“It was 6.47 pm on January 31, 2012,” says Aarti Thakur, “when I felt my skin melt as someone threw acid on me.”
On Tuesday, the 25-year-old acid attack survivor who has been battling in court seeking compensation from the state government heaved a sigh of relief when the Bombay High Court said the state’s government’s stand on deeming her ineligible for compensation was in contravention of Supreme Court directions.
The state government had told the High Court earlier that Aarti could not be compensated under its Manodhairya scheme because she had been attacked before the scheme came into force.
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Speaking to Newsline at her Nallasopara residence on Wednesday, Aarti said she remembered the exact moment of the attack clearly. “I could hardly breath. Life like I knew it changed forever,” she says, narrating the incident and her struggles thereafter without breaking down.
“I still remember I was talking on the phone when it happened. Usually, my mother used to accompany me to office and then back home after work. But that day, she couldn’t come,” says Aarti, who was attacked by the son of the landlady of the Malad flat her family had rented previously.
The scars still remain, three years later, but they have ceased to bother her so much now. “The scars on my face and body are now a mark of the struggle to survive against all odds. They aren’t the focus of my life,” she adds.
Thakur had picked up a job as an executive with an investment firm some months back but the contract got over recently. As the only earning member, she’s always had to struggle between her job and her aspiration to study further. “I had told my colleagues at work what had transpired with me.
But even after that, I overheard a colleague say I must have done something to provoke such a reaction from the accused. It hurt me. But what can you do,” says Aarti.
She was helped by NGOs to bear the cost of her initial surgeries but she moved the HC for compensation as mandated by the SC. “I have to undergo some more surgeries as I am developing an infection after the last surgery. I want to move forward. There’s no looking back for me now,” she says. She was engaged to be married at the time of the incident. Today, she is uncertain of the future of the relationship.
Her mother Seema is proud at the way her daughter has handled the situation. “I still remember, after her first surgery, she couldn’t recognise herself,” she says.
Aarti has since learnt to accept the pain that comes along with each operation. “Initially I couldn’t sleep. The incident would keep playing on my mind. Plus the burns were painful and I couldn’t sit or sleep,” she adds.
The acid attack was the third attack on Aarti. Previously, she had been stabbed on her face and had to get 17 stitches, besides another such attack on her. “I was always scared after that.
Which is why my mother or sister used to accompany me every where. After the acid attack, I didn’t contact any of my friends. They also didn’t try. I became a recluse, staying at home for almost two years thereafter,” says Aarti.