This 12-yr-old Muslim girl was recently declared to be the city’s beacon of communal harmony after she won a Bhagwad Gita contest. On Friday, Maryam Asif Siddiqui received a very special honour she was felicitated at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by President Pranab Mukherjee.
President Pranab Mukherjee felicitates Maryam at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday as proud father Asif Siddiqui looks on, in this picture released by Rashtrapati Bhavan yesterday
In the past one month, Maryam has been felicitated by several other dignitaries including Sonia Gandhi, Sam Pitroda, and ministers in the state, and she has also collected over R80,000 in cash awards. mid-day was the first to report about Maryam on April 3, (‘Here she is! Mumbai's beacon of communal harmony’) after she won a contest organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in the city.
Amitabh Bachchan, Sonia Gandhi and Devendra Fadnavis are among the many who have felicitated Maryam. File pics
Maryam says now that she wants to donate this money towards education of other children. She was also recently declared the brand ambassador for communal harmony by the Uttar Pradesh government. “I only followed my heart and did what I did, but the response that I got has been unbelievable.
Even today I try to read about new things, not to win any awards, but just to understand the world I’m living in,” said Maryam. On Thursday, Maryam and her father flew to Delhi, for the second time in a month. While last time she was invited to meet Sonia Gandhi, this time around she has got an invitation from Rashtrapati Bhavan, to meet President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday.
mid-day spoke to an excited Maryam before the meeting. “I’ve only read about Rashtrapati Bhavan and seen pictures on TV, this time I’ll get to be there and I’m really excited,” added the 12-yr-old.
A shining light
In the contest organised by ISKCON in the city, 4,617 students participated from 195 schools (90 government and 105 private schools). Proving all sceptics wrong, Maryam won the “Gita Champions League” and was one of the three students felicitated by ISKCON, where she bagged the first prize.
In the past one month, Maryam has been invited as a chief guest at various functions and also felicitated by the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, who lauded her for the message she tried to send. mid-day had previously mentioned how this girl has read the Bible, Quran as well as an English compilation of the Bhagwad Gita and her message was of humanity.
Words of wisdom
“None of the religions preach violence; in fact, every religion looks at humanity as the biggest lesson. Sadly people have forgotten this bit and are making their own versions of these religious texts. I hope with this new platform that I’ve been provided, I can spread the message of peace,” said Maryam.
Over the past one month, Maryam has also been gifted cash prizes for her feat and has collected over Rs 80,000 in cash. However the amount stays intact as Maryam has plans for the same. “She told me she’d rather spend this money on someone who can’t afford a decent education, than buy things for herself.
We are honouring her word and not a single paisa has been spent still. People also gave her a few hundreds to buy chocolates but she refused to spend the same on herself,” said her father Asif Siddiqui, who is travelling with her in Delhi at present.
They are also hoping to meet Rahul Gandhi in this visit, as promised by Sonia Gandhi when they met her earlier this month. “I wanted her to use this opportunity to spread her message of peace and love and I’m glad she is doing just that,” he added.
Cash prizes Maryam has been awarded so far