Woman of Substance
Prologue– This is not a mere piece of writing but it is written out of revelation; reverence of the highest virtue for a woman who lived in a society where inhuman and cruel beasts also co-existed with her.A fighter in the true sense of the word -a survivor in this extreme society where one faces humiliation and excruciating pain, where one solemnly keeps walking, whee one looses other treasures of life and still never gives up.She is an inspiration, an icon to look up to. I can hardly express my thoughts and feelings after reading about her.I’m too overshadowed by her bravery, maybe I’m too overwhelmed by her indomitable courage and undying spirit. I won’t make this long, I just hope my voice reaches you. I hope my opinions and words make up and send a token of love and respect-a token of gratitude as she keep inspiring millions.
And the story………. My name is Laxmi. I am like you. I was once young and beautiful and I had a dream. Even when I was studying in a Delhi school in Class VII, I would spend hours singing. I’d recorded my songs and sent them to talent hunt competitions. I was waiting for a call from ‘Indian Idol’. I belong from a poor family. My father worked as a chef in a South Delhi home. I became friends with another girl in the neighbourhood and her brother soon started proposing to me. I was only 15 and he was 32 years old. On April 18, he messaged me: “I love you.” I ignored it but the next day he messaged again: “I want an instant reply.” Again I didn’t respond. Then suddenly something happened after which my life turned upside down.I can’t even explain what happened to me but what all i can recall is that I kept screaming for help but no one stepped forth. Everyone ran in the opposite direction. I could feel my flesh burning and I covered my eyes with my arms. That reflex action saved me from losing my vision.Acid corroded me quickly. Within a few seconds, I had lost my face, my ear had melted and both my arms were charred black. A politician’s driver took me to a hospital, where I was to stay for the next 10 weeks.I saw myself in the mirror at the end of 10 weeks and couldn’t believe what the acid had done to me. The doctors removed the entire skin from my face and keep it bandaged. I’ve already had seven surgeries and need at least four more before I can go in for plastic surgery, provided I can afford it.I now know to live with the physical pain but what hurts me more is the way the society reacted. My own relatives stopped seeing me, as did my friends. I stayed indoors for eight years and ventured out only in a ghungat.The attacker was out on bail within a month and he soon got married. He returned to a normal life within a month, but what about me? Nobody even wants to be my friend; how can I even hope that I’ll have a lover or a husband? I tried to pick up a job but nobody was willing to hire me. Some said: “People will get scared if they see you.” Others said they will call back but, of course, the phone never rang. I tried BPOs, banks and beauty parlours but all I got was rejection. Nobody wants to hire acid victims because of the way they look. But I ask you, is it my fault? Society accepts those born blind or those who are physically challenged. Why was i shunned? If you ask me, people like me are worse off than rape victims because with our faces burnt, we seem to have lost our identity.I still sing. I love music. I love partying. I love nail polish. I design and tailor my own clothes. I have desires like you do, but I seem to scare off people. The only support I got was from my parents, my doctor, my lawyer and from the couple at whose house my father worked. They paid for my surgeries and are still in touch with me.Even while my parents were coping with the attack, my brother came down with tuberculosis and my father died. I was shattered for the second time.In the instant that my father died, I had to carry the burden of being the bread earner for the family. My mother was constantly with my brother and felt really upset that she could not spend time with me.I gathered myself together and pursued my case in court. My lawyer had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, asking for a ban on the sale of acid.Slowly, I started getting in touch with other victims, most of who are blinded or have lost their hearing. You can’t bear to look at us but we don’t have the money to buy ourselves new faces. My friends – yes, I’ve made new friends and they are all acid victims – are mostly blind.You stare at us and gather your children in a hurry, hoping they haven’t got scared just looking at us. Why don’t you tie a band around your eyes? I hope you never have to face it, but I do hope you understand it. Don’t give me the strength if you can’t, but don’t try and break my confidence.I started an online petition and was happy when 27,000 people signed it. I went to the home ministry to submit it but nobody turned up.I had to finally ambush a minister’s car to hand over the petition. Nahim Khan, the man who had attacked me with acid, had to go back to jail after the court awarded him a seven-year sentence. He will be free in soon. But my scars will remain forever.My legal fight will continue. The Supreme Court has ordered states to pay Rs. 3 lakh as compensation, but what about my medical costs ? What about jobs? How about sensitizing the police force and trials in fast-track courts? I need your help. I have a dream and I want to live it.
————— About the author: The article has been submitted by our intern, Nikita Prasad.