They Proved That Women Are The Stronger Sex- A Place Managed By the Acid Attack Fighters

The girls who stood head-face in the time when the world let them down; the girls who created their own world of fighters and survivors, where there is true justice; the girls who believed in themselves more than the make-believe beauty of fairy-tale world. The girls who proved that MEN are the weaker sex, and not them. Men who can’t even control themselves in the chase of ‘short skirts’, the ones for whom eve-teasing is the best co-curricular activity, the ones for whom ‘a NO is actually a better invitation than a proper yes’ and the ones who have egos bigger than the pacific that they can’t take rejection from any girl are the trobe who are considered as the WEAKER SEX!

May be, there is a Man-Beast lurking around every corner of the road, but there are also women-fighters who have out-numbered them. These acid attack fighters have taught all those women whose hopes are crushed under the wright of these masochistic men-beasts, that there is still HOPE. For them, the hope came in the form of this tiny café which is situated on the busy streets of Fatehbad road, close to the famous Taj Mahal in Agra. The name of their little paradise is Sheroes’ Hangout, which is solely managed by the acid-attack fighters. People from around the globe fancy this place, not because of its inspirational back story but because of it’s delicious food too. 

Shabnam, a 26-year old girl who welcomes the people with her sweet ringing voice, has those deep scars on her face which reflect her brutal past. She was just 15 when that dark night took her beauty away. She was asleep at her home in Hathras when a 45-year old contractor of a factory, where she used to work as an embroiderer, sneaked in and poured acid on her face. That acid burnt her skin, which melted away like wax. Because of this, she lost an eye.

Also, Laxmi who is the director of the Chhanv Foundation (a non-profit organization which aims at re-building the lives of the acid attack survivors) was attacked when she was just 15. A lover rejected by her, who is twice her age threw acid at her in the crowded Khan Market in Delhi. Her face, hands and ears were heavily scarred. The doctors had to replace the entire skin on her face. Till now, Laxmi has gone under seven surgeries. She looks back to those terrifying days when the schools used to deny her admission. But, these vague rejections & the deep scars didn’t scare her. She joined the Stop Acid Attacks campaign by Chhanv Foundation in 2013, where they used to protest in front of the Supreme Court every day. It is because of Laxmi’s relentless attitude and struggle, that the Supreme Court banned over-the-counter sale of acids in 2013. Laxmi also received the International Women of Courage Award 2014 from former US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Another girl by the name Ritu, who had a sporty sprit was attacked by her cousin when she was in class XI in Rohtak. Despite her many warnings, the cousin who used to stalk her threw acid on her one day while she was going to play volleyball in stadium. “I was engulfed by darkness, the pain was beyond words” she rembarks. She recalls that she kept on screaming on the busy road, until her brother saw and took her to the hospital. ‘I could not sleep; I could not see. My face had melted like chocolate”, she recalls when she was kept at the hospital for two months.

There are many other girls who have dirtier pasts, who work here. There was a time when they used to use photos of Katrina Kaif and other actresses to make their Facebook dps. But, now the time has changed. They find this trend of selfies equally enjoyable like everyone.

This café started with crowd-funding, behind this grave need to rehabilitate the acid-attack victims. “We wanted to make the women financially-independent, as most of the victims were still living with the perpetrators. Plus, their families would not have let the girls join us just for street protests. Earning a livelihood was crucial. Sheroes came up as a result of that brainstorming”, said by Alok Dixit of Chhanv Foundation.

Another striking feature of this café is, that it has a ‘pay as you wish’ format which attracts a lot of visitors from all over the world. Also, surprisingly in October 2016, Jason Isaacs who played the part of Lucuis Malfoy in the Harry Potter visited the café and ordered food and then later tweeted- “India stuns me witless. Yesterday we ate here. It is run by magnificent acid attack survivors”.

According to the statistical data, in 2013-15, there was 590 incidents of acid attack in India (According to the Kolkata-headquarter Acid Survivors Foundation India). The number of attacks in 2015 was 249, a 12% rise from 2014 which has 225 attacks; 2013 has 116 attacks. The Indian Criminal Law didn’t recognize as a separate offence. It was the landmark Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, passed after the Nirbhaya attack, which provided for the treatment and rehabilitation of acid attack victims, prosecution of perpetrators, control of acid sales and the right to self-defense against such attacks.

Even the demonetization, which hit a lot of businesses badly across the country, couldn’t affect this tiny café that stunned everyone with its long line of customers. Each worker at Sheroes gets Rs. 10,000 a month, besides food and lodging. Also, their medical expense are taken care of!

“Earlier, survivors were rejected and criminals were accepted back in society- my attacker got married when he came out of jail on parole. But now people are becoming aware of acid attacks and even the girls are not hiding their faces behind dupattas” said Laxmi.

Thus, these girls along with their tiny café and big shining dreams walk down the lanes of hidden man-beasts with their chests puffed out, a superior smirk and courage in their hearts. Touch them and you’ll be burnt. 

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