Acid Attack Survivor Dr. Mahalakshmi YN: Her Journey From Agony To A Life of Purpose
- IWB Post
- November 20, 2022
“The disfigurement makes it difficult, but it is important for every survivor not to restrict themselves within the four walls of their homes and to be open to life. You can’t count on everyone to be good to you, but you should be grateful for the people who are,” says Dr. Mahalakshmi YN, who survived an acid attack by her former property owner whose advances she rejected.
She was an MBBS degree holder from Mysore Medical College and a practicing doctor at the time, and that tragic event completely changed her life. Dr. Mahalakshmi had to go through 25 reconstructive surgeries and had to fight a long legal battle of 11 years to get justice. Today, she is an inspiration to many because of her courage and perseverance.
“We all possess inner beauty and we are more than just our faces,” this belief helped her to reclaim her life back. Dr. Mahalakshmi works as an Administrative Medical Officer at the Agrahara Primary Health Centre (PHC), Karnataka State Health and Family Welfare Services, and daily going beyond the duty call, she provides her services to the needy and poor and focuses not only on their physical but mental health. Her main life motto is to work for the reformation of society so that acid attack survivors are accepted in their communities.
What happened on that fatal day? How did the incident alter your life?
Dr. Mahalakshmi YN: When acid was thrown at me, I was alone screaming for help. As a doctor, I knew how toxic and dangerous the acid was. I was screaming for water just to dilute the acid to reduce the grievousness of injuries, but nobody came to my rescue. All the neighbours locked themselves in their houses. As I was about to pass out from shock, the son of one of my patients, who was around 8 years old at that time, took me up by my arms and put me in the auto to be taken to the hospital. It was agonising to experience something like this. The trauma and the pain all struck at once.
It changed how I perceived society. I believed that everyone was helpful and kind. I was disheartened, however, I didn’t allow the rage I felt to transform who I was as a person. I started seeing it as an opportunity that God had blessed me with. I decided to continue practicing medicine and to have an open mind. Now when my patients come to me, I concentrate both on their physical as well as mental health. I tell the women about the various plans and schemes by the government and the role of NGOs who help them in distress. I impart my knowledge to make them self-sufficient to fight their battles.
What inner forces did help you through that incident?
Dr. Mahalakshmi YN: For me, my education played an important role in bringing me to my normal life. The acid attack causes disfigurement and disability, destroying the social life of a woman. It shatters her spirit. Education gives women standing support to fight the injustice done to them, it gives them a way to live their life in a dignified manner.
My family gave me a lot of strength. They supported me through my most difficult times and helped me recover from the trauma. I believe it is important for the survivors to show a great deal of courage, be consistent with their treatment and have a balanced mental state to help themselves throughout the recovery.
Education and awareness are available in the media and through support groups. Do you think people’s perceptions have changed at all?
Dr. Mahalakshmi YN: It has not changed. The government and the NGOs are all doing their best in creating awareness. However, creating awareness and increasing punishment will help only to a certain extent. Now, it’s crucial for our society to change its perspective. Society should recognise that women are more than just their faces. You can only imagine how painful and agonising the entire healing process can be, both mentally and physically. To recover from the trauma, the survivors need support from their families and society that includes inclusive environments at work and on college campuses.
What advice do you have for women who are now recovering from an acid attack?
Dr. Mahalakshmi YN: Make a commitment to healing and understand that it will be a laborious process. It will take time. Hold on to all support around you. Lean on those few people in your surrounding who appreciate you for who you genuinely are, have a compassionate heart, and be open-minded. Do not allow one incident to define your life.
Written by Harsha Tripathi