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Laxmi, The Girl Who Treads Through Life With A Brave Face

March 7th is Women's Day. On the occasion, we bring a story of a young woman who treads through life with a brave face, quite literally. The woman, Laxmi Saa, she goes by just Laxmi, was honored by the US First Lady, Michelle Obama, with the US Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award 2014 during a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, DC, on March 4, 2014. Laxmi, an acid attack survivor, read her first poem at the ceremony defiantly telling her attacker "you will hear and you will be told, that the face you burned is the face I love now.

Laxmi was 16 years old, an age when girls are ready to face the world with dreams in their eyes, when she had the misfortune of having her face disfigured as a result of an acid attack in New Delhi's Khan Market. The year was 2005 and her perpetrator was a 32 year old man, Guddu, alias Naeem Khan, who had developed a one-sided liking for the beautiful girl. Getting no response from her, he planned the attack along with his brother Imran and his brother's friend, Rakhi. 

What followed was a fight to survive with a series of skin grafting surgeries on one hand and the fight to get justice involving a series of court visits, on the other hand. Both entailing heavy expenses that drained the family's finances. The surgeries were eventually done and the main accused — Rakhi and Guddu — were finally sentenced to 7 and 10 years of imprisonment, respectively, but left Laxmi's family in immense financial difficulty. More tragedy was to come. Her younger brother was diagnosed with dysfunctional lungs and her father, on whose meagre income (as a cook) the family survived, passed away in 2012, of heart ache, they say.

Meanwhile, as Laxmi recovered from her grave injuries, she was determined to fight a battle. A battle against the acid attacks. A battle that had become dear to her heart, even as she acquired tailoring and beautician skills as means of earning a livelihood. Laxmi also filed a public petition in the Supreme Court urging for regulation on sale of acid in 2006, seeking a new law or amendment to the existing criminal laws (like IPC, Indian Evidence Act and CrPC) for dealing with the offence, besides asking for compensation. Interestingly, as Laxmi's counsel, Aparna Bhat, pointed out, the Haryana government takes the entire responsibility for treatment and rehabilitation of acid attack victims under the Haryana scheme for care and rehabilitation of acid attack victims.

Laxmi went on to become the standard-bearer for 'Stop Acid Attacks' (SAA), a campaign against acid violence, under the banner of Saraswati Siksha Samiti, a non-governmental organization dedicated to promote health, education and women's rights. Little did she know that her life was about to take a turn for the better.

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While working with SAA, she met Alok Dixit, a young man who had left his job as a journalist to work full-time with the campaign. He fell in love with her because of her bravery and she was attracted to him because he is a good human being, they tell us in their conversation with the Sydney Morning Herald. Today, they live together and work together- in love and happy to be. They organize teams to meet and help the victims of acid attack, even travelling to different cities to meet the victims. They even try to educate the public to step forward and extent a helping hand to the victims by staging street plays and through posters.

(Photo: Laxmi and Alok Dixit, top, Laxmi before and after the attack, bottom, courtesy- picture posted on Alok's FB page)

As Laxmi's fight to stop acid attack continued, we all know that the fight finally led her here in America, in Washington. As she was awarded the International Women of Courage Award this week, she had the opportunity of reciting her first poem to Mrs. Obama herself- “You hold the acid that charred my dreams. Your heart bore no love. It had the venom stored. There was never any love in your eyes. They burn me with caustic glance. I am sad that your corrosive name will always be the part of my identity that I carry with this face. Time will not come to my rescue. Every Thursday will remind me of you."

Laxmi In Washington DC

(Photo Credit, Top one above: US Department Of State, Laxmi with Michelle Obama)

(Photo, Bottom one above- Laxmi, reciting her poem in Washington, DC. Courtesy, Stop Acid Attack FB Page)

Laxmi- Acid Attack Survivor

 Laxmi recently uploaded the above picture of herself on her Facebook with these word-

मुझे अब इस चेहरे से बोहत पयार है मुझे मालूम है जो हुआ बोहत बुरा हुआ अब रोते तो नहीं बैठेगे जो है कम से कम इसमें तो खुश रहे IIIIIIIII LOVE MY FACE:)

(Translation- Now I love my this face a lot. Whatever happened was bad, but can't cry over it forever. Whatever I have, at least I am happy with that.)

There's so much to learn from this absolutely lovely lady! World, take notes! Thanks to her, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, she won a landmark judgment in her favor last year so that, to buy acid, you have to show a special permit. She's hosting News Express's Weekly show UDAAN. Her valor and spunk has brought her a long way in life to a point where, as she updated her status today, while here in USA, attending various conferences- "Kuch ese chal rahe hai pal..Mein keh rahi hu sab sun rahe hai ye bhi ek pal hai thank u.... " (Translation- Moments are going by such that I'm talking and all her listening, this too is momentous...thank you)

Oh yes, you talk girl and of course, the entire world ought to listen, for your tale is inspiring and you are beautiful- inside and out!

Happy Women's Day to every single women! Women- an epitome of love, hope, hard work, courage and life itself!

 

Laxmi's poem for her acid attacker, really very inspiring
(Courtesy: Stop Acid Attack, FB Page)
आपने तेज़ाब मेरे चेहरे पर नहीं,
मेरे सपनों पर डाला था,
आपके दिल में प्यार नहीं,
तेज़ाब हुआ करता था,...
आप मुझे प्यार की नज़र से नहीं,
तेज़ाब की नज़र से देखते थे,
मुझे दुःख है, इस बात का की आपका नाम
मेरे तेजाबी चेहरे से जुड़ गया है,
वक़्त इस दर्द को कभी मरहम नहीं लगा पाएगा,
हर ऑपरेशन में मुझे तेज़ाब की याद दिलाएगा,
जब आपको यह पता चलेगा की जिस चेहरे को,
आपने तेज़ाब से जलाया, अब मुझे उस चेहरे से प्यार है,
जब आपको यह बात मालूम पड़ेगी,
वो वक़्त आपको कितना सताएगा,
जब आपको यह बात मालूम पड़ेगी,
की आज भी मैं जिन्दा हूँ,
अपने सपनों को साकार कर रही हूँ|

-लक्ष्मी

(Translation in English)

You haven’t thrown acid on my face;
you threw it on my dreams.

You didn’t have love in your heart;
you had acid in it.

The look you gave me reeked of acid and didn’t smell of love.
I am saddened that you name has become associated with my acid-scarred face.

Time will never be able to heal this pain.
Every surgery will remind me of the acid.
When you will get to know that the face you burnt with acid is the face I love,
and
I still live and I am still making my dreams come true.
You will be so troubled to face this.
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