The survivor of a gruesome acid attack at age 18, Kajal Prajapati from Gujarat’s Mehsana rebuilt her life with sheer grit and determination.
If there was one dream Kaajal Prajapati from Gujarat’s Mehsana district wanted to pursue since childhood it was to join the police force. Adorning a khaki uniform and working for the safety of the civilians is the noblest profession, according to her.
Her parents, a rickshaw driver and a homemaker, always encouraged her to study hard and crack the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams. With self-coaching, the road seemed challenging but not impossible for a 16-year-old Kaajal in 2014.
However, two years later, she faced a brutal acid assault right outside her college, and life changed forever. For the next five years, she was unable to see and her face was severely disfigured.
‘I blamed myself for being a girl.’
It was 1 February 2016, when Kaajal’s stalker approached her with a ‘final warning’ to accept his marriage proposal. After politely declining him several times in the past, Kaajal said no this time too.
At first, Kaajal dismissed his final warning believing he would leave.
“Having dealt with him in the past, I was mentally prepared to tackle him this time too. I had no idea he was carrying a bottle filled with acid. As soon as I stepped out of my college premises, he threw it on me, leaving me in excruciating pain,” Kaajal tells The Better India.
She fell to the ground and as her skin started to melt, her seniors poured water and milk on her to lessen her pain but they only aggravated it. Half an hour later, she was taken to the nearest hospital but due to the severity of the burns, she was shifted to Ahmedabad’s Civil Hospital.
“The doctors declared me blind and said I will need multiple surgeries to treat my burns and for my skin to heal. It was earth-shattering as I had just begun my first year of commerce. My whole life came to a standstill. My education suffered, my brother had to leave his studies to take up a job and finance my surgeries and my father had to do extra shifts. With lakhs of rupees required and results that did not guarantee outcomes, everything seemed dark,” says the 23-year-old.
Kaajal lived in the hospital for nearly four months and underwent more than 20 surgeries. Her family has spent nearly Rs 20,00,000 so far on medical expenses. Of this, she received Rs 3,00,000 from the government and some amount via donations from strangers.
It was only last year that Kaajal was finally able to see with one eye.
Amidst the painful and exhausting recovery, if Kaajal was able to keep alive her hope, it was only because of her parents’ unwavering support.
“When people said, ‘It would have been better if the attacker had just thrown acid on the hands or legs instead of the face,’ it broke me. They never questioned his action. Some relatives stopped visiting us and wherever I went, people stared. I blamed myself for being born as a girl. But my lion-hearted parents kept telling me that the incident cannot stop me from pursuing my UPSC dreams and living with dignity. They taught me I don’t need to be embarrassed, the attacker needs to,” she added.
This was a major reason why Kaajal was not scared to apply for jobs when she got her sight back. However, four to five companies rejected her because of her appearance.
Not one to give up easily, Kaajal recently re-enrolled in college and is currently finishing her first year while preparing for UPSC.
“I can study only for 1-2 hours daily because of my condition but it is better than doing nothing. I want to get into the police force and work hard towards keeping our society safe, especially for women, by ensuring stricter punishments for criminals. I soon hope to undergo another surgery for my second eye which will determine if I ever get my full vision back,” says Kaajal.
With her father and brother still clearing previous debts, Kaajal needs monetary help for her upcoming surgery. If you wish to contribute to Kaajal’s medical expenses, you can donate to:
Name: KAAJAL PRAJAPATI
BOB A/C NO:- 20060100019114
IFSC CODE- BARB0INDMEH
BRANCH- INDUSTRIAL ESTATE, MEHSANA
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)