Approximately 1,500 Indians fall prey to acid attack every year. In a country like ours, the social stereotypes and sexism gives birth to such horrific crimes where objectification of women leads them into the blind spot. The act is to make believe an agenda, that doesn’t kill the victim but pushes them into lifelong fear and oppression.
Whether it is a woman who dishonoured her in-laws or husband or choices such as sexual advance or disagreement, victims are left disfigured, develops an inferiority complex and wages a life sacred and isolated. While many women succumb to their injuries and discrimination from the society, there are a few who stand up strong and fight against the society to make their place.
In 1997, Sneha Jawale was left scarred for her life when her husband and brother-in-law started harassing her for dowry. They threw acid on her face which burned her skin before merciless beating and torturing. Soon after her situation became critical, her husband took her to the hospital and begged her family not to file a complaint.
Took her child away
Her treatment began at the hospital and after a few weeks, she was brought home. But nothing was same for Sneha. Everyone’s face showed a cringe that told her how embarrassed they are of her. It became an even harder challenge for her to feel like family around her than dealing with her own confidence issues.
“When the doorbell rang and if I was somewhere, they would ask me to go into another room and close the door,” recounts Sneha. “I longed to see, talk, and touch my son. He would come to me on the sly, and rub Vicks on my scars. He would get me fruits from the fridge. He was my pillar of strength.”
Her husband’s isolation continually suppressed her into psychological trauma. She was also not allowed to see her three-and-a-half-year-old son. They told her not to come in the kitchen or bedroom and kept her away from any occasion. It became way harder for her when her husband filed for divorce which was granted to him. She has never seen her child since.
Facing the world strongly
After keeping herself from the world a long time, Sneha stepped out of her shadow and questioned why people like her are destined to isolation. To find answers, she began an extensive study of fate and destiny. In an attempt to dig deeper into her own future, she began visiting astrologers and even convinced one to teach her the dynamics of this practice.
Today, she practices astrology herself, and is also an expert in reading tarot cards and fortune. “An astrologer’s looks don’t matter,” she says, “Alongside, I also studied Tarot card reading, numerology, reiki, hypnotism, Vaastu, feng shui, and reading the remains in tea and coffee cups.”
She also blessed her passion for writing and storytelling by writing dialogues for Marathi films and TV series. “Marathi film and television stars visit my house for private consultations,” she says, “This has made me popular with my neighbours. But my scarred face is still a talking point.”
Acid burns body, society burns existence
In a society where beauty is defined by the physical features of women, where is the place for them who are born with glory in their souls? Does not having facial attributes makes someone unworthy? The answers are not simple. But, they are told by people who are brave enough to encounter the truth.
“Will I look beautiful? When I know it is not possible, why do it at all and waste money that I have to borrow? I am happy with my face. This is my face and if someone has a problem looking at it, don’t look.”
A corrosive substance when destroys your body takes away a part of your soul with it. It imprints on young minds of the harsh realities of this world. But it cannot keep one from achieving success, no matter what it means for them. Sneha proved this and is now not just a locally famous astrologer but a person who inspires many others to not give up on life.
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