kind of an airhead. First of all, even at 15, what kind of person runs off to another country and joins an industry that thousands of girls would give anything to be a part of...just to meet/date an actor? That's insane!

    But more importantly, I feel like a woman shouldn't be allowed to deal with abuse victims if she thinks it's alright for her boyfriend to be so controlling (or as she calls it, "overprotective") that he wants to decide who she goes out with, how much she drinks, and then goes and cheats on her. That's sick behavior, and hypocritical considering we all know how much Salman parties and the kind of company HE keeps.

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    The story was that Somy had a fight with Salman & was seeing Gulshan Grover for a while.(Yes,I got that right). Salman argued with her over his own 'extra curricular activities' & then he poured Thumbs Up over her head! There was no bottle breaking on her head or any other thing.Somy mentions the cheating here,well....Sangeeta Bijlani was broken when she caught Somy red handed with Salman .What goes around comes around.I'm happy that Somy has come out of it all & is doing such a commendable thing. Perhaps her stint in Bollywood made her a better person & see life differently.

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    i love the fact that sehs doing good! wish her best of luck

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    Somi is lovely women, i love how she speaks about everything and her love life, it iseems after Salman she hasn't being dating anybody,

    on another interview she directly said the name Ash, who was the reason of her brake up with Salman, and now please ash fans do not call Ash dignified and angel women, she was dating man who was nearly married to Somi, that time they lived together in Bandra.
    but most i love how she clears all the rumors about this controversies and i am glad Salman supports her, we all saw Slaman wearing the T-shirts during ready promotion designed by Somi to support her.

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    You wanna support her then go buy stuff from the no more tears website. or just donate. or just help a person you feel is in need & avoid being mean to someone when you know donw there that you are being mean. We all can make a difference. Let's be that difference. Lets take that call.

  • 3 years ago
  • iBollyBuzz's picture

    Somy Ali is an amazing women!! more power to her! Salman really lost out on a great girl... hes made lots of dumb decisions in life and leaving her was one of the biggest! shes so genuine and truthful... speaks from the heart!

    i wish her all the best in life! love her!

  • 3 years ago
  • moimeme's picture

    that is certainly a good thing and may God bless her for it...I would certainly make a donation to her organisation as she says it is in need of that...anyone who reads this and is able to put forward an amount, whether big or small, it would certainly help all the abused victims that Somy is helping.

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    I remember it even today, when the rumor first started ages ago they said 'salman in anger pours whiskey on Somy's table'...making it sound like he poured it off his glass after a fight... later they started adding masala to it and said 'he broke the bottle on the table'...... and somebody else said 'he poured thumbs-up on somy's head' and thats what it was said for ages..... But the rumors turned into 'breaking the bottle on Somy's head' much much later, when he was going thro breakup with Ash-somebody thought it interesting to take the old rumor 1 step further and say that. So yes all those years ago the rumor started as 'salman in anger pours whiskey on Somy's table'.. and I remember that.

    “I was out with some friends and had a rum and Coke; he felt I was in wrong company and didn’t want me drinking, so he poured it on the table,” she clarifies. “Now I think he did the right thing. But a media guy blew it out of proportion. It went from one thing to another, that he broke the bottle on my head, that he dumped it on my head, but he just poured it on the table and said, ‘You shouldn’t be drinking.’ He’s just overprotective, that’s how Salman is in relationships.”

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    Thanks for the article Naveed! She is really an amazing individual. Wish her all the best!

  • 3 years ago
  • Anonymous's picture

    wish u best of luck Somy Ali, may Allah grant u the best and help everyone. hopefully one day i can can get to the point where i can extend my hand to help.

    SaraR

  • 3 years ago
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