“All I remember of the few seconds that followed the acid being thrown on my face was screaming in pain and begging my father to help me survive.”
It was 2005. Mohini had spent Diwali with her family in Delhi and was ready to head to Jaipur to start her new job. Nothing or nobody could have imagined the turn that the day would take.
“It was a usual Sunday morning, and my father had accompanied me to the railway station. Since it was just after Diwali, the roads were bereft of any traffic,” she says.
Suddenly, she saw a man, who had been stalking and harassing her for a while, approach the auto-rickshaw.
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Recollecting that horrific moment, the 36-year-old says,
“Before I could react, he threw a jug filled with acid on my face. I didn’t know what it was, but I turned my face at that very moment. One side of my face bore the brunt of it all.”
The next few minutes were a blur.
“The acid burnt my clothes, and it blurred my vision, almost as soon as it came in contact with my skin. The pain that is caused me was like nothing I had ever experienced before.”
A tea-stall owner came to the rescue as he poured fresh milk on the burns—that was perhaps the last memory Mohini has of the incident. She passed out almost immediately after this because she was in so much pain.
Little did she realise that some of the acid had also managed to get to her father.
What followed was nothing less than what we imagine hell to be.
“I had suffered 38 per cent burns, spent almost 15 days in the ICU, and went through almost 25 surgeries. However, even the acid did not hurt as much as some of the comments that were made. Some of my relatives thought that I must have done something to elicit this kind of anger from the boy. While others assumed it was a love affair gone sour. Some even went to the extent of blaming my mother for all that happened. The taunts just did not end.”
Even after Mohini was discharged and returned home, the road to recovery was not an easy one.
“The incident happened in 2005 when awareness about acid attack survivors was hardly existent. These cases were very rare then and in terms of support it was just my immediate family that stood by me.”
As for her father, she says that his injuries were not very severe, and was treated immediately when at the same hospital as her and would take the same medicine that was prescribed for her.
It took Mohini a couple of years to gather herself and emerge from that room where she had holed herself up.
“For those two years, I did not even step out to look at the sky. There were so many times that I contemplated ending my life; I believed that everything was over for me,” she says.
So what motivated her to come out?
“I thought hard about what had happened, and I realised that by staying inside, I was punishing myself for no fault of mine.”
She speaks about the job interviews she attended, all the while hiding her face, hoping that they would employ her without seeing her face.
“I did manage to get a telemarketing job, and that was the first milestone I achieved. Knowing that I could still take care of myself was a huge boost for me,” she says.
She also mentions that she met her husband, Gaurav, at the job.
Today, Mohini and Gaurav are happily married and have a son. She now is employed with the Delhi State Legal Service Authority (DSLSA), where she attends calls from similar survivors in need of legal assistance.
As our conversation winds up, Mohini says something which is seriously worth thinking about.
“While I had a very different dream of what my future would be, I am happy that I have come this far. There are good days and bad days, but the fact that today I am a source of strength to others in similar situations keeps me going. We are survivors and fighters not victims. Please respect our dignity.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)