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Beauty that acid can't burn

Reshma’s beauty tips, easily available online, are simple and fun. For instance, for dark spots on the face, she recommends the use of lemon, to be rubbed on the affected area. She continues, “See, how easy it is to get rid of dark spots – as easy as scarring someone’s face with acid. Just open the bottle and throw.”

No one would know this better than Reshma Qureshi herself, who was a mere 17 when her brother-in-law threw sulfuric acid on her face in 2014, scarring her for life.

For the next few months, the young girl was riven with grief and fear till she met Ria Sharma, founder of the NGO, Make Love Not Scars, which works with acid-attack survivors. Sharma made Reshma realise that she was not alone in having suffered this trauma – every year, some 250 to 300 cases of acid attack are registered in India while many more cases must be going unreported.

Beauty that acid can't burn

Make Love Not Scars has been enabling the medical, legal, educational, vocational and psychological rehabilitation of the survivors since 2014 and has 70+ success stories till date.

These stories are recorded in Sharma’s book, Make Love Not Scars, which was released recently at In-Cube in Bengaluru’s Forum Shantiniketan Mall. At the launch, Sharma talked about her experiences with Soni Devi, an acid attack survivor turned activist who now works with Sharma and the NGO. Sharma is surprisingly young for an activist spearheading a fight against a persistent social evil.

Her journey started in the burns ward of a government hospital in Bengaluru, when Sharma was shooting a documentary called Make Love Not Scars in her third year of university. “The things that I witnessed in that ward left a lasting impact on me. At that moment I knew that a documentary wouldn’t bring any concrete change on the ground. The next day I registered Make Love Not Scars as an organisation,” she says.

Beauty that acid can't burn

In the last five years, if Sharma has helped women recover their self-worth, they, in turn, have helped her discover who she is. “I witnessed everything they went through to be able to identify with them. I found them saving me not only from the things I was seeing but from the shallow person I used to be.”

So her book is a celebration of the strength and beauty within.No wonder then that on International Women’s Day week, Sharma and her team got a hero’s welcome in Bengaluru, with even the Kempegowda International Airport inviting them to share their tale of bravery with all women gathered at the airport.

But Make Love Not Scars, whether the book or the NGO, is not just about jubilation. The NGO’s #EndAcidSale campaign, started in 2015, has gone a long way in convincing the Supreme Court to direct States to enforce the existing ban on acid sale more stringently. Sharma says, “While the ban is still not implemented efficiently, it did put acid attacks on the map and as a result, survivors are receiving quicker legal, medical and life care now.”

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 9:10:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/ria-sharma-make-love-not-scars-book/article26543084.ece

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