by Tarique Anwar
New Delhi: It’s a story of the triumph of spirit over adversity, of optimism over negativity.
In 2005, Monica Singh lost a part of her identity – her face - in an acid attack in Lucknow. Nine years, 43 reconstruction surgeries and a series of traumatic experiences later, she is back on her feet, chasing her dream. The 28-year-old is finally leaving for New York to pursue her post graduation at Parson's New School of Design.
"An acid attack survivor has to prove every day that she is a victim of this patriarchal society, that she is not weak and that she is strong enough to live a normal life," Monica told Firstpost. "Getting an offer letter from Parson was like a dream come true," she added.
Despite her problems, Monica, 28, had managed to complete her bachelor’s degree in apparel design in the prestigious National Institute of Technology (NIFT) in 2009.
Recounting the horror, she said: "I was attacked when I was on my way back to Lucknow to visit my family after the completion of the first year of my course. One of my 'friends', who was known to me for six years, waved me to stop my car. As I rolled down the window, two men riding on a motorcycle stopped for a moment near my car. One of them threw a cup of liquid on me and fled. I thought it was a cup of hot coffee and tried to drive to hospital but I could not. My legs had stopped functioning. A passerby spotted me in that condition and took me to a nearby hospital. By the time I reached the hospital, I realised I had been attacked with acid," she says, her voice chocking.
Her fault? She had refused to marry the ‘friend’, saying she wanted to continue with her education and pursue a career.
She was able to stand almost a year after the incident. Ironically, no one from the state or central government extended any help to Monica. The entire expense of her treatment was borne by her father. Through all this suffering, she had not given up on her dream to be a fashion designer. She was back in Delhi soon to resume studies. She says after the attack, she had to work hard in studies to make her different from others. "And I did that," she with a hint of pride.
Her plans to study further hit a roadblock when her father passed away. But she had no plans to give up.
"Acid Survivors Foundation India (ASFI), a leading NGO providing support services to acid attack survivors offered me help, but I declined to take their help as I didn’t want to be treated as a victim or survivor to gain sympathy. I asked Parson for a scholarship. They contacted Make Love Not Scars, an organisation that help survivors in their rehabilitation. The organisation raised funds through documentary films on me," she said.
Ria Sharma, founder of Make Love not Scars, told Firstpost that they had raised money to fund Monica’s first year college expenses. “Still, she wants money for her second year,” she added. The entire amount was crowd-sourced.
What about her attackers? Monica has given up all expectation of justice. The case is pending in the Allahabad High Court. "I cannot afford to appear in court for hearings because nothing happened in the past nine years. I cannot plead or beg for justice anymore as my priorities are my family and career," she said.
"It is extremely painful to see the culprits are living a normal life. The two attackers are behind bars, but the real perpetrators are out on bail," she added. As per the new law passed in April last year, Monica would have been entitled to compensation from the state government as well as the accused. But it did not happen as the incident took place before the implementation of the amended law.
Updated Date: Aug 28, 2014 13:40 PM