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4-min read

'Why Assume She's Dead?': Mariya Salim is Still Searching for Her Mother, 18 Years On

It has been eighteen years since Mariya’s mother disappeared without a trace. Eighteen years, without closure. Yet, she believes that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Jashodhara Mukherjee | News18.com

Updated:May 31, 2019, 12:07 PM IST
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'Why Assume She's Dead?': Mariya Salim is Still Searching for Her Mother, 18 Years On
It has been eighteen years since Mariya’s mother disappeared without a trace. Eighteen years, without closure. Yet, she believes that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
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Till April 28, 2001, Mariya was just a regular girl, gearing up for a brand new session at school. Life was simple - an afternoon nap, followed by an evening filled with laughter and merrymaking with her sisters, mother and grandmother. All of this would take place amidst the hustle and bustle associated with wrapping new books with brown paper and the excitement of labelling them.

"Mummy had the best handwriting so we asked her to help us with that," she tells  News18 in an interview.

Little did she know that her world was soon to be turned upside down. Mariya Salim, now a human rights activist, was yet to encounter what she describes as “emotional trauma.”

That evening, Mariya’s mother went out to buy some brown paper for her daughters’ books from the local shop just down the road. Alarm and fear penetrated the family when an hour and a half later, she was still not home.

Thus, began the Salim family’s arduous journey – a quest for truth about what exactly happened.

“The three of us, my sisters and I, were in shock. We could not believe that we were not waking up to seeing Mummy or calling her when we came back from school asking her what was for lunch or telling her what we did at school. We were so young we could not even go looking for her, even though we wanted to,” says Mariya.

What was most shocking is how the society around Mariya reacted to the incident. She reveals how numerous people around her were oblivious to the emotional turmoil that her family was going through. The fact that she calls them ‘abusive’ reveals how the incident left her scarred psychologically.

She says, “I remember my younger sister, who was in class 6 at that time, come home crying one day and told us that she does not want to go to school because her teacher was insensitive enough to ask her about mummy in front of the entire class. When her classmates started asking questions, she just did not know what to say.”

A police complaint was filed a day after her mother went missing, but it was futile.

Soon, her “gentle and loving” mother was being unjustly portrayed as the culprit.

Mariya describes in details what the common notions have been about her mother’s disappearance. From being told that ‘she ran away’ or that it ‘must have been (her) father’, Mariya has heard it all. In fact, she narrates how one even told her, “It’s so shameful. None of you will be married off easily now as the boy’s family will have issues with this.”

Despite the tough road ahead, Mariya and her family never gave up. She says, “The fact that I never referred to her as ‘was’ makes me believe that I never lost hope. For some reason, I have just not let go."

For Mariya, there's one big thing that keeps her going: "Why should I assume that she may not be alive?”

Last year, while living in Bengaluru, Mariya realised that social media could play a crucial role in bringing her one step closer to finding her mother. She resorted to Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp in order to get the word out. This year too, she tweeted about her mother which got retweeted 1,00,000 times and even garnered responses.

This was her tweet:

Her posts quickly caught on and went viral, but weren’t entirely fruitful.

She says, “There were three people who sent me photos of women who looked a little bit like her. But they were not her. There have been some people who work on missing persons who reached out to me and I am now in touch with them trying to figure out how I can start a physical search as well.”

Of course, the journey hasn’t been rosy. The internet can be a pretty dark place when it wants to be and Mariya has faced her share of trolls and haters. But that has failed to deter her. “I have faced much worse when I was 13,” she says.

It has been eighteen years since Mariya’s mother disappeared without a trace. Eighteen years, without closure. Yet, she believes that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

She says, “God looks after human beings like her. I believe till I hear otherwise, that he has looked after her. I just need to find where she is.”

If you have any leads that might help Mariya in her search, you can reach out to her at mariya.salim@gmail.com.

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