Published: 08th March 2019
Meet the woman whom every acid attack victim in Odisha depends upon
After surviving a brutal acid attack, Pramodini Roul is now working towards improving the condition of other survivors in her state
At first, she thought that someone had poured a glass of burning water on her face. She was flinching in pain. She couldn't open her eyes, but she could sense the fear, shock and the unfamiliarity in the faces of her mother and younger sister. There were fumes coming off her body. No one dared to touch her. At that instance, all that she yearned for was some water to cool her burns. But the people around her feared that water could worsen her pain. Later, she heard them say that she'd turned blue instantly and her family thought that she had been poisoned.
At 16, Manini Bisoyi had not heard of an acid attack was. A few days earlier, when a jilted lover told her that he would "destroy her life in the worst possible way such that she could never do anything with her life," she never expected him to barge into her home and pour a bottle of acid on her face. "I was left without any medical help or first aid for a whole night. No auto wallah was ready to take me to the hospital, fearing that the police would summon them. Later, the next morning, I was taken to a hospital nearby," she says.
Rise again: Manini is planning to restart schooling soon
Inexperienced as they were at treating acid burns, Manini's face was bandaged by the hospital staff for a week, instead of the correct protocol - cleaning the burns with water. A week later, when she was transferred to a bigger hospital, the burns had caused infections. A few days before he threw acid on Manini, the man who she once loved had also burned her class X certificates. He wanted to do all everything is his power to make sure that her life came to a standstill. A life ahead was unthinkable for Manini at that point. This was three years ago.
It was around the same time that she met fellow acid attack survivor Pramodini Roul, who had been attacked by an army man 10 years ago. After being in a coma, Pramodini got a second chance at life, where she made sure that her attacker was tried and imprisoned. She also started working towards rehabilitating other acid attack survivors in Odisha. Whenever she heard of a case of acid attack, she visited the survivor personally and did her best to help them out.
"Manini wanted to start working around the time that I met her. She was under the impression that her life was over and even contemplated suicide," says Pramodini. "But she was just 17 then. She had so much to do in life. I insisted that she restarts her schooling," she adds. Pramodini, who'd also interned with a law firm in Delhi had applied for Manini's duplicate school certificate. "We're now waiting for the conduct certificate to reach us. Once that is done, she can go back to school," says Pramodini.
First step: The acid burns must be treated with water at the earliest (pic: Niraj Gera)
Manini can already see the pages of her life turning to a colourful chapter. And what she wants out of it is quite simple — a job that pays her well, so that she can feed her mother, father, brother and sister three square meals every day. "She's quite talented in dancing and hairstyling. Maybe we will see her as a talented hairdresser someday. You never know," says an optimistic Pramodini. Manini also accompanies Pramodini to reach out to other survivors and help them get the right treatment.
A year ago, Pramodini came across a news item in a local newspaper. This was about a 30-year-old acid attack survivor protesting in front of the Bhubaneshwar collectorate, seeking a permanent job. That was Mamta Behra. At 17, Mamta was attacked by a stalker. Unable to accept Mamta's rejection of his marriage proposal, he poured a bottle full of acid over her head. "I was petrified and tried jumping to a pond. But the people stopped me from doing so saying that this would worsen my burns. Later my mother and my brother took me to the hospital," says Mamta.
Her story: Acid was thrown on Pramodini, when she was in class XII (pic: Niraj Gera)
But Mamta wasn't ready to give up. She continued to study and completed a computer course. Meanwhile, she also met the love of her life. The couple has a seven-year-old son now. "I am a nursing attendant in a government hospital now, but I'm still a daily wage labourer. People still get scared looking at my disfigured face. But that doesn't matter. All that I care for right now is to get a permanent job," she says. Pramodini and Manini are also with her in this fight. They've been petitioning the collector for a while now.
Pramodini has also rehabilitated four other acid attack survivors in different parts of Odisha. This includes 22-year-old Damayanti Bihari and Minati Pradhan, 20-year-old Suchismita Rout and 26-year-old Himanshu Barik. Minati was attacked by her husband, who is now out on bail. Pramodini is working to provide protection to this survivor now. She surely has a lot of challenges in front of her, which includes taking care of her own health condition and getting proper financial aid. She's blind in one eye and is getting the surgery for her other eye done.
But still, she's adamant of getting the issues solved for the other survivors. She constantly takes them along with her for events and enables them to speak for themselves. "I have started a crowdfunding campaign to aid their surgeries. Also, I want to start a cafe here in Bhubaneshwar for these survivors. I don't want them to work there permanently, but use the money to fund their education and enable them to do more in their life," says Pramodini with a hopeful smile.
Because this phoenix does not want any of her fellow beings to remain as ashes of the acid burns, but rise again.