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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Acid Attack Survivor Rani Tells Us How She Found Love In Saroj Who Healed Her Burnt Soul

  • IWB Post
  •  February 14, 2018

UPDATE: Rani and Saroj are getting engaged today!

Back then, Rani had told us, “He proposed to me on Valentine’s Day last year, in the company of a few close friends of ours. And gifted me a phone, too. I was the happiest girl that day! We haven’t thought about marriage yet, because there are other responsibilities to fulfill before, though we might get engaged on the coming Valentine’s day.”
So it’s February 14th today, and guess what! They are getting engaged! We can’t be happier and have no words to express that happiness. Team IWB wishes Rani and Saroj all the love and luck.

But stay tuned, because we’ll be back tomorrow with updates and photos from the ceremony. To let out a secret, the adorable couple is to dance on a Salman-Katrina track, shhh!

Till then, here’s a flashback of our conversation:

Rani was returning from school on a bicycle with her cousin brother, when a man came on a bike and threw acid on her. She was in class tenth, and he was a paramilitary officer. Why did he have to commit this heinous crime?

He proposed to her, and she said ‘NO’!

It was the year 2009 that brought irreversible pain and anguish in Rani’s life, but not much changed for her offender. He bribed few policemen to get the case shut and continued to serve in paramilitary, got married and has a child, too. I wish I wasn’t using the term ‘serve’ in the monster’s regard, and I couldn’t be more glad to learn that he is finally behind the bars.

Rani’s condition was critical when she was brought to the hospital, and her family and doctors lost hope very soon. And right then stepped in Saroj. “He truly is God’s gift to me”, Rani shared. He was a stranger, but contrary to everyone’s belief, he saw courage in Rani – the simple selfless reason that led him to help Rani.

I have never experienced a mix of emotions in the manner I did while talking to Saroj and Rani. I smiled, I cried, and if the details of the incident evoked anger and sadness, their love story brought tears of joy. Love heals, I’d heard, but listening to the tales of their unadulterated emotions, I found myself bowing to the strength of genuine love. There were moments where she almost made me forget about her life hardships, and I couldn’t help but thank Saroj for being the wind beneath Rani’s wings, and simply for existing in her life.

Rani Rituparna Saa

A trained dancer and a bright student, Rani talks about the importance of education, but in her opinion, society and parents have a bigger role to play in the development of youth. “Prevalence of crimes like acid attack, rape, and child abuse, directs us to the need of reflecting upon our upbringing and conditioning. Parents dream for their children to become doctors and engineers, but if they would also teach them to become good human beings and to work towards the betterment of society, the rate of criminal minds would be far less.”

Currently working with Sheroes Hangout and Institute of Social Development, both Rani and Saroj, will soon be working together on the ‘Stop Acid Attack’ Campaign in Orissa. Come, let’s learn more about the lives of these two simple kind-hearted individuals: 

How about we begin with you two introducing each other?

Rani: What do I tell you, didi. We met because of an unfortunate incident, and I don’t know where Saroj came from and how, but his existence in my life has strengthened my belief in God. It is because of him that I survived; had he not been there, I wouldn’t have been here today. He truly is God’s gift to me. And as Rani opened her heart out, Saroj just kept mum listening to her.

Tell me about it all… 

Rani: I was in class tenth when the incident happened. Acid burnt large part of my upper body, I lost my eyesight, slipped into coma and remained in ICU for 9 months. And eventually my mother had to take me back home in the same state, as there was no improvement in my condition and our financial situation was also very weak. I was admitted in January, and Saroj walked in our lives, in April. He was a friend of the nurse who was on duty in my ward, and she had called few of her friends to show her ‘blind almost vegetable patient’, which was I.

Rani Rituparna Saa

Here Saroj picked on, she had called us, but when I reached there, Rani had already been shifted to the room, and it was her mother whom I first met. She was in deep emotional pain and had lost all hopes, so had the doctors and hospital staff.

Which was that moment when you found yourself to be already involved, Saroj?

Saroj: When I saw Rani, I saw a courageous girl, and in that instance I felt confident that she would recover if supported and encouraged. I asked the doctors about further treatment, and though they’d already given up but suggested that oil massage and physiotherapy could help provided she responds. And that’s when I decided to take up a challenge that I would make her walk in four months.

Rani Rituparna Saa

Rani again took over: His nurse friend got really upset, and confused why he was doing so much for an unknown, she got angry with him. But from then until the next four years, there was not even a single day when Saroj didn’t visit me. He would rub oil and massage my legs; I used to cry in pain because even a slight movement would also hurt, but he would sit on the floor, make me keep my feet on his shoulder, and unaware I healed with every passing day.

Would you share with me your memories of those four years?

Rani: Saroj is a fun person, he used to tell me lot of jokes, and share stories from movies and books. Four years is a long period, I often wondered why he was doing all this, the time in which even my extended family had withdrawn support, why was this stranger caring about me. I didn’t realize when we became friends and grew so close.

Was it tough, dealing with those emotions?

Rani: In the period I was at home, I did everything in bed, my mother would clean me, and I saw that when she wasn’t there, he wouldn’t mind emptying my urine vessel. No one would do that for anyone, but he did it, and without hesitation. When I couldn’t keep my feet down, he would make me stand on his and walk step by step. And I don’t know when I began to fee for him. But the realization of that emotion made me cry, because I felt that in the state I was, I didn’t deserve to think about love.

Hmmm. How did things unfold for the two of you then?

Rani: Losing my vision became my biggest handicap and I used to feel helpless seeing myself become a burden on my mother. I asked people around if they could help me do something, and that’s when one of my friends gave me the idea of Google. We searched “career options for acid attack victims” and that’s how I got to know about the organization ‘Stop Acid Attack’, and came in contact with its co-founder, Mr. Alok Dixit.

Rani Rituparna Saa

It was October 2015, I made Alok Ji a call and shared my situation, and he simply asked me what I wanted to do. My answer was “I want to see the world”, and in not time he sent me tickets for Delhi. Though it wasn’t just the desire of doing something, but also the want of going away from Saroj that led me take this step. I was finding it impossible to deal with my emotions, and some common friends had told that because of me he was getting in trouble with his family, and I didn’t want any of that to happen. 

But did you express your feelings to him before leaving?

Saroj: She didn’t tell me only that she was going, he walked in the conversation. It was through some friends that he got to know, and when he did, he got very upset with me, popped back Rani’s voice. I called him to talk but he was very upset and so I told him that before leaving I just want to hug you once; he disconnected the phone. My heart sank, but when he came to the station next day, I gathered courage and stepped ahead to hug him, he didn’t hug me back, instead just left.

What were your thoughts, Saroj?

Saroj: I only had one thing in mind – “here I am always with her, who will take care of her there!” (His answer had my eyes wet.)

Rani Rituparna Saa

I’m curious to know when the mutual love finally surfaced? 

Rani: On January 5th 2016, I left for Delhi and from there my mother and I went to Agra on the 11th, Saroj called me on the 14th for the first time. I directly asked him, “I love you, don’t you, too?” His reply was, I do. After all, distance makes the heart grow fonder, she laughed. We clarified all the misunderstandings that people had falsely created to separate us. I will never forget that late night call with him for which I had to hide, she giggled, and we heard Saroj also laughing. 

Did Saroj formally propose to you then, Rani? What are you two planning about marriage?

Rani: He proposed to me on Valentine’s Day last year, in the company of few close friends of ours. And he gifted me a phone, too. I was the happiest girl, didi, she expressed in her infectiously cheerful tone. We haven’t thought about marriage yet, because there are other responsibilities to fulfil before that, though we might get engaged on the coming valentine’s day.

That’s great! Reminds me, when you saw Saroj the first time after the eye surgery, what was your reaction?

Rani: After I came back from Agra, I met Alok Ji again and he offered me a job at the Sheroes Hangout in Lucknow. I accepted it and started working with their habitat management team. Earlier this year, Alok Ji had been checking with various hospitals and doctors if it was possible for me to see again, which after many negations, finally happened on July 1st and went successful. I got 20 percent vision in the left eye while the right one remains as is.

Rani Rituparna Saa

The news of successful operation got me very happy, though for some days everything appeared magnified and I couldn’t see properly. I saw Saroj also the first time when we were in flight travelling to Orissa, this September. I couldn’t help but smile, I had fallen for him without knowing how he looked, and really, it didn’t matter either.

Aww. Now your turn to talk, Saroj, tell me about that one thing that you have learnt from Rani? 

Saroj: After meeting Rani I understood the true meaning of struggle, and the strength it takes to meet the difficulties of life, holding your head high. The background we come from, where families restrict their daughters at many fronts, Rani has lived a life of warrior. After her father passed away, she had been dealing with everything alone for her mother and two sisters. Rani has taught me to keep walking, and to keep spreading happiness no matter what happens in life. She is a beautiful person in and out.

Rani Rituparna Saa

Rani Rituparna Saa updated her cover photo.

That’s so thoughtful. Rani, what are those awards that I saw on your Facebook profile?

Rani: Those are the awards I received at various events of Sheroes Hangout. But if you ask about the award closest to my heart, it would be the one that I received for my dance performance in Udaipur, long before my life changed. I loved both classical and contemporary dance, and through my school I had participated in that event, wherein I had to dance blindfolded. And it was really appreciated by the judge who was from the Dance India Dance show.

Ah! I wanted to ask you about the importance of Rehabilitation support?

There is a great need of it, they both said in unison. The families must get emotional and psychological support in that moment and later, which becomes even more important as their attitude then affects the survivor’s life.

Since you two are about to initiate the ‘Stop Acid Attack’ Campaign in Orissa now, what is first on the agenda list?

Saroj: Until now, no acid attack survivor from Orissa has ever come out. We did the baseline surveys recently, and we actually had to dig out the acid attack cases; there exist no facilities to provide support to the girls and their families. So with the help and guidance of ‘Stop Acid Attack’ and Alok Ji, we are working on plans of collaborating with few NGOs to start this campaign on full scale in Orissa. Foremost, we will have a toll free number activated for the aid of victims. Our team will be there in no time upon receiving a call.

Stop Acid Attacks

The two activists of their own causes. Meet Rani and Saroj, partners in life who are now campaigners with aim to #StopAcidAttacks Join their efforts in Orissa, message on +919658436011 #SHARE

Also, Rani added, I have always felt that there is a far bigger responsibility of society and parents in the overall development of the youngsters. Existence of heinous crimes like acid attacks, rape cases, and child abuse, directs to us the need to reflect upon our ways of upbringing. Parents dream about their children to become doctors, engineers, etc., but if along with that they also teach them to become good human beings and work towards the betterment of society, the rate of criminal minds would be far less.

Stop Acid Attacks

We salute this man!! Meet Mr. Jainarayan Pankaj, the Superintendent of Police, who made all his efforts to arrest the criminal who attacked Rani Rituparna Saa in year 2009. The attacker was working…

I couldn’t agree with you more, Rani! Your offender recently got caught, would you like to share with me some details?

Rani: When I got my eyesight back, the first thing I decided was to fight for myself and get him behind the bars. With the help of Mr. Jainarayan Pankaj, the Superintendent of Police, we sent my official file and photographs to the Chief Minister. He further sent them to the paramilitary force in J&K where that man was posted, but when the search started he eloped. Jainarayan Sir caught him in Kolkata earlier this month, and after my identifying, a charge sheet has been filed against him. Even the DSP, SI, and ASI, whom he had bribed back in 2009 to shut the case, have been suspended.

You identified him. I can perhaps not even imagine that instant! 

Rani: I know what you mean. I and my cousin brother who was with me on the cycle that day had to go to the jail for identification. There stood twenty-two men in a line, and one by one, we walked past them. When I spotted him and the other man who was driving the bike, he looked at me and gave a sly smile. I had so much anger in me, but helpless I could only show him my tongue as a sign of victory.

I had goose bumps when she began to narrate her experience. That man had the audacity to smile looking at her! It is not just unthinkable, but beyond imagination to even understand the emotions Rani must have gone through. Men like him exist, and in every nook and corner, the mere realization of this leaves me numb – where is our society headed!

What do you have to say about the need of speedy justice?

Rani: More than that is the need of a severe punishment by law. For people who commit heinous crimes, a death sentence is not enough. The punishment for them should be such that ensures slow and painful death, and even the thought of which would make others tremble from fear. We intend to try to file a petition regarding this in the Supreme Court. 

Rani Rituparna Saa

And as we reached to the end of our conversation, I tried switching to a lighter topic. So do you two already have a Bucket List prepared for the coming year?

Rani: There are a lot of things, yes! Engagement and Campaign work are currently at the top of our priority list.

And before we bid a hearty adieu, I asked Rani if IWB could extend any help through our platform, and you ought to read this honest girl’s reply:

Rani: Acid burnt my eyes, melted my ears, and the burning caused to join the neck and chest skin, and I do need more reconstructive surgeries. But right now doctor has told me not to take any strain because of the eye operation. I certainly will need help, but I am in doubt because the donors would want immediate medical proof to ensure genuine usage of their donated amount. And there’s nothing wrong in it, people donate with a thought, and they should have all the right to know if that gets met. So perhaps we can wait for a little more time.

(Image Courtesy: ‘Caters News Agency/ Niraj Gera’)

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