She’s been to hell and back but her story, so steeped in pain and suffering, finally has a happy ending.
And Pramodini Roul (28) says she couldn’t feel more blessed. She recently tied the knot with Saroj Sahoo (29), the man who made her believe in the goodness of humankind again.
An acid attack nearly cost Rani, as she’s called, her life and left her with severe scars and impaired vision. When she wed recently in her hometown of Jagatsinghpur in India, fellow acid survivors were among the 1 000-plus guests who witnessed the happy occasion.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be married to Saroj,” Rani says. “We had so many guests to celebrate our special day.”
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The couple met in March 2014 at a hospital where she was admitted for treatment after an infection ravaged her legs.
When Rani was 17, parliamentary soldier Santosh Kumar Bedant (then 28) threw acid in her face after she rejected his marriage proposal.
Reports later revealed Rani’s parents also didn’t approve of the match as she was too young.
“I’d dreamt of being independent and supporting my family, but my life felt like a joke [after the attack],” she wrote on social media. “All because I refused a boy’s offer? He was a well-educated boy from the army. A man whom we trusted to protect us had ruined my life.”
After the attack in 2009, Rani spent four months in an intensive care unit, where she underwent five reconstructive surgeries, including one to restore partial vision to her left eye. She also spent five years bedridden at home.
The infection that saw her being readmitted to hospital in 2014 started as a result of skin graft surgery – doctors removed skin from her legs and transplanted it onto her face.
Rani couldn’t walk and sank into a depression. Then she met Saroj. He was a medical rep and friends with the nurse who was caring for her. He visited Rani one day and then started to visit her every day to boost her morale. He later quit his job to be by her side.
“From eight to 12 in the morning and four to eight in the evening, he was there with me,” Rani says. “He’d talk to me for hours and motivate me.”
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Slowly but surely, her legs started healing. “With treatment and exercise and with his help and support I regained my confidence. And now I’m back on my feet and able to walk again,” she says.
Rani and Saroj started to develop feelings for each other, and in 2018 he proposed. The couple planned to wed in April 2020 but the coronavirus forced them to postpone. But on 1 March, with the pandemic more under control in India, their big day finally arrived.
Rani donned a wig and looked radiant in a red and mustard-coloured sari, while Saroj was handsome in a smart blue suit.
“Nothing better could’ve happened to me than marrying Saroj,” Rani says. “He’s not only my husband today but my constant strength in all my ups and downs.”
The couple have started a support organisation for acid attack survivors that helps arrange funds for surgery and rehabilitation.
“My message to every acid attack survivor is ‘don’t feel hopeless. Rise up and dream big because you are no less now than you ever were’.”Extra sources: Daily Mail, The Sun, The New Indian Express, Indian Times