Her face ravaged by an acid attack by a man whose proposal of marriage she declined at the age of 15 nearly nine years ago, Laxmi, has a special reason to smile these days.
Laxmi, now 24, whose story of courage in the face of extreme adversity was highlighted in a series on acid attack victims by Hindustan Times on July 21, 2013, has found a partner for life.
Kanpur-based social activist Alok Dixit, 25, who runs a campaign on the social media against acid attacks, Spot of Shame, said he was bowled over by Laxmi’s spirit.
“When she came to us, she was bold and smart. Unlike the other girls, who shy away from society and usually move about with covered faces, Laxmi moved freely with an open face. I saw a fighter in her and gradually we fell in love,” he said.
Laxmi, a Delhi resident who was attacked with acid in 2005 and avoided the society for nearly eight years, joined him in May. Soon, they fell in love.
Their families have accepted the relationship and also their decision not to have a ceremonial wedlock.
"We don't want people to come to our wedding and comment on my looks. The looks of a bride are most important for people. So we decided not to have any ceremony," Laxmi said.
She has so far undergone seven surgeries and more might be in the offing. The journey from the societal isolation to the companionship has been very painful one, Laxmi recounts.
"I learnt to live with the physical pain but the way the society reacted was more hurting. My own relatives stopped seeing me. I stayed indoors for eight years and ventured out only with covered face," said Laxmi.
"I tried to look for a job but nobody was willing to hire me. They said people would be scared if they see me in an office,” she said.
She said survivors lose confidence to build relationships when people avoid them.
"I always ask the society, ‘what is our fault’? People accept those born blind or those who are physically challenged, but we are shunned," Laxmi said.
" I feel our condition is worse than the rape victims because with disfigured faces we even lose our identities," she said.
Alok’s campaign has spread from his native Kanpur to other cities through social media activism. Currently, about 50 victims have joined the campaign to seek justice for acid attack survivors.
The couple is currently campaigning from the national capital.
Watch an earlier video, where Laxmi speaks about her life: