Acid Attacks, Crimes against women, Opinion pieces, Society

The Scars of a Misogynist society

-Saurabh Bhat

‘Acid attacks’ are brutal instances of barbarism where acid is thrown at (almost always) a young woman’s face/body as an act of ‘revenge’ by man/men.

Why do these attacks happen?

Most of the times, the facts are as follows: There is a young teenage girl, who is approached by a young guy/man as a romantic interest. The girl doesn’t want to be pursued romantically and declines his advances. The guy takes this as an ‘insult’ and decides to take revenge on the girl by ruining her entire life. The thought process behind this being, ‘If you won’t be with me, I will punish you in such a way that you won’t be accepted by anyone else.” The guy (or him with his friends) ambush the girl and pour strong concentrated acid on the girl’s face and body, scarring her for life, mentally and emotionally.

It is a classic example of the patriarch system in India. A boy is allowed to do anything he pleases and always escapes with a slap on the wrist. He is treated specially and this conditions him to believe that he is entitled to everything he wants, including the girl of his choice. Never mind what the girl wants. She’s a girl, she must be glad that she’s getting any kind of attention from him. So, when the girl has the gumption to refuse him, his massive inflated ego gets ‘hurt’. And in most of the cases as it has been seen, the boy is seen roaming around freely, but the psychological changes the girl goes through is deep. Some become shy. They have to undergo several surgeries, yet their skin and their appearance is not the same as before. Also, they start questioning themselves whether they’ll be able to live furthermore. And in some of the cases they do not have any money, and they cannot afford such surgeries. Hence, they commit suicide.

But some women despite all adversities, stand up and instead of retreating form life because of the problem, fight against it. One such lady is Haseena Hussain. A horrifying acid attack changed Haseena Hussain’s life leaving her visually impaired. But she emerged as a winner and is today changing lives of other such victims. The incident that happened over a decade ago is still fresh in Haseena’s memory, but she chose to live a more positive life. Now, she is not only her family’s sole bread earner but is also inspiring other victims of violence and abuse to live their lives in a better way.

Haseena Hussain recalls the words her attacker Joseph Rodrigues said as he poured a jug full of acid on her. The unfortunate incident happened on April 20, 1999, but the memories are still fresh in Haseena’s mind. She has a lump in her throat whenever she talks about that day and there is sadness and anger in her voice as she recalls every single detail of that incident.

He was my boss and wanted to marry me. I did not accept his offer and left his job. After that a couple of other employees too left the work and he incurred huge losses. He would persuade me to join back but I did not want to work with him again. This angered and frustrated him and one day he came to my new office and poured acid on me, changing my life forever,” Haseena remembers the incident clearly.

Her painful scream rang across the road and the office. A girl took her to a private hospital where she was denied treatment unless a deposit of one lakh rupees was given. “I told them that my parents will come and give the money but at least start the first aid. They refused to do even that,” she says.

She was then shifted to a government hospital where her treatment started after three days. By that time the infection had already spread to her body making her 70 percent burnt. “I couldn’t bear the pain,” she remembers.

She was later shifted to St. John’s hospital where her proper treatment began. Her condition was very serious and the doctors said that there was a very small chance of survival. She stayed in the hospital for over a year where she underwent 35 surgeries and lived on a liquid diet. “I was emotionally, physically and financially broke. It was a vacuum. I didn’t know what will happen. I was tired of it,” she says.

I had seen in the movies that after a plastic surgery a person becomes perfectly fine and beautiful. I thought even I will start looking like I did earlier after these surgeries. But it never happened. I had lost my eyesight and the doctors told me how I looked. I was scared and sad,” she says.

She was brought back to her house, where she received a lot of negative response from people who visited. “Why did you bring her home? You should have poisoned her in the hospital. How will she live her life like this?” Haseena remembers someone saying this to her parents. But it was her family’s positive attitude and unmatched love for her that made her recover emotionally and physically. They would do her dressing and help her with physiotherapy as the family could not afford a nurse.

They said that why should my daughter suffer when it’s not her fault. If someone has to suffer it should be the culprit,” Haseena recalls her parents’ words. A ray of hope came in 2006 when the culprit was found guilty and was sentenced to five years in jail. But this was certainly not enough as a punishment to someone who had ruined a life. Haseena did not give up and filed a case in high court, which awarded him the sentence of lifetime imprisonment.

The positive change

After years of court and hospital visits, Haseena decided to give a new direction to her life. “I did not want to waste my life like this,” she says. She then joined Enable India, an institution of visually impaired people where she learnt computer and other skills.

“My life was divided into two parts – before accident and after accident. In the latter, I had to learn everything from scratch. Whatever I knew earlier was of no use now as I couldn’t implement or use it in my life. From walking independently to doing my own personal work, I had to learn everything again,” she says.

After regular training, Haseena saw a good change in her life and attitude, and she decided to apply for a job. She practiced typing on a typewriter and prepared rigorously for the test. The accident had made her hands very weak but her passion kept her going. After regular efforts she cleared the tests and today she works as a stenographer in a government office. She is today, the sole bread winner of the family and takes care of everyone’s needs. She manages to do her work without anyone’s help and is living an independent and fulfilling life.

“Of course, I can’t change what has happened. I wanted to be a fashion designer but that cannot happen now. But I am happy that I am taking care of my parents, which has always been my priority, I am happy that I have become a stronger person,” she says.

Not only she has transformed her life but she has also actively indulged herself in motivating other acid attack victims. She is part of an NGO called Make Love Not Scars where she talks to other acid attack victims and inspire them to not give up on their lives. She has been actively engaged with five to six acid attack victims and helps them lead a more positive life.

When this ill-fated incident happened, a lot of media publications covered her story and published her number. One day Haseena received a call from a 20 year old girl who had poured kerosene on herself and was just about to commit suicide. Her husband died just after a couple of months of getting married and her in-laws blamed her, traumatized her. But just before committing suicide she read the article on Haseena’s story which inspired her.

She gave me a call and told me about her story. I told her how she should be strong and live her life bravely,” Haseena recalls. After talking to Haseena that girl dropped the idea of committing suicide, took a job and is today happily living her life. “These are the kind of incidents that keep me going. I am glad that I am able to change someone’s life,” she says. Haseena wants to pursue her higher studies now and complete her graduation which she could not do earlier.

I would like to tell all the women that you are not weak. Even when 2 liters of acid is poured on you, you can still be alive and happy. Do not stop living your life for some other person, rather show that person that nothing can discourage you or bring you down,” Haseena says.

Haseena’s story is an inspiration to not only just acid attack victims but to all of us and we hope she continues to be an inspiration for all of us.

 

Sources-

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/with-sheer-grit-haseena-moves-on/article5761533.ece

Youth Ki Awaaz

Opinion pieces

Fanfictions- An Alternate Universe

By Ananya Banerjee

Fan fictions are works of fiction which are derived from an original work of fiction. It is created by the fans of that fiction where the characters and the settings are usually borrowed. It is a considered controversial since fan fictions are not authorised by the original author or their publishing team. It can be an infringement of the copyright law.

However, it does not stop people from writing fan fictions. Copyright owners rarely respond with legal action. In fact some of the authors encourage fan fictions. J.K. Rowling is one of the authors who wanted fans to continue with their work. Stephenie Meyer has put up a link to all the fanfiction based on her characters on her website. In fact, the fifty shades trilogy was a fan fiction of Twilight titled ‘Master of the Universe’. After by Anna Todd was developed from a One Direction fan fiction.

There are some authors who are against fan fictions such as Anne Rice, Raymond E. Feist and George R.R. Martin who have asked to remove any fan fictions of their work from all the websites which publish fan fictions. Fan fictions are considered unoriginal and unprofessional by some people. There are several arguments put forth by these people. Fan fictions kill creativity. It is stealing someone else’s work.

The truth is, however, that fan fictions are very creative pieces of work. Sure it borrows some elements from the original work, but it allows the readers to think creatively and write the story in their own way. It is an excellent way for an amateur writer to begin his streak. Also, it gives him total freedom to write a story in a certain way.

There are many types of fan fictions. It can be a continuation of the original text. It takes the original canon and continues it by extending the work. What happens after Harry Potter defeats Voldemort? What happens in his life and in the wizarding world? What happens after District Twelve is destroyed? It requires one to be fully acquainted with the original text.

One can also take an existing story and ask ‘what if?’ this happened. The writer has the freedom to change the plot of the story and take it in a different direction altogether. What if Katherine was in the tomb all along? What if Harry was a female? What if Bella chose Jacob instead of Edward? What if Hermione was a pureblood?

Characters of a certain work of fiction can be placed in an entire different universe. This type of fan fiction is called alternate universe (AU). Voldemort and the death eaters won the war. Where would it place the golden trio? What if Damon and Stefan were figure skaters? It completely discards the main plot and hence it is very controversial.

One is free to write crossovers where one work or fiction is crossed with another work of fiction. Vampire Diaries may be crossed with Supernatural and Harry Potter may be crossed with Twilight. It can be a versus fiction where Harry Potter may be pitted against Edward Cullen, or they might help each other to achieve a goal.

The writer is free to write in a darker and edgier manner or a fluffier and light manner. He/she can go out of character (OOC). Snape can be written as a funny character. The writer can focus on a secondary character and write the story in his/her point of view. He/she is free to write in the antagonist’s point of view and can make them be seen as the protagonist.

The writer can write his/her own original character (OC) in the story. He is free to create Harry’s sister and make her the main protagonist. Fans can include a new superhero in the Avengers fandom. Canon rules apply just as strongly to the original character as it does to the canon characters. If a new vampire is introduced in Vampire Diaries, he should not shine in the sunlight because that goes against the canon rules. One is even free to go against the canon rules by giving a proper explanation. Introducing an original character has become a popular type of fan fiction.

Fans are also free to ship any OTPs (one true pairing) they like. Harry can be paired with Draco or Astoria. Dramione (Draco and Hermione) is the most shipped pair in the Harry Potter fandom. Isolation is the most popular dramione fan fiction ever written. Different pairings can be fun and even the most uncommon pairing will have a few fans. Voldemort can be paired with Harry, Bellatrix can be paired with Hermione, Damon can be paired Katherine or with Bonnie.

Fan fictions have gained immense popularity in the last few years. Even though it may not be completely legal, fan fiction websites like fanfiction.net and archivesofourown.com are flooded with fan fiction of various fandoms. It can make one a good storyteller by giving him/her immense freedom. It gives the writers freedom from all the market expectations. They can write what they want; they don’t have to make it appeal to the masses. Fan fictions require one to think in a different way. The fan fiction communities are the most helpful and encouraging communities of them all. It also increases the writer’s confidence.

Fan fictions, even though controversial, are a very creative medium to express oneself. Thus, freedom of fan fiction writers is unlimited. If not faced with legal issues, it can be a good way for a writer to express himself. Reading and writing fan fictions is one way to approach critical thinking and it can increase one’s creativity.

 

image source- WikiHow