Odisha acid-attack survivor marries long-time friend, recalls journey to 'best day of her life'

ByDebabrata Mohanty | Edited by Sparshita Saxena, Bhubaneswar
Mar 01, 2021 11:44 PM IST

Roul shared her story from being a bedridden girl to the woman who chased the culprit and put him behind the bars.

An acid attack scarred her face completely and left her blind in both eyes, yet the ghastly incident could not stop Odisha's 29-year-old Pramodini Roul, alias Rani, from getting back on her feet.

The couple tied the knot on Monday and Roul described it as the "best day" of her life.(HT Photo)
The couple tied the knot on Monday and Roul described it as the "best day" of her life.(HT Photo)

Roul, who hails from the state's Jagatsinghpur district, decided to brush aside the traumatic memories of the acid attack and entered into wedlock with her long-time boyfriend Saroj Sahoo, 30. The couple tied the knot on Monday and Roul described it as the "best day" of her life.

As she recalled the most horrid incident of her life and the painful years that followed, she shared her story from being a bedridden girl to the woman who chased the culprit and put him behind the bars even when the police had shut the case citing 'no clue'.

"In a society where the face of a girl is given more importance for marriage, I could never dream of it. I wanted to marry with the consent of my family and my boyfriend's family and it happened," said Roul, soon after the marriage concluded. The wedding took place at her village Kanakpur in Jagatsinghpur district on Monday evening.

Also read: Covid-19 in Maharashtra - How various districts fared since Feb 24

Roul, one of the three daughters of a widow, was pursuing her intermediate studies in 2009 in a local college when an army jawan named Santosh Vedant Kumar allegedly threw acid on her face after she said no to her marriage proposal. An army camp was running near her college when Santosh saw Roul and proposed to marry her. However, her family said they did not agree to the proposal as Roul was too young and wanted to continue her studies.

The man allegedly continued to stalk her and on May 4, 2009, threw acid on her. Roul was just a teenager then. Around 80 per cent of her body got scarred in the incident and the lower half of her body was paralysed. "I was 17. I’d dreamt of being independent and supporting my family but my life felt like a joke. All because I refused a boy’s offer? He was a well-educated boy from the army. A man whom we trusted to protect us had ruined my life," Roul wrote on her Facebook page a few days ago recounting the horrible days of her life.

Though an FIR was lodged, the case was closed in 2012 citing ‘no clue’ by the cops. The accused was living with his wife and child in Kupwara. Roul, meanwhile, spent five years in a hospital bed near her house. In 2014, Saroj Sahu, a medical representative from Balakati area of Bhubaneswar, saw her for the first time. The nurse was a friend of Sahoo and had invited him to see the problems the acid attack victim. Though Sahoo tried to speak to her, Roul did interact as she was too scarred by her experiences.

"So he’d speak to Maa instead. I had no vision, but whenever I’d hear Maa chuckle, I knew it was Saroj. Honestly, I really appreciated him for that. Fufaji (father's brother) refused to help. In fact, the few times he visited, he’d say things like, ‘Injection deke maar do usse’ (give her some injection and let her die). He’d say it to my face. To him, I was already dead. Every night, I’d pray for death. I no longer had dreams or goals. I’d forgotten how to laugh. But I felt the worst about Maa – instead of relieving her stress, I had added to it. My nurse friend & Saroj tried to help us, but we couldn’t just take money from them," Roul wrote in her Facebook post.

She was hesitant. "All my friend’s had abandoned me. Why then was this man, who I’d never spoken to, visiting me? He’d gotten my address from his nurse friend. He brought along my favourite chocolates and motichoor ladoos – Maa’s favourites. But I was still wary of men," Roul wrote, reminiscing how Sahoo warmed up to her.

"Once, Maa was away and I peed in the bed. Without hesitation, he cleaned it up. I hugged him and cried. It’s the most vulnerable I’d ever felt. I asked him, ‘Why are you doing all this?’ and he simply replied, ‘Har kaam ke peeche reason nahi hota’ (there isn't a reason behind every action). I felt so close to him that day, I wish I could see him. Gingerly, I touched his face, hoping to map it out for myself."

Sahoo briefly left his job as a medicine representative to provide support and attention to Roul. After recovering, Roul joined Sheroes’ help desk, a cafe run by acid attack survivors in Lucknow in 2015. Sahoo also joined Sheroes.

Though Sahoo proposed to her in 2016, she could not see him as she had lost her eyesight. In July 2017, after she underwent eye surgery, she could partially see. On Valentine's Day, 2018, the two decided to get engaged at Sheroes where she started her first job and a new life. Sahoo is back to being a medicine representative now.

Roul's alleged assailant, Santosh, would have got away had she not started collecting evidence as she spoke to his friends and recorded the conversations. As the case gained traction on social media, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik met her and facilitated the re-opening of her case. Santosh was caught in September 2017 and is behind bars since then.

"It’s strange that it took 2 men to change the course of my life. One, a man in a uniform who took an oath of ‘service before self’, who couldn’t comprehend a simple ‘NO’ from a girl. And another, a simpleton who saw a girl in her most vulnerable state, became her biggest support and pushed her to be the best version of herself. But most importantly, who waited for her to be ready," Roul wrote on her Facebook page.

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