THIRTEEN YEARS ago, my former boss Joseph Rodrigues, whose repeated marriage proposals I had rejected, poured two litres of sulphuric acid on me. My skin was ripped off to the bare bone, there was nothing left of my nose and face. I also lost an eye. My body had received 65 percent burns. My father, who works in the armed forces, wasn’t in town at the time, and the hospitals which my mother and sister rushed me to refused to give me even first aid until we made the payment. They had to take me to a government hospital, which lacked proper treatment for burn victims, and was nothing short of hell, with the dead and the living thrown together in the same room. Relatives who came to see me fainted at the ghastly sight. The doctors had no idea how to treat me.
My close relatives suggested that I be euthanised, and blamed my father for educating me and sending me to work. It was the determination to live and seek justice that kept me going. My father had to sell his house to meet my medical expenses. After eight months in the hospital, I was shifted to my house as we couldn’t meet those expenses. Only when the media highlighted my case did a few donors come forward. Since then, I have had 36 facial and body surgeries. I lost my other eye too. Even today I can’t sit straight for a long time, as one side of my neck, which was welded to my shoulder, has been separated through surgery.
Justice came after five years, but it was too little. The trial court sentenced him to five years and two months. But he was out two months later. I moved the appeal to the High Court, which after two years, handed him a life sentence of 14 years. Since then I have been involved with organisations and in my limited capacity I am helping and reaching out to affected acid victims like me. My PIL has made the government consider an acid attack as an ‘attempt to murder’ and issue a compensation of 2 lakh to the victims, along with proper rehabilitation. But unless we change the way we raise girls and boys, larger change in society will remain elusive.