After losing my mother in 2009, I was living with my elder sister and brother in law in Mumbai. The couple was forcing me to marry against my wish and when I turned down the marriage proposal they threatened me with fatal consequences.
The following day my elder sister, her husband and their 18 year old son barged in and retaliated by throwing acid on me, my two young sisters and a toddler. Now 10 years old, still struggles in pain. My face chest and arms were disfigured beyond recognition. It also left me partially blind. I couldn’t open my eyelid or my mouth and had to undergo almost 17 reconstruction surgeries for my present changed appearance. I sold my house and jewelry to fund our treatment.
I learned to live with physical pain but what hurt me most was the way society reacted. After spending almost a year on the bed, I started hunting for a job but nobody was ready to give me one because of the way I looked. I used to work as a professional makeup artist but now there was no work for me. My face had become my identity. I wanted to shout out to the world and say- ‘Acid has changed my face not ruined my soul.’ I am not a victim I am a survivor, people who attacked me should cover their face, I won’t!
After a lot of struggle right from getting treatment to finding a job as a maid and begging outside mosque to feed my family. In year 2016, I formed my NGO – ‘Acid Survivor Sahas Foundation’. It provides counselling, education, as well as employment opportunities to other survivors. Till date we have empowered 26 acid attack victims.
During Covid 19 outbreak I found it more difficult to support myself and other survivors through the Ngo so I decided to start ‘All In One Mini Supermarket’, Which is Mumbai’s only supermarket to employ acid attack victims. My aim is to build shelter home for acid attack victims who have been abandoned by their families. Assist and employ them by giving them freedom to live.
Today I am still recovering from the wounds and boldly facing the world without hiding within four walls. I refuse to give hope; they burned my face but not my will to live.
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Interviewed and written by — Raavya Sarda