By Taniya Dutta
An Indian woman who lost her face in a horrific acid attack has just got engaged.
Pramodini Roul, 28, got engaged to her sweetheart Saroj, whom she met while getting treatment in a hospital five years ago and dated for 13 months.
The ceremony was witnessed by 200 guests including other acid attack survivors who had made the arrangements for Rani’s special day at Sheroes Cafe, a centre run by Stop Acid Attack for the rehabilitation of the brave survivors, in Lucknow in northern India.
Pramodini, who is lovingly called Rani or Queen by her family and friends, looked drop dead gorgeous in a bright red lehenga and white top as she perfectly matched steps with her beau on the dance floor.
She also wore a wig worth £165 for her special occasion because she is completely bald while Saroj looked dapper in a blue suit.
Rani said: ” I am extremely happy. It was a dreamlike moment for me.
“I wanted to live these moments. After the attack my confidence was lost but Saroj brought me back to me feet. I am still overwhelmed.
“I had never thought that I would be loved but today I am engaged and it the most amazing feeling.”
“Love is the most beautiful feeling. I feel wonderful and blessed to have a man who understands me and is there to support me immensely.”
Ashish Shukla, the director of Chhanv Foundation and Stop Acid Attack, the NGO that that helps in arranging funds for the surgeries and rehabilitation of acid attack survivors, said the gala affair was crowdfunded and cost £4500.
Mr Shukla said: “We are extremely happy for Rani and Saroj. We are glad that we could organise the ceremony for them.
“We had invited journalist friends and other dignitaries to witness the event. It is not every day that an acid attack survivor finds love and gets engaged.
“Whenever I spoke to Rani, she would express her desire to get engaged in a big way.
“She had lost confidence after the attack but the engagement ceremony was an event for her to face the people. It was truly an empowering moment for her.”
Rani was just 15 years old when a 28-year-old bike-borne paramilitary soldier threw acid on her face, melting it away completely and blinding both her eyes only because she had rejected his marriage proposal.
She was a tenth grade student from Odisha in eastern India then.
On the day of the attack she was returning from taking an exam with her cousin when Santosh Bedanata hurled the corrosive element on her face.
As in most of the acid attack cases in India, the perpetrator was also let off because the police was bribed. He even offered to marry Rani after the attack and called her until 2013. He was already a married man.
After an order by the chief minister of Odisha state, local police reopened the case in August last year.
A special team of police on November 26 conducted a raid at Santosh’s uncle’s house in Kolkata where he was hiding. Bedanta was arrested along with his friend Anil Biswajit Dalasiharaya who rode the motorbike used in the attack.
Rani had spent four months in ICU immediately after the incident and later was bedridden for four years at her house in Odisha in eastern India while her widowed mother took care of her alone, bandaging her pus-filled wounds.
After suffering pain for almost a decade, undergoing five reconstructive surgeries including one to correct vision in her left eye by some degree, and reeling under depression throughout these years, Rani had found a friend in Saroj who came to visit her in the hospital.
Rani was getting treatment at a private hospital where she was admitted for the treatment for the pus-filled infection that had ravaged her legs.
Saroj was a friend of the nurse who was looking after Rani and was on a regular visit when he saw her mother crying helplessly and extended his support.
The two increasingly became close friends over the upcoming months and on February 14th, 2016, Saroj popped the question.
Surprisingly, Rani had not seen her future fiancé until last September when she had undergone the first surgery in left eye.
Rani says: “Saroj really treats me like a queen.
“He loves me like the way I am. He always encourages me to live life happily.
“He has become a part of me. I would not have been able to see the world today if I did not have him in my life.
“I feel very lucky to have him. He is very understanding and is always there for me. It always feels good to be loved and be assured of having a partner who loves and recognizes the goodness in you.