Face Rebuilt After An Acid Attack English Literature Essay
Lucky is an ironic name for someone whose features have been melted down by battery acid. She wanted to peruse a career in fashion-modelling before she was attacked by her ex-fiancé on valentine’s day 2008. She now studies Psychology at Roehampton University, in hope to find a possible explanation to her violent attack.
When former fiancé refused to allow Hifsa to continue in higher education, he thought the only way to prevent her is to destroy her ‘glamorous appearance’. Doing so, would disable her from achieving her lifelong dream in becoming a model.
Her face is now dominated by a ‘grotesque’ patch of purple bruising with stitches that run under her eyebrows and down to her nose. She can barely open her right eye because the skin has contracted and this is after the reconstructive surgery. The concentrated acid that was thrown by the evil man, fused Hifsa’s lower lip, burned off her hair, melted her breasts and one ear, closed one eye and gave what remained of the skin of her face and upper body the look of melted rubber.
Before the attack she was a stunning beauty with full lips, large eyes, and a rich mane of jet black, silky hair. She was known as the ‘Bollywood queen’ amongst her family and friends. She now covers her head and body as she is ashamed of her appearance. “People are scared to look at me, children would scream if they saw me”, she says.
Hifsa was engaged to Salim at 19 years old through arranged and materialistic marriage. Her parents had forced her into this relationship for exchangeable business and money between both families. “If Salim was an educated man, I would have accepted him but we clashed all the time for this reason. He never understood me. I tried explaining this to my parents but for them - business was more important”, she explains.
During the eight months period the distinct couple spent together, Hifsa lived a terrifying experience. She explained what was meant as ‘domestic violence’ which she faced during their engagement, before her attack. “He would beat me, pull my hair aggressively and threaten to put my father in business risk if I didn’t obey any of his rules”, the victim tells.
On February 14, 2008, Salim had planned a romantic night for Hifsa to celebrate valentine’s day together. He had hired a limousine for them to drive round London and reserved a place at a posh restaurant to enjoy a romantic dinner. “He phoned me the night before and told me he had a huge surprise for me for valentines. This, I found extremely bizarre from him as he was never polite from day one.”
During that phone call, Mr Khan had also suspicionally agreed to let Hifsa continue with education after she would finish her A-Levels. Even more, he had mysteriously told her to dress in “a sexy fitted dress” which would reveal a lot of her body.
Throughout the night, Hifsa was extremely shocked at fiancé’s actions and state of mind but expressed that she had enjoyed every minute of it as she hadn’t felt so special in a long time. “I thought, maybe my opinions influenced him to change himself to a better person? He was NOT the vicious Salim I knew”, she says.
After spending that one and only night Hifsa thought was “overwhelming”, she had never thought that one happy day could turn her life into an ‘unforgettable nightmare’.
Salim had walked Hifsa to the top of her road, about 12 metres away from her house. She had found this especially strange but he had convinced her that his mother was very ill as he had to rush home quickly. “He kissed me, said he loved me as much as he hated me for being better than him...” she says. The attacker had suddenly thrown a bottle of acid liquid directly at her face and screamed “I am better than you now; at least I have a life”.
Victimized Hifsa wiped her eyes; not knowing what is happening to her as she glimpsed at her attacker running away. Immediately, she was trying to run after him to ask him why but she could only hear him shout: “Hope to see you in fashion magazines you ugly bitch”
Within minutes, Hifsa’s clothes were melting into her skin. She tried to scream for help – but her lips were stuck together. Naked and rapidly burning all over, she collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
After six months at hospital, Hifsa was left blind in one eye and had undergone more than 32 operations, (25 of which were major). She was finally released from Hospital to adapt with the world along with the new ‘Hifsa’ she did not know.
When Miss Showdry first saw her face after surgery she said: “I remember thinking, ‘someone’s going to have to hand me another mirror because this one is totally broken’. And then I realised that it was me. And I just wanted to smack it in my face and just cut my face open and tear the whole thing off”, she says.
Surgeons had to remove the skin from her entire face and use an artificial skin substitute and skin grafts from other parts of her body to rebuild it. She now wears a plastic pressure mask for 23 hours a day to flatten her scars and keep in moisture. “Early on in my recovery I felt like it was a shield protecting me from any further attacks”, she says.
Doctors had told her she was so lucky she was still alive as the acid burned her chest too deep that it nearly reached her heart. The brave survivor now suffers from exhausting side affects but is determined to overcome those obstacles in order to make her true loved ones happy. She breathes with difficulty and finds it painful to swallow food.
More than a year after the attack, the Bollywood beauty is now unrecognizable to her family, friends and neighbours. “I don’t look human anymore, she says. “My face is a prison for me.”
In the wake of the attack from an induced coma after 14 days and only able to communicate by writing, she wrote to her parents “I hate you”. She blames them for what had happened to her and no longer shares a daughter/ parents relationship with them. “I was basically sold to Salim and his family, in return of money. I meant nothing to my own family. No wonder he carried all the power to break and control me”, she says. Hifsa now lives with her aunt in White City, West of London away from her parents who live far up north.
“Acid, nitric or hydrochloric, has long been the weapon of retribution for Pakistani men against disloyal, disobedient or overly determined women”, according to one case study. One reason is that acid is cheap and readily available. Another: “men like Salim believe surviving an acid attack is often worse than dying, so they do not consider it a crime”, brave Hifsa explains.
“For a young woman, in Hifsa’s position an acid attack is quite literally a fate worse than death – but often inflicted on flimsy. The possible reason which explains Hifsa’s attack mainly involved strict traditional and cultural backgrounds. Her ex-fiancé used to justify such horrendous acid attack against her because she was petty, educated and didn’t just want to become a traditional housewife”, says Mrs. Anita Patel, a feminist activist.
“Hifsa’s story is a true identification of both mental and culture clash”, speaks Mrs. Johanna Ruth, a Psychologist at City University. Mr. Khan had stopped education at the age of 16 and had started his career along with his father in their business. He entered the UK just three years ago which makes him unable to adapt, understand and cope in a western society.
On the other hand, Hifsa was born and grew up all her life in the UK. “I believe it was not at all Hifsa’s fault to go against such a retarded man who did not appreciate or encourage her self-determination in pursuing a career”, says Mrs. Patel. “However, the parents are to blame”.
Hifsa recalls the harsh memories she faced during her relationship with Salim. “I used to beg him to allow me go to college but I used to get beatings for that. Luckily, I had gone through and passed my exams because he was in Pakistan making some business and he never knew what I was doing in London”.
The young and brave hero now studies Psychology and wishes to pursue a career where she could work with disabled children. She believes it will be a very “challenging experience” for herself and for the children to accept her but has her hopes so high to achieve her ‘new dream’.
The turning point for Hifsa came with the successful conviction of Salim Khan. He was jailed for life. She says: “The anger began to disappear as soon as I thought people agreed that what had happened to me was wrong”.
“My life really has a purpose now. It sounds weird but I’m actually more confident than I was before the attack. I used to think my looks were the only thing going for me. But now I know people like me for who I am”.
Before Salim entered Hifsa’s life, she was described as ‘the social butterfly’. She had lived what she called “the best days” of her life. “I would go out with friends, dress in all the latest designs with loads of make-up. Get my hair done every day. I used to stand out from all my friends and many people used to tell me that”. She adds: “Now, I feel disconnected with people, even when they approach me I’m not the confident outspoken girl I used to be”.
Hifsa has shown great courage and determination to survive her terrible injuries and to start rebuilding her new life. When she looks back at old photos or footage, she comments: “I do not look back bitterly... I look at them fondly”.
The young inspiration told how she does no longer want to be friends with the ‘old Hifsa’ as she reminds her of her life-threatening attack. “I’ve learnt to deal with the ‘old Hifsa’ in a way that made me believe that it was her who led me to this”, she says. She avoids re-creating the old Hifsa and does not follow certain things she used to do.
This miserable chapter has finally closed for Hifsa as “the new chapter is not that bad either”, she smiles. She feels lucky and honoured to know that justice is still present and that “world peace” should always be our motive in life.
“Acid attacks are starting to become a common way for men to express anger and frustration towards a woman”, explains Mrs. Ruth. The first documented case of acid violence was in 1967 when a young girl had acid poured on her by her admirer when his proposal of marriage was refused by her mother. Incidents of acid throwing are also on a rapid rise in Southern Punjab, with over 50 women having suffered from acid burns on their faces or other parts of their bodies.
The situation is no different in other South Asian nations like India and Pakistan. The numbers reported above may appear insignificant in the face of more than a billion people that live in South Asia today. But these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg, considering that most incidents go unreported in rural areas. “People who live in rural communities that are relatively isolated, un-educated and use money as their source of power are usually led to destroy women’s lives in this disgusting way”, says Mrs. Ruth.
Nevertheless, Britain has also witnessed aggressive acid attacks in the past. Louise Duddy’s heart breaking story was one of Scotland’s most notorious criminals in 1991. Her ex-husband had organised a horrific acid attack which left Duddy blind and fearful for the rest of her life.
Most recently, the case of Katie Piper, 26 years old model and TV presenter who was left fighting for her life when violent thug Daniel Lynch, 33, raped her and then arranged for another man to throw the corrosive liquid.
“A lot of people, including TV hosts, campaigns, newspapers and magazines editors and even Katie advised me to go public in order to raise awareness of the plight of burns victims, but I guess I’m not as brave as Katie as yet”, Hifsa confesses. Hifsa and Katie share a very close friendship as they had strived for the same career in becoming models and have both helped each other overcome their struggles.
However, what makes the case of acid throwing more heart wrenching are the ‘grotesque pictures’ of disfigured women who are now struggling but most determined to survive in society. Mrs. Ruth finally concludes that the mentality of the attacker is usually “If I can’t have her - nobody will. Appearance is what could make or break a woman”.
Hifsa’s perception of life has dramatically changed after her attack. She feels so grateful God has saved her from her brutal ex-fiancé and family. She feels that she must fight harder than before as she has been given a second chance to live and she mustn’t loose it. “Life is actually a wonderful thing - and if you can be brave and push on through the worst, there are joys you never dreamed of on the other side”, smiles the beautiful hero.
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