I wasn’t too sure what to make of Being Reshma when I saw the book at the local book store. Somehow, the cover image of Reshma herself, with her face half scarred, I was intrigued, and my gut instinct made me want to read her story. At 230 pages, I managed to read Reshma’s story in little under two hours. Having said that, I was utterly drawn into her harrowing journey- growing up in a poor locality in India, to being attacked, to recover all the way to walking down the fashion ramp in New York City- all the while raising awareness to #endacidsale.
The most harrowing part of the book is the part where she recounts the moment her brother in law attacked her and poured acid on her face. Never have I read such a scary description of enduring something so horrible. It was like reading a Stephen King novel- descriptive, detailed and scary- but this time, this was real! From each moment, when acid was poured on her face, to her sensation, or rather loss of sensation, to the intense pain and burning, it just became difficult to even imagine what she had gone through. What’s worse was Reshma’s reliving her experiences of seeking help from the doctors and hospitals, and in a rather surprising manner, she actually exposes the reality.
Before the doctors could treat her, Reshma was asked to get an FIR from the police station. So her parents and siblings took Reshma to the police station, and they were questioned about what happened. The policemen were lazy about the whole process, all the while Reshma, who was still suffering from acid burns on her face, couldn’t even speak, let alone scream. The policemen were refusing to draw out the FIR simply because they wanted Reshma to speak up. Not surprisingly, they laid the blame on Reshma—“surely, she must have done something to cause her brother in law to attack her.”
Not only the policemen, but the hospitals and doctors played a very neglectful role. They didn’t treat her properly, mismanaged her treatment, and couldn’t attend to the grave danger she was in. Medicines and painkillers were not readily available, and for someone like Reshma, anesthesia felt like a dream. Reshma comes from very poor family, and it’s extremely sad to see how they don’t have access to proper health treatments (reminded me of the sad state of hospitals in rural areas of Pakistan).
Reshma also goes on to talk about how terrible New Delhi is with regards to women being attacked, raped and abused. She exposes the government, those in the parliament, who didn’t do anything till the infamous rape of Jyoti, after which the politicians woke up.
This is where destiny stepped in when she was eventually connected to the right people who took her in their hands to mete out the proper treatment.
One of the highlights of the book is how Ammi, her mother, talks about destiny to her daughter. This conversation comes at a point when Reshma has been invited to New York City to take part in the fashion show to raise awareness for acid attack victims. From being raised in a poor family, where the father had to sell his taxi business to raise funds for his daughter’s medical treatment, to being flown to the United States and gaining worldwide coverage, the point is driven home of what destiny is all about.
Tied into this destiny is Reshma’s happiness. To her, happiness is when she realizes she didn’t succeed in killing herself. Who knew that then that Reshma had her whole life laid ahead of her—where she would be traveling to the US, raise awareness, create a platform for other acid attack survivors to seek help and recover, and meet her long-time idol Shah Rukh Khan.
I took that as a huge lesson for all of us. Sometimes we feel fall into depression and sad moments and it’s always important to realize that we have our whole lives laid ahead of us. When in our dark moments, we allow our negative thoughts to cloud over our judgments and so we feel nothing will work out. But with resilience and passion, we do realize that eventually, we get some insanely happy moments too. It is during these happy moments we realize how far we’ve come in our lives.
Destiny played a huge role, when Ria Sharma, a student in the US read up on Reshma’s story. She reached out to Reshma and the two struck up a deep friendship. One thing led to another, and an NGO was formed, Make Love Not Scars, and along with that, Reshma was propelled into the limelight with her beauty tips blog, and ultimately take to New York City. Reshma didn’t lose sight of her goal for even a second. Her life was now all about raising awareness to end the sale of acid in India. This passion and drive of hers have allowed for the world to sit up and take notice.
Being Reshma is meant to be a quick read, but don’t mistake that for the heavy feelings her story emanates. Having said that, Reshma’s story is one that of a strong, resilient human spirit who fought the odds with strength and courage to emerge a real winner. She has shown the world that nothing is the end of the world.
In her own words, “I’ve learnt that it is the small changes that ultimately lead to the big ones, and that is the truth I now live by. All I did after my attack for survive.”