LIFESTYLE

Indian Acid Attack Survivor Finds Love And Hope

04/02/2014 14:51 GMT | Updated 04/02/2014 14:59 GMT

An Indian woman left severely disfigured in a brutal acid attack has found love with a social activist helping bring justice to victims of such attacks.

Laxmi, 24 - who goes by just her first name - had given up on finding a partner thanks to the stares and comments she received in public left her to ashamed to leave the home.

But after meeting Alok Dixit, 26, while protesting against the rising tide of acid attacks against women, Laxmi has turned her life around.

acid attack

The 24-year-old, from Delhi - who underwent seven major surgeries to try and reduce the burns to her skin - said: “After the attack, I never thought I would ever find a soulmate. I had lost hope.

"But in Alok, I couldn't have found anyone better. He understood the kind of pain I was in. He understood what I had been going through."

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Acid Attack Survivor Finds Love

Alok, who along with Laxmi now runs the Stop Acid Attacks campaign, added: "I never felt that looks are important. Looks do not matter because I find Laxmi very beautiful. She is a beautiful person and her beauty lies in her heart."

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Laxmi before the attack

Laxmi was attacked in 2005 when she was 15-years-old by a man more than twice her age, who she refused to marry.

The incident - which took place in broad daylight in one of Delhi's busiest markets - left her physically and emotionally scarred.

Her story hit headlines in India, and she subsequently became the face of the women's rights struggle.

It led her to file public interest litigations in India's highest court, seeking changes in the law and asked the government to take steps to restrict the sale of acid.

But privately she struggled to cope with the dramatic change in looks and confidence following the horrifying attack.

Laxmi added: “I cannot forget how brutally I was attacked. I want to make sure that such things don’t happen to anyone else.

“My father worked as a chef. I was friends with another girl in the neighbourhood and her brother soon started proposing to me. I was only 15. On April 18 (2005), he messaged me: 'I love you.'' I ignored it."

But Laxmi had little idea of the tragic turn of events set to unfold because of her perceived snub.

“I was waiting for a bus when he approached me with his brother's girlfriend. They pushed me to the ground and threw acid over my face,” Laxmi recalled.

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“I was crying for help, but no one came to my rescue. I tried waving at the passing cars. They did not stop, no one helped. I almost got run over three times. I could not even open my eyes properly.

“I felt as if someone had set my whole body on fire. The skin was just coming off, it was like dripping, from my hands and from my face."

In the nine-years since the attack, Laxmi has undergone seven face reconstruction surgeries, but insists she no longer cares about her looks thanks to Alok.

She said: “Someone asked me the question of what if the attacker still offered to marry me? I said, he has changed my face, but he has failed to change my mind.

“Afterwards I never wanted to find love. I mean there was no hope in any case because of the scars.”

But after meeting Dixit, that all changed and she says she learned to love again.

“I contacted Alok for a job. I was told later that he had been looking for me for over four years. Then we met, her understood what I was going through.” she said.

Dixit added: “I have never felt that looks are important. Looks don’t matter because I find Laxmi very beautiful. She is a beautiful person and her beauty lies in her heart."

The families of the couple have also accepted the relationship and are standing by them.

"We have decided to live together until we die. But we are challenging the society by not getting married," Laxmi said.

Dixit continued: “We are not going to follow the norms that the society approves of. We will prove that our love does not need a name. Our love is about understanding and support.”

The couple says they haven’t thought about the future yet, but believe helping acid attack victims is their only goal.

Dixit said: “We want to focus on our acid attack campaign and raise awareness in society as well as at government level."

“This (campaign) is our personal life also. This is what we do all the time. In between all this we try to spend some time together, go somewhere and discover love."