Being Reshma: Reshma Qureshi with Tania Singh

‘I have later wondered if I should have slept in for those five extra minutes, worn my new burqa, stayed back with my mother, turned around for my cell phone, stopped and bought those shoes, or haggled over an apple.’

It is said that each second counts, and so it did for Reshma. But when you overcome tragedy, depression, self-consciousness, and make progress in the world that is the true win for an individual and a slap-on-the-face for the culprits.

Being Reshma is the story of the transformation of the girl-next-door to an International Icon, full of inspiration, courage, and emotion. The story begins on an uneventful day while Reshma is going to school. A long pent up angst and vengeance of her oldest brother-in-law along with his comrades burns the course of her normal life by throwing acid on her face.  From then on it is an arduous journey to which at times there seems to be no silver lining. Hospitals, surgeons, medical practitioners, operations, and therapies swallow the life of a young girl. But it is her will to survive and determination to get back even stronger so that she can make a statement in the society holds her through the depressing times. She understands the loyalty of people surrounding her in times of need and thus apart from her family which stands as a rock behind her, Ria Sharma enters her life as a savior. The Founder of Make Love Not Scars not only helps crowdfund for her treatments and get the best surgeon to operate on her but also makes her the face of her start-up and their friendship grows stronger by the day.

Coming from a community that is conservative and strictly demarcates between the sons and daughters of the family, Reshma has seen her elder sister Gulshan, dropping out of school to take care of the family during her mother’s critical illness. Soon after, she is married off to a family that tortures and overburdens her with chores and into a relationship that chokes her of independence and happiness. Tired of domestic violence and mental torture, Gulshan’s decision to come out of a disastrous marriage and live with her parents is a bold one. But the anger and will to avenge such a strong decision taken by a woman, who is considered lowly in the community, lead to the tragedy thereafter. It is not sure if the acid is really meant for Reshma but it surely makes the impact that satisfies the avengers.

Being Reshma is a reflection of the good and bad aspects of power and humanity on many levels. It is a fact that people choose to openly ignore dire situations and walk past. Such social ignorance is widespread in this country and it pains to see that it wins over humanity in most cases. The lackadaisical behavior of the state civil force (at times) leads to wastage of time and leads to more damage, in this case, to life than is thinkable. Politics is synonymous with power and sometimes it helps those in need to get work done quickly overruling institutional protocols after all a human life cannot be above protocols! And at times, renowned and powerful medical practitioners take advantage of their ‘cases’ to gain visibility and fame. Even though doctors are held in high esteem, such spineless doctors need to be called out for playing with the lives and sensitiveness of their patients. The book gives a glimpse of all the above factors which take Reshma’s journey forward through ups and downs.

For a young girl who dreams of a certain future to be suffering for factors beyond her control strikes a chord with the readers. The auto-biography openly talks about the emotional impact of an acid-attack survivor. The primary feeling is of anger on fate and on the people for having destroyed an innocent life. The pent up anguish, anxiety, and blame come up to the lips once in a while. Apart from this, she deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which leads her to contemplate and attempt suicide. But the most important part of the emotional journey is to accept the ‘new you’.  Though terrified at first Reshma eventually learns to accept herself and carries herself with confidence and poise. Unfortunately, society is definitely such that stigma remains and it cannot be completely undone. But acceptance helps in reducing the impact of this stigma on an individual.

While part of Reshma’s journey is about recovering from her past, a  turning point in her life is also her friendship and involvement with Ria Sharma and her start-up Make Love Not Scars. Ria can best be described as Reshma’s friend, philosopher, and guide who relentlessly helps her heal and ultimately transform into an Indian model and vlogger and an International Anti Acid-Sale Activist. The journey starts from crowdfunding for her operations and medical treatments to become the face of the NGO through a Youtube #EndAcidSale campaign and ultimately being the only Acid – Attack survivor to walk the ramp with International Celebrities in The New York Fashion Week. Her endeavor to help other acid attack survivors are still going strong and has helped many other victims overcome the tragedy by having someone beside them who understand the pain that they are going through.

Make Love Not Scars is an NGO whose ‘mission is to provide dignity and independence to acid attack survivors through medical, legal, educational, vocational, and psychological rehabilitation.’ If you want to make a difference to another life then you should definitely visit the website and see how best you can contribute to the cause.

Being Reshma should definitely feature on your reading list if you have not yet read it; simply to know about the courageous journey of two young girls -Reshma and Ria, who went on to inspire thousands around the world.

No. of Pages: 258

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Available on:Amazon/ Flipkart / Snapdeal

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