I was born in a Mumbai hospital, setting the record for the healthiest baby in the nursing home. I weighed twelve and a half pounds at birth and was awarded a medal for the feat. The record is unbroken till date.
I have a brother who is 13 years older and a sister who is my senior by 10 years. And so, predictably, there was never any sibling rivalry among us. Instead, for me, it was like growing up with two sets of parents.
Being the youngest in the family, I was pampered. My mother comes from a Muslim Pathan family and my father is a Hindu. We celebrated both Id and Diwali with equal gusto. And with time we added Christmas to the list. I had the good fortune of growing up in a cosmopolitan atmosphere where I imbibed the cultures and ethos of both religions.
My elder sister went to the Convent of Jesus and Mary, Mumbai. My mother, who was a poet and a journalist, wanted me to be well-versed in Urdu and so she sent me to an Urdu medium school. Initially, I used to think that my mother was partial to my elder sister but later realised that her decision had been a blessing in disguise. There are lots of people who speak good English but only a handful who can hold their own in chaste Urdu or Hindi.
Literature was my favourite subject in school and I participated in various extra curricular activities. I loved a game of tug of war where my weight always turned out to be an advantage. I could pull all the girls on the other end of the rope over to my side, all by myself!
I started composing Urdu couplets at the age of three and my mother, who owned a magazine, would get them published. The atmosphere at home was conducive to such literary pursuits of which I took full advantage. I had a big group of friends in school but I was already acting in movies and a few friends were jealous of me. Exposure to the world of films, however, did not get to my head as my parents always saw to it that I remained grounded.
In all the films that I did as a child artiste, I would see my name after those of the lead actors and actresses. It would go Nargis, Dilip Kumar and Baby Tabassum. This led me to thinking that the And was a part of my name. So much so that when I was asked my name, I would glibly reply And Baby Tabassum.