Nine women who survived acid attack put their beautiful side on show on Saturday when they walked the ramp for charity.
From scarred victims, fashion designer Rupa and the other models (Geeta, Dolly, Neetu, Rajwant, Ritu, Wassima, Sonia, and Geeta Lodhi) have transformed to daring fighters. “When I look into the mirror, I see a confident woman, not a disfigured face,” said Rupa. Chhanv, a non-government organistation working to stop acid attacks, was behind this charity event, titled ‘Beautiful You’, at Guru Nanak Bhawan here.
The confident women did the catwalk hand in hand with their doctors. They were feminine grace in bridal outfits and looked gorgeous in western attire designed by Rupa. During rehearsals in the morning, they shared their stories with HT.
Sonia Chaudhary, disfigured in 2004 by a neighbour, introduced herself with a smile. “I run a small salon in Ghaziabad,” she said, “and I am ready to rock the stage.” She, who once dreamt of becoming an airhostess, has no regret. “I fear not death but a life unlived,” said the woman who has adopted a girl.
Ritu Saini of Rohtak, who became a victim of family dispute three years ago, has discovered her passion for painting and working for Chhanv’s ‘Stop Acid Attack’ campaign. Rupa was attacked in 2008, because of her stepmother’s lust for money. “People would turn away their face on seeing me. Now they are going to look at my fashion line,” she said.
Geeta’s husband had thrown acid on her and their two daughters when they were asleep. It was in 1992. While the younger daughter was killed, Geeta and her elder daughter, Neetu, were blinded and disfigured. Both now work at Sheroes (she heroes) café opened by Chhanv. Neetu, 21, wants to be a singer, but the frequent medical treatment she requires keeps her away from music practice.
The revenge of spurned men scarred Dolly of Sultanpur (near Agra), Geeta Lodhi of Meerut, Wassima of Fatehpur (Uttar Pradesh), and Rajwant Kaur of Ludhiana. Acid melted their skulls and faces, but couldn’t destroy their spirit. Rajwant Kaur, who a few years ago would keep her eyes fixed on the floor and face covered with dupatta, was Saturday’s showstopper. “I love to shoot photographs,” she said, “and capture all the happiness and nature’s colours.” She had become the face of courage.
“The most difficult thing for survivors,” said Chhanv foundation director Ashish, “is to live in the knowledge that their lives will never be the same. We meet them and convince them to give life another chance.”