Educationist Fatma Zakaria dies due to COVID-19, son Fareed gives heartfelt tribute

Her son, the Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria, paid tribute to her on his CNN show on Sunday night.
Fatma Zakaria and Fareed Zakaria
Fatma Zakaria and Fareed Zakaria
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Fatma Zakaria, the former journalist and renowned educationist, passed away in Aurangabad due to complications relating to COVID-19 on April 6. Her son, the Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria, announced the news during his show CNN on Sunday. She was 85. 

Fatma died at Bajaj Hospital in Maharashtra, one of nearly three million COVID-19 deaths that have occurred worldwide since the onset of the pandemic, Fareed said on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. “If there’s a single person most responsible today for who I am and the things I have achieved in the world, large or small, it’s my mother,” Fareed said in a heartfelt tribute to Fatma Zakaria. 

Fatma was born in 1936 in erstwhile Bombay and grew up in a large, loving family, though she lost her father at a young age, Fareed said. She studied at Isabella Thoburn College, which inculcated a love of American education in her, and she went on to work as a social worker helping to educate underprivileged children. 

After marriage, she moved into journalism, enduring and succeeding in the male-dominated field. Her work included interviews with former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi as well as multiple cover stories for magazines, including one on Islam. She also wrote about dropping her son, Fareed’s brother, off at college in the United States and why she thought the American education system was worthwhile. 

After retiring from journalism, she began running the large education campus that had been set up by her and her husband, and serving as chairman of the Maulana Azad Educational Trust.  “Education is an important medium of social transformation,” she once said. 

She was honoured with the Padma Shri Award in January 2006. 

Fareed said when Fatma was asked what she was proudest of in her life, she responded that it was her role as her mother. He recalled sitting around the table with his mother and brother, arguing about what would go on the cover of the magazine, even as a 10-year-old. She also encouraged them to seek an education in the United States, even though she knew it would take them far away from home. 

As a result of the pandemic, Fareed could not travel to India to see his mother one last time, nor could he be there for the funeral. Ending the CNN segment, he said, “Goodbye ma, I love you.”

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