Acid at­tack vic­tim Son­ali Mukherjee-Te­wary finds love and hap­pi­ness.

Son­ali Mukherjee-Te­wary plunged into de­spair af­ter be­ing blinded and left dis­fig­ured in a hor­rific acid at­tack. Then a stranger con­tacted her, of­fer­ing to pay for surgery, and over a se­ries of phone calls he made her re­alise she could be happy again

Friday - - Front Page -

Mov­ing my fin­gers across my face, I tried to fix a bindi as best as I could be­tween my non-ex­is­tent eye­brows. Then I gen­tly brushed my cheek and felt the curve of my lips. I was try­ing to imag­ine what I must look like, to imag­ine the face my soon-to-be-hus­band would gaze into as he said his vows.

In just a few hours I would be get­ting mar­ried. I’ll be hon­est, it was a day I thought I’d never have. I be­lieved I’d be alone for­ever and that no one would ever be able to love me af­ter I’d been blinded and my face was de­stroyed in an acid at­tack.

But Chi­tran­jan Te­wary got in touch af­ter see­ing me on a tele­vi­sion show two years ago dis­cussing the 2003 at­tack and asked my brother De­bashish if he could talk to me.

‘You are a very strong and brave woman,’ he told me. We spoke ev­ery day for a year af­ter that and even­tu­ally he said, ‘To me, you are the most beau­ti­ful woman in the world. Will you marry me?’

So on April 15 this year, 12 years af­ter the hor­ri­fy­ing in­ci­dent, I be­came his wife dur­ing an in­ti­mate court mar­riage fol­lowed by a Mi­tra, 22, who was mar­ried, his friend San­jay Paswan, 20, and a ju­ve­nile used to hang around near my col­lege and pass rude and lewd re­marks at me. One day, they made a very of­fen­sive com­ment and when I threat­ened to tell the po­lice, they laughed at me. I com­plained to my fa­ther about it and he marched over to them the next day and de­manded that they stay away from

Iwoke up eight days later and even­tu­ally learnt I had suf­fered 80 per cent burns, lost my eye­sight, hear­ing in my left ear and had se­vere burns on my chest and hands. Sneha, who was sleep­ing by my side, suf­fered burns but luck­ily they weren’t as se­ri­ous as mine.

The three who at­tacked me were ar­rested and charged. The adults were con­victed and feel the flesh from my face just melt and drop away. ‘I’m on fire!’ I re­mem­ber yelling. I couldn’t see any­thing but I could hear my sis­ter and mother cry­ing for help. Then I felt my­self be­ing lifted. I was in my fa­ther Chan­di­das Mukherjee’s arms and was be­ing rushed to hos­pi­tal. ‘Mother help me, I’m dy­ing!’ I screamed be­fore I fell un­con­scious. party with 300 of our fam­ily and friends.

He has helped me to re­alise I can be happy fol­low­ing that night­mare at­tack. Even now I still have flash­backs. As I told Fri­day in Au­gust, 2013, I was just 17 when three men splashed a jug of acid on my face in re­venge for spurn­ing their ad­vances. It was ter­ri­fy­ing that such a thing could hap­pen – just be­cause they said I was ar­ro­gant and turned down their lewd ad­vances.

I was a good stu­dent and was hop­ing to earn a de­gree in psy­chol­ogy and be­come a psy­chol­o­gist when I first no­ticed them. For sev­eral weeks the two lo­cal men, Ta­pas me. I guess the men didn’t like any­one stand­ing up to them so they de­cided to ruin my life for­ever.

On April 22, 2003, my par­ents and my sis­ter Sneha, who was 10 at the time, and I were sleep­ing on the ter­race of our one-storey house in Dhanbad, Jhark­hand, be­cause it was too hot and hu­mid in­doors, when they broke into my house and splashed a cock­tail of acids on my face.

I can still re­mem­ber how I was sud­denly awake, won­der­ing why some­one had poured scald­ing-hot wa­ter on my face. Then within sec­onds, I re­alised it wasn’t wa­ter as I could jailed for nine years but were re­leased on bail af­ter just three years in jail. The ju­ve­nile was re­leased im­me­di­ately with­out charge.

Over the next 12 years, I had 28 re­con­struc­tive surg­eries and was in agony for months af­ter. Doc­tors took skin from my thighs to graft on to my nose and cheeks so I would have a sem­blance of a face.

My fa­ther, a se­cu­rity guard in a lo­cal com­pany, had to sell all the land he owned and my mother’s jew­ellery to fund my treat­ment and pay for the lawyer fight­ing my case. To date we must have spent over Rs2 mil­lion (Dh115,240). De­spite

I can re­mem­ber how I was sud­denly AWAKE, won­der­ing why some­one had poured SCALD­ING-HOT wa­ter on my face. Within SEC­ONDS I re­alised it wasn’t wa­ter as I felt the FLESH from my face MELT away

My par­ents with me and my new hus­band; it was such a spe­cial day. My brother, De­bashish, be­low, helped to bring us to­gether

The at­tack might have scarred me but it didn’t kill my spirit. Go­ing on Kaun Banega Crorepati with Amitabh Bachchan and Lara Dutta changed my life

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