Yesterday night when I got off my train, I immediately found a spot where I could wait a little until the crowd receded. I saw a slim girl rushing down the stairs to catch the train I had come in, she had to push her way downwards, none of the men voluntarily gave way. In fact, I saw a man deliberately pushing himself against her and she pushed him to get ahead. The man turned and continued looking at her with a wide grin on his face, the two seconds of contact seems to have caused a lot of pleasure to him. I watched in disgust and waited for the crowd of men to thin out so that I could climb the stairs.

It’s because of a few such men that we have to be extremely cautious of the way we carry our body in public. You never know what kind of attention you draw and what repurcussions it leads to. I never smile at stranger men. It’s something I picked on when I was a kid. Because of stories of how men thought that if a girl smiled at them, they thought the girl liked them. And then there would be terrifying stories of how these men would then throw acid on a woman they had been stalking because she spurned their advances. Stories like that scare you. And yesterday I had read a similar story, that stayed with me.

Anu Mukherjee’s story is that of prolonged struggle over a period spanning eleven years. A struggle that continues as she hopes for justice. She in an acid attack survivor. One of many acid attack surviors in India. It had become a ghastly trend in the country for jilted or scorned lovers to splash acid on the face they lusted after, to teach them a lesson – that spurning unwanted advances could be lethal, literally.

Anu Mukherjee was not a victim of jilted love but of jealousy she claims.At 21, she was young, beautiful and used to dance in a hotel in the nation’s capital, New Delhi. Her dancing garnered a lot of attention from the guests, something that did not go down well with another dancer. The other dancer asked her to leave the hotel or she would throw acid on her face.

“To be honest, I didn’t really know what acid was. I knew that some people use acids to clean their bathrooms, but I never imagined that people would throw acid on others’, she told Reuters in an interview.

What is appaling is that the scared dancer even complained to the police. They summoned the woman to the police station and the lady seemed repentent. But twenty days later, the attack took place.

“They threw the acid over my head, face, neck and chest. I felt as though I was burning alive. My eyes and cheeks were melting. I just kept screaming “Please help me! Please help me!”

People came running. Some boys poured water and milk over me to try and stop the burning. An auto-rickshaw driver took off his shirt to cover me as it burnt through my kameez.”

Anu will never forget that day. In a minute her life had changed forever. The culprits were punished after five years of trial. They were awarded five years in jail and what can only be laughable is the fact that they got away on parole after just serving one year of their sentence.

Anu Mukerjee, the acid attack survivor (on the right before the attack) Photo: From her facebook community
Anu Mukerjee, the acid attack survivor (on the right before the attack)
Photo: From her facebook community

She wanted to be an actress and now most of her efforts are spent in trying to save money for her operations. She has already undergone a dozen operations, but needs a few more if she wants to see again. Yes, she was blinded by the acid.

She is knee deep in debts and life is a daily struggle of a different kind for her. The compensation she received was 1.5 lakh rupees, around 2400 dollars. While the cost of her operations alone amounted to 25 times the amount.

Stories like these account for a the paranoia the fills out society, where justice is scant and the victim always suffers more punishment. I wondered why could the court not make a simple order of making the guilty pay for all her operations. And then I shuddered. I remembered an article on how in China there is a dastardly adage which says it is better to hit and kill than hit and injure. And many people take it seriously. A woman was once walking on the road with her grandchild and a car ran over the child, injuring him seriously, when the grandmother screamed in terror, the car reversed and killed the kid. And here is the explanation – people would rather kill off the person they ran over in an accident then pay for their care for the rest of their lives. Since if they kill someone, they only have to pay for the funeral.

If people went by that logic in India, they would just start killing all their acid attack victims instead of paying for their care. This world can be bloody scary.