Himani Bhandari | Saiyed Danish
New Delhi, January 10-Deepika Padukone starrer film ‘Chhapaak’ releases on Friday. Chhapaak or ‘splash’ is based on the life of an acid attack survivor who, at the age of 15, was attacked in 2005, by a 32-year-old pervert Naeem Khan whose advances were ignored by her.
Like Laxmi, Ritu also suffered an acid attack. Ritu is a woman proud of her existence, vitality and celebrates her feminity like no other. She is the epitome of everything profound and relentless perseverance. She is also an acid attack survivor.
Ritu stars along with Deepika in the film. She was attacked with acid by her own cousin who claimed of liking her.
Ritu’s ordeal is moving. It’s a disturbing, soul-stirring, but also an inspiring tale of how she found her way back to life and fought an exemplary court battle to get justice and claim her space back in the society.
Speaking to Healthwire, Ritu candidly speaks about her excitement about the film, meeting Deepika and her part in it.
“I’m very excited that the film is going to be released finally. Even I have worked in this film (Chhapaak) that why it is a wonderful feeling for me,” she says gleefully.
On meeting Deepika she says, “My meeting was Deepika was a great moment in my life, to say the least. It feels so good when to be close to such a kind person to or to see my picture with her in the newspapers and the coverage about my role in the film and the warmth and bond we share together now. She is a loving and an amazing person and we had so much on the sets of the film.”
Ritu can’t hold back her epiphany while goes talking about her NGO, Chhanv Foundation, which also features in the movie.
“Another reason why I’m happy is that Chhanv Foundation, the NGO where I work, has been featured in this film with a changed name of ‘Chhaya’ and through the film the audiences across the country will come to know about the work we have been doing so far with the acid survivors and the campaign of ‘Stoo Acid Attack’ which we have worked so painstakingly to make spread the awareness about such incidents hoping that society would understand us and change its mentality someday,” she says.
“I think Chhapaak will get them talking about this issue and a big change in people’s attitude is going to come,” she hopes.
Talking about the fateful acid throwing attack which changed her life she says, “I was attacked in the year 2012. It was my cousin from my father’s side of the family, who had conspired to attack me with acid. He had started liking (with sinister intentions) me and when I ignored him he paid someone a sum of Rs. 25,000 to have acid thrown at me,” she tells Healthwire.
When it comes to sharing the story of her treatment and surgery at Apollo Indraprastha Hospitals, Ritu is all praise for her doctors.
“I was treated at Apollo Hospital and I still visit Apollo for my follow-ups. Both Dr. Kuldeep Singh and Dr. Shahin Nooreyezdan did the cosmetic surgery on me after the attack. They are great people. To me they are like deities in human form. The treatment has changed in a myriad different ways. Their treatment always came with a bit of sprinkling of love. They always guided me patiently through my treatment and at every step of the surgical process. “
Ritu was fortunate in the sense that she received her justice within two years of attack on her. However, her ordeal was still far from over she was scared to walk freely in the society.
“After the attack, I went knocking on the doors of the court and the decision in my case came in 2014. Three of the accused were imprisoned for life and two of them were served a sentence of 10 years each by the court. However, my ordeal didn’t stop there as I would still keep myself locked in a room, afraid to come out, and even when I would go out, I covered my face,” she reminisces.
It was at that juncture of her life when a helping hand came her way in the form of Chhanv Foundation where inspired ther to look at the greener side of life again.
The NGO is founded by Alok Dixit, a prominent social activist, who is also the Counselling Director and Mr.Ashish Shukla as Executive Director.
“When all seemed dark and directionless, that was the time when I got lucky to be w introduced to Chhanv Foundation, which has been started by Ashokji and Alokji, which proved to be a life-changing experience for me. Chhanv Foundation campaigns against the acid attack mentality and works for the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors. So many people know me today, and I also got to work in a movie, it became possible only because of Chhaanv Foundation,” she shares.
Ritu, who is also a Board member of her NGO, goes on to explain how her foundations works with the survivors with a unique approach towards them.
“I’m also a Board member of the Chhanv Foundation. The way Chhaanv Foundation works is very simple. They listen to you, understand you and work with you on a personal level. The way the foundation works with every acid attack survivor depends on what situation and ordeal that girl has gone through. They pay attention to our needs and also strive to fulfill whatever dreams we nurse today. And they manage to do all this crowd-funding so it’s been an extraordinary journey.”
Thanking her family who stood by her at every step she says, “My family, especially my parents, helped me turn my life around and renew confidence in myself.”
Ritu has a strong message for women of her age which almost reads like a preamble of courage and defiance in the face of abject misogyny and cold-blooded notions aimed at dictating how a woman should live her, with no thought process of her own.
“The message I have for today’s woman is that they should not fear anyone in the society and roam outside freely. No one can stop you from achieving your dreams and you something happens to you, you must fight and never give up fighting. Have faith in yourself and whonyou are and you will definitely justice one day. You can’t stop at any cost. Rather, develop a spirit to raise your voice for your rights.”