The entire world was witness to the horrific Delhi Gangrape Case of 2012 that saw huge uproar from the masses and classes both. Four years later when Amitabh Bachchan, in the movie ‘Pink’, delivered the iconic dialogue “No Means No” the entire country appreciated and applauded everyone associated with the film saying the time for men to concede to a woman’s ‘will’ has come. Skipping a couple of years, Indian Radio listeners were treated by the show “What Women Want” that received bags of positive responses and pushed the case for regularising these kinds of discussions in our mainstream media. Apart from all the positive things and catastrophic incidents related to ‘crime against women’, that reach our ears, remain many who do not find a place in headlines and consequently, do not receive the required amount of attention. One such incident is that of Kavita Bisht, whose face was jolted by acid after she rejected the marriage proposal of a man. The scary incident deterred her confidence but the inspiring girl didn’t stop fighting and became a source of motivation for 1.37 billion Indians.
“The way in which we think of ourselves has everything to do with how our world see us and how we see ourselves successfully acknowledged by the world.”– Arlene Rankin
Born in the village of Karnal in Uttarakhand, Kavita hailed from a poor family that had only one earning member i.e., her father who worked as a bus driver. She had 3 siblings and was elder to two of them. From the very childhood, they were short of facilities but never did they stop adjusting with whatever little they got, it wasn’t money but relations that they valued the most and tried to stitch together their family.
The Hammer Of Poverty
Earning livelihood is never a cakewalk when you are financially weak and requires a huge amount of struggle and hard work. Kavita’s father had six mouths to feed which was not an easy task and soon her mother, Deepa Bisht, realised the same and decided to work so that she could contribute to the family and ease some burden off her husband’s shoulder. She soon started working as a daily wage labourer, her day began with collecting silt from the river for domestic construction, carrying heavy loads to construction sites, and ended with collecting fertilisers to be sprayed upon the fields of her clients. All the physical hard work she did pay her just Rs.30 a day which was not enough but still she persisted with it since for her family something was better than nothing.
“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”– Oprah Winfrey
A Bundle Of Problems
The situation was manageable but wasn’t under control yet and meanwhile, Prema, eldest among the siblings, touched the age of marriage. To make it easier and reduce the financial burden, her father took a loan for marriage but, as fate would have it, within days of taking the loan he lost his job. They were now pushed a step backward by circumstances and remedial actions were the need of the hour but just then another improbable thing knocked on the door of their lives. Prema developed a serious kidney infection and such was the intensity of it that she died within days. The storm of setbacks that had gripped the family had to be faced with strength and Deepa Bisht took it upon her to get things back on track. She began working double, triple shifts to arrange timely meals for her family but sadly, things were far from getting over.
The consistent financial weakening and other happenings changed the behaviour of Deewan Bisht, the father, who got addicted to drinking and starting treating his wife badly.
When She Took It Upon Her
Due to the recent family problems, Kavita was forced to drop out of school and started working as a daily wage labourer that earned her Rs. 30 a day, just like her mother. All the talent, painting, sewing, etc. that she possessed was wasted as she embarked upon her journey of earning money.
“When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.”– Helen Keller
The ‘Delhi-NCR’ Twist
The good thing about bad times is that they change someday and luckily that day had arrived for Kavita. Her cousin came to their house and offered to take her to Delhi to find a suitable job that would pay her far better than what she was getting currently. The gritty girl saw this as an opportunity to improve the financial condition of her family and agreed to go with her cousin.
One month after she had moved to Ghaziabad, where her cousin lived in a rented room, all her hopes of getting a job started fading away as the only thing she received from her cousin was ignorance and no help in finding a job. Her money had exhausted and she was confused about the way forward since negative thoughts were overpowering her otherwise motivated mind. In this situation, their landlord offered some help after listening to her story and directed his son to accompany her for giving interviews in nearby companies. Both of them visited plenty of companies and after some rigorous efforts, they found success.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”– Maya Angelou
A company that made ‘safety belts’ for cars shortlisted her for a job and offered Rs.4800/month which could extend up to Rs. 8000/month if she worked overtime. With the thought of helping her family as much as she could, the hardworking girl started working overtime from the very first day. But working over and above one’s capacity is always tough and Kavita was no different as health evils like Typhoid and pneumonia caught her and kept the girl away from the job for some time.
Some Respite But Not Without Setbacks
Keeping her deteriorating health and the subsequent absence from the job in mind, her manager reduced her working hours to ease off some burden. Days passed and soon she regained her lost strength and started working wholeheartedly. Just when things were turning fine and life had become a bit easier, her biggest nightmare made his entry. It was a man named Jagdish who used to stalk her while she travelled to and from the office. She never felt the need to give importance and kept ignoring him thinking the more avoided the better.
Love And Disguise
Jagdish had an imprudent personality, he started sending messages to Kavita, through her colleagues, expressing how much he liked and desired to marry her. On Christmas, he even sent her gifts that were later returned to him and instead of accepting continuous denials from her as her ‘will’, he started becoming angry and bold.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”– Anais Nin
One day, while Kavita was on her way back home, he stopped her and insisted on marrying her with a very loud throat. This feared Kavita and she broke down, to keep him away, she told him that if he wants to marry her, he should go and talk to her parents. She was confident that her parents would never agree to his proposal and the story would end.
Some days later she was again confronted by Jagdish who, on this occasion, grabbed her hands and tried to convince her for marriage in front of her friends, she somehow managed to escape but not for a long time. The stalker texted her cousin saying “Tell her if she is not ready to marry me then I will disfigure her face so badly that no one will ever marry her.”
The Last Chance
Upon knowing about the threat given by Jagdish, Kavita’s manager asked her to take precautions and inform the local Police about the incident. She paid heed to the suggestion but without any visible evidence, the police couldn’t do anything other than sympathizing. Her cousin had Jagdish’s texts and number but she denied any help to Kavita and hence, the last way to come out of the problem also vanished.
“Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.”– J. K. Rowling
The Worst Day For Any Girl
Fate decides for itself and Kavita is a major example. A day before she was about to leave for her village, her leg was injured and she had to take a bus instead of an auto rickshaw to office. In the small hours of the day, while she was standing in the bus queue, she saw two men on a bike coming towards her with their faces covered. Unaware of what they were up to, Kavita didn’t pay attention and then it was all about the splash of acid and the pain that she had to endure. She was on the ground, shouting with pain and screaming for help.
Several hospitals denied admitting her saying they “couldn’t help”. It was when her manager sent the office ambulance to pick her up that she was taken to the Safdarjung Hospital where she remained unconscious for 8 days and spent a month in the ICU before undergoing further treatment for three months. Such was the impact of the attack that she was unable to open her eyes.
She was shifted to AIIMS where doctors operated upon her nose and helped it heal in time. While she was under continuous observation, her eyes remained a matter of concern. There was considerable delay in deciding about the remedial surgeries for her eyes, which led to a brutal result, she lost her eyesight permanently.
“A woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.”– Eleanor Roosevelt
The Court Case
After fighting in the hospital for long, it was time to fight for justice in a court of law. Days before the beginning of the case, Jagdish’s family brought money power to the front and offered her family a lot of money coupled with life-threatening warnings if he didn’t ask her daughter to take the case back. Thinking about the security of family, especially when they were threatening about the life of their younger daughter, the father accepted the money. Kavita, who was still in the ICU, was unaware of this compromise. And, when she came to know about this after two months, it made her so regretful that she could not take revenge on someone who destroyed her life.
Society’s Denial To Accept
She came back to her village, thinking there’ll be people who would support and understand her, but things weren’t quite amusing there as she was subjected to taunts and abuse from fellow villagers. All these incidents affect the point of view of her parents as well. People who were standing with Kavita earlier have later started treating her like a burden. The situation turned so worse that she even had thoughts of committing suicide, but the fighter in her was still alive to face tough times with utmost strength.
Refusing To Give Up
A ray of hope finally made its way into her life in the form of Mr. D.K. Joshi who invited her to attend the Drishtiheen Training School for the Blind in Almora. She saw this as an opportunity and went to the school where she was found people who could connect with her and provide her the much-needed support to live and accept life in whatever form it was.
“Fight for your dreams, and your dreams will fight for you.”– Paulo Coelho
Her story soon got published in the school’s magazine and from there it was picked up by Mr. Pandey of Mumbai who volunteered to pay for her further treatment. She also attended the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped in Dehradun where she learned using the computer, writing shorthand, and making candles and envelopes. Her fighting spirit was getting a boost with every passing day.
Achieving The Impossible
The next stop was Haldwani, where she got a job at the salary of Rs. 7500 per month. And, that was the time when she started doing social work. Kavita was awarded the Uttarakhand Rajya Mahila Puraskar by the Uttarakhand Government. Later, she was made the Brand Ambassador for women, and also declared as the voice of Women Empowerment in the state.
This braveheart even learned martial arts for six months, and now she is motivating thousands of girls to become pro in their self-defense. Kavita is working for blind kids in a school run by USR Indu Samiti, for the last four years. And she is doing everything possible to save those kids from the troubles, which she had experienced.
Damage done by an acid attack can result in severe burning which often, as in the case of Kavita, results in the loss of sight, disfigurement, and if the acid gets into the throat, it can cause so much damage that it results in death. She went through a lot but bounced back as a fighter to work for society and kept inspiring people with her good deeds.