Pooja Chaudhuri Chaudhuri
The only fiction I enjoy is in books and movies.
This is a story of a flying superhero Priya – a superhero who joins forces with acid-attack survivors to fight against the demon-king, Ahankar (ego). Ahankar has trapped victims of acid-attack in his fortress by making them believe that the world will not accept them because of their scars.
With the help of her secret weapon, ‘Mirror of Love’, the superhero, Priya, helps the women overcome their fear of societal perceptions. The mirror reflects the inner truth of the women and shows that there is more to them than the wounds inflicted upon them by treacherous men.
“Someone reduced you to only your face. But you are other things too. Look into this mirror and you will see.”
The creator of the story is Ram Devineni and co-author Paromoita Vohra, who use the struggle of acid-attack survivors to procreate and spread the message of body-positivity.
The lives of Sonia and Laxmi, two acid-attack survivors, inspired Devineni to create the comic book, Priya’s mirror. With the help of Monica Singh, another acid-attack survivor, he developed the characters of the comic.
The Logical Indian spoke to Monica Singh about the comic book and her personal struggle as a survivor of acid-attack.
In 2005, Monica was driving in Lucknow during her visit to her family after the completion of her first year of college. On her way back, she was stopped by a man who she had known for 6 years. When she rolled down the window of her car, two men riding on a bike threw a bucket of hot liquid on her face. Monica thought that it was hot coffee and tried to drive to the hospital, until her legs started to shake. A passerby saw her struggling in the car and took her to the nearest hospital, where it was revealed that the hot liquid was acid.
The next thing Monica remembers is waking up in a trauma centre where medical professionals soaked her body in cold water, trying to save of what was left of her skin. Sixty-five percent of her body was burned instantly. Monica has undergone more than 40 reconstruction surgeries since then, and it took her a year to move independently in a wheelchair and regain her speech. Twelve years after the accident, Monica still deals with its trauma every day.
“This is not something that happens once and you forget or recover easily. Your face, your body limitations never let you forget. I am moving on, yes. But I will always remember every moment of that time”, she said.
Monica was a normal girl, just like any of us
“I wasn’t studious, but good enough in my studies and immensely into co-curricular activities. I had won medals till State level championship in Javelin and Discus throw”, says Monica recounting her life in school.
She was also a good table tennis player and was approached by the Uttar Pradesh Sports government authority to represent the State. Monica was a part of her school women’s cricket team in the 11th grade and was also one of the best dancers in school.
Despite her love for sports, Monica knew than her passion was fashion studies. She took the NIFT entrance test after graduating from school and ranked 2nd in the country.
In 2014, she realised her dream of attending a top fashion school in New York – Parsons which boasts alumni including Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs.
A crowd-funding campaign was started in 2014 to raise $50,000 for her tuition fees, and in August she finally began her schooling at Parsons in fashion marketing.
Monica attributes her strength to fight to her loving family and friends
Her father spent his life-savings of more than ₹400,000 on 46 surgeries to repair the damage – with doctors using a new type of graft with skin from her back.
As the youngest in her family, Monica was pampered and, most importantly, supported in her every step. She says that she is fortunate to have true friends in her life who have been with her in the most difficult times.
But not everyone shares the same mind-set as Monica’s friends and family.
“Some people really understand the deep pain of the survivors, but majority just listen to the news, show pity and once they get bored, they move along. I don’t know how many people are actually friends with acid-attack survivors in real life”, said Monica.
It is shameful that in a society that calls itself “modern”, people oust acid-attack survivors by the virtue of their looks. Being a survivor means fighting for your life against the pain, but the society reduces survivors to “victims” for the rest of their lives.
The comic book – Priya’s mirror echoes the same societal constraints
“Priya’s mirror is based on my personal story”, says Monica Singh. The developers of the comic book worked to make the script a story of the lives of real-life survivors.
The comic reveals that most attackers are nasty men who excecute the acid attack to satisfy their ego as they cannot accept rejection by a woman.
The society also shams the survivors by blaming the attack on them.
The superhero, Priya, shows the survivors their reflection on the “mirror of love” and encourages them to see themselves as women with dreams and great potential to achieve them.
“When I see my ‘mirror of reality’, similar to Priya’s ‘mirror of love’, I see healed scars. The mirror shows you the reflection you want to see. I see potential and so much happiness on having the strength to change my life.” – Monica on discovering her “mirror of love” in real life.
The comic book has had tremendous success in bending the mind-set of youth all over the world
Sadly, there are thousands of girls who become victims to such cruel violence, and there are even more who still go un-noticed in our society. Through Priya’s Mirror, survivors are speaking out and telling the world that they are willing to change their lives, because there is a limit to everything.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Monica said, “Understanding the survivors’ side of the story is important. Who makes them survivors? People who had thrown acid on their faces, or people who constantly remind them of the pain?”
Sonia, Monica Singh and Laxmi – the inspiration for Priya’s mirror
The sole purpose of the comic book is to inspire people to understand the struggle of acid-attack survivors.
When Monica was asked what her message would be to women all around the world who fall prey to such cruel misogyny, her reply was – “Hit hard back. Prove that you are a leader of your own life and no one can take that from you.”
There are billions of women who fall prey to brutal patriarchy in their lives – not just acid-attack, but rape, domestic violence and physical abuse, thus increasing the male-female divide. “Putting women down, at a level lower than men, is the issue”, says Monica Singh. Believing that men are superior and women are born to take care and serve wishes of that superior is the problem. Even if one person echoes this mind-set, the problem will continue to persist.
You can know about her here.
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