‘Being Reshma’ review: Nothing to hide

Towards the end of her account of being an acid-attack survivor, Reshma Qureshi writes, “As for those television journalists who called me inspiring yet blurred my face... Rather than accepting me for who I am, they have reinforced that I have a face I should be hiding.” For many of us, acid attacks are headlines in newspapers and television channels. Being Reshma brings you face to face with life in the aftermath of the attack. The simple direct narrative gives you a feeling of listening to Qureshi tell her story.

The youngest of five kids, Qureshi was much indulged by her siblings and parents. The acid attack had nothing to do with her. The actual target was her older sister who had left an abusive husband. On May 19, 2004, on her way to an examination centre, Qureshi was attacked by her brother-in-law and his cousins. The latter held her hands down while the former emptied a bottle of acid on her head. “They never even removed the niqab to see my face,” she writes. She was wearing her sister’s niqab.

Qureshi offers, in agonising detail, the rest: dealing with bureaucratic apathy and medical negligence, the numerous procedures to reconstruct her face, her attempts at suicide and dealing with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, people who blamed her for what happened.

Qureshi’s family rallies around her, and meeting Ria Sharma of the non-profit Make Love Not Scars leads her to be the face of the campaign to end acid sales. As a result of her activism and fight to regain her life, she walks the ramp at the New York Fashion Week. “Many believe that my unparalleled success at the New York Fashion Week was a historical moment for acid attack survivors. I certainly hope so, for never again in the history of the world would I wish for a story like that to make global headlines.”

Qureshi also deals with accusations of trivialising acid attacks by her participation in fashion shows.

Being Reshma also questions attitudes to acid attack survivors. Pointing out that they didn’t have a choice — “we can’t change our faces or our stories” — she blames society and the governments for a system that compels them to hide their faces while the attackers more often than not get away scot-free. It’s hard not to be moved by this young woman’s courage and resilience.

Being Reshma; Reshma Qureshi with Tania Singh, Macmillan, ₹599.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 5:42:59 AM |

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