I wanted a career in sports or in the police. I don't think it will be possible anymore.

Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | December 24, 2014 | 09:34 am IST I am Ritu and I hail from Rohtak in Haryana. I am an acid attack survivor.  That fateful day I had left my home for a game of volleyball nearby. I have played on a state level. People near the chowk were preparing for a jagran (a religious or spiritual gathering). The road was quite crowded. Two men in a bike approached me. And then before I could suspect anything, the pillion rider doused my face with acid. It all happened so quickly. I however, remember seeing the person responsible for the attack, sitting in a car on another side of the road, watching me as I seethed in pain. My aunt’s son did this to me. He paid some people Rs 1, 25,000 to throw acid on me. Why he did so, I really do not know. Our families had some property dispute, but that had been continuing for quite some time then. I don’t think any survivor of an acid attack would want to meet their assaulter. But I would like to face mine some day, and ask him, “Why did you do this to me?” I was just seventeen then. I also remember the pain- severe, extreme, unbearable. The acid had gone inside my eyes and my vision had blurred. I screamed, asking for help, and some acid entered my mouth. No one came forward to help. I knew they saw me. And yet not a single person would come near me. Finally my brother, who was one of the organisers of the jagaran, heard my wail. I was taken to a hospital where I was to spend the next two months of my life. The only constant was the agony. The acid damaged my left eye completely. I can only see from my right eye now. I have had six operations so far. And I am yet to undergo several more operations in the future, including that of the lips, nose and forehead. I have no idea when will this be all over. After I returned from the hospital, I was completely depressed. Nothing felt right, I was so disturbed. At times I contemplated whether it would have been better if I had died in the attack. Wouldn’t it have been so much easier? I never showed my face to anybody, I was too embarrassed. I have come a long way since then. I started working with Stop Acid Attacks (SAA) around seven months ago*. Today, I am an independent woman. I work in She-roes, a café in Agra, run by acid attack survivors. I do not use a veil. People do stare at times, but I have got used to it. ( Ritu sharing a light moment with Rupa (right) ) I campaign against such attacks, because I believe that by spreading awareness, we can make a difference. We can change mindsets, which is what we need to do now. And I am not stopping till that happens. I wanted my assaulters to get a death sentence initially, or that they too should have acid poured on their faces, just what they did to me. The anger has since cooled down. I have realised if I were to demand any of the two forms of punishment for them, there would absolutely be no difference between the criminals and me. Whatever punishment they do get now, I hope they will never ever think of repeating the same mistake. Before the horrific attack changed my life, I wanted to pursue a profession in sports or even in the police department. The attack has caused me harm in more than one way. I tried playing after the attack, but it isn’t the same. With no sight in one eye, getting into police too may not be possible anymore. This year I ‘celebrated’ the second anniversary of my attack. My family at SAA even brought me a cake. I am trying to put it behind me. But for now I am satisfied. I have a job now. And I am living. I like painting. I am trying to work towards pursuing it further. *Stop Acid Attacks (SAA) is a Delhi-based NGO, that campaigns against acid violence and assists in the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors. ( At the time of speaking to Ritu, she was headed to an interview with a news channel. She had just received news that a court had just announced the sentence for her assaulters. Later in the day, she would take part in a protest against an acid attack which had taken place near Lodhi Gardens, that very morning. ) ( All images courtesy: Stop Acid Attacks & Acid Attack Fighter Ritu Facebook Page ) Tweet

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