He watched the movie trailer Chhapaak on the day of its release and decided to watch the film as soon as it gets released. He was inspired by the message of the film. However, he did not go for the movie because he thought that real-life experience is better than a movie.

He went to the Sheroes Hangout restaurant, Lucknow, in the evening to experience how it feels to be around women whose faces are traumatized by acid attacks in this society where only women’s physical beauty is admired.

His mind was unrest while he was on his way to the restaurant. He took a deep breath before entering into the restaurant and told himself that don’t let your existing thought influence what you are going to experience.

He went inside and sat on a single chair table watching around. The restaurant’s walls were full of posters featuring pictures and quotes of the acid attack survivors working in the restaurant. The restaurant is divided into two parts by a huge bookshelf. The bookshelf was stacked up with many books in Hindi and English. Few people were sitting and enjoying whatever they have ordered.

While he was scanning the place a woman appeared in front of him and asked politely…

“Hello sir, what would you like to have?”

It was Farah Khan. Her face was traumatized because of an acid attack on her in 2009. He saw her and replied, “a regular sandwich and a normal tea please.”

Sandwich and tea that he ordered

He was amazed to realise that he was feeling as if he is sitting in some other restaurant. He wasn’t scared or uncomfortable to have eye contact with the acid attack survivor. About five minutes later Farah came back to serve the order.

While he was sipping tea and having bites of sandwiches, a group of three women and three men with two children entered the restaurant. Women were wearing sarees and men were wearing jeans and T-shirts. They seem to be holding conservative belief by their attire. However, they were not.

They were also reacting normally. Although, the children seemed to be uncomfortable. But he was happy that the elders of the family were teaching the children that there is nothing to feel uncomfortable or scared about by their normal gestures.

Although, he and people who were visiting the Sheroes Hangout restaurant were not feeling uncomfortable while talking to the acid attack survivors. We can not deny the fact that the majority of us as a society are still failing to accept them. Society reacts as if the victims have done something wrong.

Before the film Chhapaak was released which is a real-life story of an acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, the film’s lead actress Deepika Padukone did an experiment. She with her face like an acid attack survivor went out with few other acid attack survivors in public places to see people’s reaction. The reactions were offensive.

Some refused to talk to them. Some left the place where they were standing. Some refused to help them. Parents were closing the eyes of children. Some giving expression that they (acid attack survivors) should not be in public places and confined to their houses. However, some were happy to have a conversation and selfies with them.

 

Even Reshma Qureshi told to a publication in 2019 “Here in India people react differently if I walk on the street without covering my face. They ask questions, stare at you and talk badly.”

She who was just 17 when her former brother-in-law poured acid over her face. Today, the 22-year-old is the face of Make Love Not Scars. She also co-authored a book called Being Reshma with the CEO of Make Love Not Scars, Tania Singh.  Qureshi has also released beauty vlogs, teaching survivors how to do the perfect cat eye and red lip. She was invited to model at New York Fashion Week in 2016

According to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) between 2014 and 2018, there have been 1,483 victims of acid attacks in India. This is just in five years. The number of acid attack victims is increasing.

How can society expect so many women to be confined to the four walls of their houses when they have not done any crime?

After paying the bill for the order, he hesitantly asked if he can click a picture with Farah. She generously agreed to and posed for pictures beside a banner of the movie Chhapaak.

You must be thinking who is ‘He’. He is none other than Bilal A. Khan (me) who wanted to know his feeling and reaction after meeting acid attack survivors. My purpose was to know where I stand as far as embracing acid attack survivors as we do others. Moreover, I also wanted to share how some people in our society react to them.

 

Also Read: Life On Wheelchair: Uttar Pradesh’s Imran Qureshi Trains Paraplegics For A Better Life