I yelled in pain. I cried for help,
but people just turned a blind eye.
They gathered around us and
watched us in pain, but not a soul
stepped forward to help.
Lying on the ground, I cried, hoping help would come soon.
I don’t know how I managed to get
home, but when my mother first saw me,
I was taken to a small hospital nearby,
but they refused to admit me. They wanted an FIR (First Information Report)
filed. For the next 5, 6 hours I sat at the
police station in pain.
You had to be present at the police sta-
tion in that condition?
Yes, I had to sit there. No hospital was
willing to admit me. After seven hours I
was sent in an ambulance to a government hospital. By that time, I was not
able to see anything. I feared that I had
lost my vision. My face was swelling up.
Then my father and brothers admitted
me to a private hospital. I was there for
During that time I could see with both
eyes. But soon I stopped being able to see
with my left eye. I think the hospital
didn’t act quickly and they ended up
ruining the vision of my left eye.
My father, who is a taxi driver, sold his
vehicle to pay my medical bills.
I was then brought to Mumbai and a
surgery was done at a government hospital. I was admitted in the night and the
next morning they did the surgery. The
doctors feared that I would lose my sight
completely and rushed ahead with the
I was discharged after 15 days.
Coming back home didn’t feel the
same. My life changed and I went into depression.
For nine months I ate less, spoke little and didn’t
step out of the house.
Almost nine months after the surgery I got to
know of Ria Sharma through Facebook. She is the
founder of Make Love Not Scars (it is dedicated to
helping victims of acid attacks by offering them
medical, legal, financial and psychological aid).
She spoke to me for three hours and counseled
me. Getting funds was a challenge, but Ria helped
me greatly with that.
When I met her, my face was in a really bad condition. She helped raise funds for the treatment.
How did your family react to the attack?
My family was very upset after the attack. My
parents were in shock. I am the youngest of three
sisters and two brothers.
My father was extremely affected by the attack.
But I decided to take control of my life and they too
started being strong for me.
When I’d step out, I would get a lot of curious
stares from people, which I still do. It became difficult to step out without being noticed and stared at. I often
wonder why people look at me that way. What’s my fault?
People would tell my parents that my life is ruined. They
would taunt me. I often wondered why people don’t support
the victim. Why do they taunt us and add to our grief?
I insist that people treat me normally, just like they would
treat other girls my age. We are no different.
If people come forth and support the acid attack survivors,
they will feel good. But that rarely happens. That’s why most
of these survivors stay inside their homes.
Today, when someone gives me a judgmental look, I just
But there are many who welcome me with a smile. Recently when I was travelling from Mumbai to Delhi, three people
on the flight wrote messages telling me that I’m beautiful.
That was so sweet; I was thrilled to read those messages. I’m
glad that there are some people who understand us, too.
Do you feel beautiful?
When I arrived in Mumbai and was on my way to Sion
Hospital (a government hospital), I looked at the mirror for
the first time post the attack. I was scared and looked away.
My face before the attack kept coming to my mind, and I
failed to have the courage to accept reality.
I was angry and got upset with my parents for no fault of
theirs. But they never gave up on
me. They kept saying that they will
see me through this difficult phase.
Now I don’t hesitate to look at
the mirror. Today I believe that I
am truly beautiful and my face is
Were you interested in modeling
No. Once my doctor had taken me for a
fashion show in Mumbai (this was after
the acid attack). I saw models walking
down the ramp and felt happy seeing
them. I got an opportunity to walk for
NYFW and that makes me really happy.
Did you have any dream? What was it?
I had dreamed of becoming a teacher. I
was working towards it too. I had completed my 10 standard exams. I was in
the 11th standard, when they threw acid
on me. After that I struggled to get on
What happened about your dream?
Would you want to still pursue it?
After the attack, I want to help other
survivors come out of their trauma. I
have gone through a lot of pain and
would want to help these survivors.
Somewhere I left my dream behind
after the attack. But maybe in the near
future if I got a chance, I’d like to get back
to studying and pursue my dream to
become a teacher.
I find it difficult to read, but I
know that I will manage.
Is the court verdict out
The last I heard was
that it got delayed. I am
not following it and
don’t know much
In 2013 the Supreme
Court had banned the
sale of acid, yet it is sold
freely. When we go to buy
medicines, they insist on a
prescription. But acid is avail-
able easily and is very cheap.
You are a video blogger, who is giving
helpful online beauty tutorials. How does it feel
being in front of the camera?
There was a time when I didn’t apply any make-up on my face. But today I enjoy putting make-up.
My favorite lip color is red.
I made an online video (Beauty Tips by Reshma)
on how to apply make-up and that did very well.
Then I did three more videos. Thankfully those
videos did well, too.
When I shot the first video, I was extremely nervous. There were so many cameras and lights, I didn’t know what to do. When the video was out, I
watched it and read the comments.
There were many women who had such good
things to say. They supported me. That made me
feel really good and it boosted my confidence too.
Your videos do have a powerful message...
Yes. I urge my viewers to help enforce the ban on acid. I
have also mentioned in the video that lipstick is available easily in the market just like concentrated acid.
A lot of people have supported me. I want to return the
favor and support the many acid attack survivors who are out
there. Acid attack survivors should understand that they have done no wrong. The person who attacked us was wrong.
The survivors should just try to live life without fear and
pursue their dreams. Just because someone ruined your face
doesn’t mean you stop being beautiful. Life goes on. n
THE ACID ATTACK SURVIVOR AT NEW YORK FASHION WEEK 3Page A23
Above, Reshma applies her favorite red lipstick. Below, “Wow,” says her nephew Ayaan when you ask him how Reshma looks. Inset, Reshma before the attack.
PHOTOGRAPHS: HI TESH HARISINGHANI
India Abroad September 23, 2016