A new lease of life

C Komala, a burns survivor who works at Higginbothams’ Writer’s Cafe, on how she rebuilt her life from scratch after a suicide attempt

Updated - March 27, 2017 09:05 pm IST

Published - March 27, 2017 04:33 pm IST

CHENNAI, 07/03/2017: For Metro Plus: Komala, acid victim  and burns survivors working at Writer's Cafe on Tuesday. Photo: R. Ragu

CHENNAI, 07/03/2017: For Metro Plus: Komala, acid victim and burns survivors working at Writer's Cafe on Tuesday. Photo: R. Ragu

The petite Komala looks like an ordinary young woman who’s come to the big city from the suburbs to make a living. Dressed in a white salwar-kameez, hair neatly braided, she’s initially cautious about every word she tells us. But beneath that feeble voice and bashful presence, is a steely character that was born out of the terrible mistake she made a few years ago and the lessons she learned from it. C Komala is a burns survivor. She’s working at Higginbothams’ Writer’s Cafe in Royapettah, that employs seven burns victims. The 22-year-old B.Com graduate opens up gradually on her life story...

It’s at the café that I ate pizza for the first time. I really like it and it’s among the best dishes that I make. I’ve learned to bake a variety of breads... I enjoy my job. I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile; something that earns me respect. But I wanted to become a Tamil teacher when I was in school. It all changed after what happened that day.

You know, my life can be defined in two parts: after the incident and before it. It was around 8 am and I was at home in Kilnathur village, Thiruvallur. I was about to start a new life; college was to begin in a week and I’d shopped for new churidars in T Nagar only the previous evening. My paati was with me. She started abusing me verbally. This was nothing new; she made it a habit to scold me whenever possible. But that day, I couldn’t take it any more. Without thinking, I set myself on fire. My brother broke the door and rescued me. I was rushed to Kilpauk Medical College.

It took six months of excruciating pain and humiliation to somewhat recover. Pain because I suffered major burns; I couldn’t even move my hands. I will never forget those days at the burns ward. Humiliation because the moment the hospital staff see a suicide victim, they ask, “Did she do this for a failed love affair?” My father was beyond humiliated. He said that I was better off dead than be subjected to such insults. But my mother was patient. She was the one who nursed me back to health.

I didn’t think I would survive. Most people who attempt suicide through self-immolation think it is the end. But to survive, and the days leading to recovery, are unimaginable. The way my family treated me didn’t change much after I went back to my village. For one year, I didn’t look at my face in the mirror.

It was PCVC that helped me rebuild my life. They identified and trained me. I’m earning a good salary now and lead an independent life.

I go home during holidays, and when I do, I’m treated with respect; they consult me when important decisions are to be taken. I’ve learned to move on. I know it was a rash and impulsive thing to have done, but I feel adults should be taught how to talk to teenagers. It’s a sensitive age and things can go very wrong if they are not dealt with consideration.

I want to help people like me; tell them to learn from my mistake.

One day, I want to open my own café at PCVC and employ burns survivors; show them that there’s hope.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.