Pramodini Roul was only 15years old when she got bathed with acid by a then 28 years old man because she refused to accept his marriage proposal. The teenager in her 10th grade was on her way back from school after an exam with her cousin when the paramilitary soldier on a bike poured the corrosive element on her. Pramodini, from India, spent four months in ICU after suffering severe burns to her face, as well as lost vision, in the attack around a decade ago.
But now, she has found true love – from her hospital bed.
As Pramodi, who’s known as Rani to her friends and family, lay in her hospital bed at a hospital, waiting for a treatment for the pus-filled infection that had ravaged the skin graft on her legs, she met Saroj Kumar Sahoo.
Saroj was a friend of one of the nurses giving Rani treatment. On one of his visits to the hospital he saw Rani’s mother crying, and reached out to offer some support.
“We met in March 2014 when he had come with his friends to visit the hospital,” remembers Rani. “Initially we didn’t speak to each other, even though he had seen me. However, after around 15 days he started to speak to me. He would often visit the hospital. I believe he saw my mother and observed her and then slowly started extending helping hands. She would always come alone for my physio therapy. One day he heard my mother ask about my improvement and how long would it take for me to recover as my lower body had by then deteriorated. I was not able to move without help, let alone stand on my feet. The reply wasn’t very positive as the doctors said that it would take at least four years for me to be able to walk. My mother naturally broke down when she heard that. That is when Saroj consoled her and assured her that he would do everything possible to get me walking.”
From then on, Saroj visited Rani every day, even quitting his job so he could spend his days looking after Rani. “He was extremely caring and looked after my needs,” says Rani.
“He would talk to me for hours and motivate me. It was a tough time for me when doctors had told me I would not be able to walk for four years. I had already lost my eyesight and the thought of being bedridden was an added woe. But Saroj did not lose hope. He would encourage me everyday, motivating me to be positive and have hopes. He even quit his job to meet me everyday. From 8 to 12am in the morning and 4 to 8pm in the evening, he was there with me. It had become a routine. Just as medication was required for the physical recovery I needed dire support and encouragement at the mental level. Gradually, the wounds started healing and with treatment and exercise and with his help and support I regained my confidence and now I am standing back on my feet. Despite being unable to see Saroj, Rani began to fall in love. Saroj did too. In January 2016, Saroj expressed his feelings, but Rani wasn’t ready yet to commit to a relationship.”
“I too had fallen for him loved him and I did tell him that. But I also knew that loving is different from entering into a relationship,” she explains.
“I was not fit enough to look after myself, how could I keep others happy. So I didn’t really agree then. But it was he who kept encouraging me, by telling me not to think too much. He assured me that there will come a day when I will not just be able to see the world and work but will also be able to make others happy. He always had my confidence.”
Slowly Rani’s confidence grew, and the couple’s love grew with it. They’ve been living together for a year and plan to get married – waiting for Rani to have further reconstructive surgeries before they have a big celebration. Her neck has begun to bend, as her backbone was melted by the acid, and she will require further surgeries on her eyes to increase her vision. She’ll also need plastic surgeries on her head as a large section of skin is missing.
“I only saw myself in the mirror after my eye surgery in September this year,” says Rani.
“I did have some idea of what the tragedy had done to me but when I saw myself I felt extremely hurt. I was so scared of myself that I cried the whole night. I am hoping to get further surgeries as soon as possible. Doctors say I need at least four more surgeries.”
Rani is now working with Chhanv Foundation, a support care service that helps to arrange funds for surgeries and rehabilitation for acid attack survivors, as her mother can’t afford further surgeries.
“I am happy that I am able to restart my life again but it would be wonderful if I can get all the reconstructive surgeries soon,” says Rani.
“My mother could not arrange money for my treatment and we had to stop it midway. The delay has caused several complications and need to be addressed soon. I also want to do something in life, look after my sisters and then settle down with Saroj. Saroj really treats me like a queen. He loves me like the way I am. He always encourages me to live life happily. He has become a part of me. I would not have been able to see the world today if I did not have him in my life. I feel very lucky to have him. He is very understanding and is always there for me. It always feels good to be loved and be assured of having a partner who loves and recognizes the goodness in you.”