Rupa lived in the shadows and fought the odds for years. Now, at 23, she’s a confident woman with entrepreneurial dreams.
Rupa was 15 when her step-mother poured acid on her face while she was asleep. Her step-mother made sure there was no water around, and it wasn’t until six hours later that she received medical attention. By then, the acid had melted most of her face.
There are no separate statistics for acid violence cases in India till early 2013 since the Indian Criminal Law did not recognise it as a separate offence, according to the Acid Survivors Foundation of India (ASFI). In 2014 — the first time that data about acid attacks was available since the law was amended — there were 349 cases reported from across the country. But the number of unreported cases is likely to be much higher.
For years, Rupa lived in the shadows and fought the odds. She underwent 10 surgeries. Now, at 23, she’s a confident woman with entrepreneurial dreams. Rupa, who currently runs a boutique at Agra’s Sheroes Hangout, a cafe run by fellow acid attack survivors, is a budding fashion designer who wants to open her own online fashion store.
“I want to do something on my own and reach out to a wider audience through an online store,” Rupa told FactorDaily over the phone from Lucknow where she’s visiting her ailing brother.
Rupa has already taken the first step. On crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, she recently raised over $6,000 (nearly ₹4 lakh) for creating saastore.com, which will sell apparel around the world.
“As of now my clientele has mostly been restricted to people visiting Agra who drop into Sheroes,” said Rupa. “But I want to sell my creations across the country and the world, and online is the best medium for it. I got orders from the US through clients who had visited the Agra store before, which made me realise that there is a big market out there waited to be tapped.”
Most of the raised money was invested in machinery and backend infrastructure, but Rupa needs more. That’s where the New Delhi-based NGO, Chhanv Foundation, which runs the Sheroes Hangout comes in. The foundation is likely to fund the rest of her requirements, says Atul Kumar, lead campaigner for Stop Acid Attacks, one of Chhanv’s key initiatives.
Kumar, a mechanical engineer who moonlights as a fashion designer, was the one who taught Rupa the ropes of fashion designing.
“For me, a dream to be a designer seemed far-fetched at one time. But instead of hiding my scarred face behind a scarf, I went public and started living for my dream. I always hung onto my dream but I never knew that one day it would be possible and I would be launching my own label,” Rupa said.