New Delhi: Acid attack survivor Sonali Mukherjee finds love, ties knot

New Delhi: For acid attack survivor Sonali Mukherjee, her recent wedding holds testimony to the adage 'All's well that ends well.' From sharing centre stage on TV with megastar Amitabh Bachchan in 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' to marrying the love of her life, acid attack survivor Sonali Mukherjee's life story seems next to a fairy tale.

Attacked for resisting sexual approaches by three of her neighbours, Sonali who hails from Bokaro in Jharkhand had acid flung on her face in the year 2003, when she was 17 years old. The attack left her partially deaf and blind and melted her eyelids, mouth and ears.

Her father sold land and jewellery to provide for her reconstructive treatment and she managed to win Rs 25 lakhs on the TV show KBC along with a celebrity partner the former Miss Universe Lara Dutta.

"I had won 25 lakh rupees out of which about 7-8 lakh rupees were deducted due to tax. The remaining amount was used for my treatment. Till now I have undergone 34 surgeries, and still have about 7 to 8 surgeries still left," says Sonali.

Impressed by her courage and bravery, an electrical engineer, Chittaranjan Tewari also from Bokaro contacted her through social media and love blossomed between the two.

The duo tied the knot on April 14, on the occasion of Bengali New year in Dhanbad this year. "The proposal for marriage came from Chittaranjan. It took me some time to decide. My husband was very impressed with my courage and he contacted me through the social media after which I consulted my family. It was very difficult for me to accept his proposal and I could not generate the trust," says Sonali.

There was once a phase in her life, says Sonali when she was fed up and had attracted attention with her plea for euthanasia. However, now after marriage her life seems to be back on the track for the acid attack survivor.

"There was a time when I was completely broken. Life was miserable and I was suffering extensively because of my physical condition. My culprits were roaming around freely and there was no law to punish them. That's when I thought to end my life in a way to bring an end to my sufferings," recalls Sonali.

Her husband Tewari says he aspired to marry a 'special girl' in his life and his search was complete when he saw Sonali on 'Crime Patrol', a TV soap that featured her story. "I had set up a guideline for my marriage and wanted to marry someone who had undergone an acid attack, or had been subjected to sexual assault, or had been diagnosed as a HIV positive and or was handicapped.

"I saw Sonali's case on a daily soap and tried contacting her through social media. It was just 4-5 days after talking to her that I proposed to her," says Tewari, who is employed in Orissa.

Love, says the engineer, cannot be defined and neither can he explain his decision to marry Sonali. However, he says it was tough to convince Sonali who agreed to marry him only after three months. "It was not easy to convince her. It was only after two to three months that she finally agreed to my proposal. Even though my responsibility has increased, I am happy that I have got a good companion.

Her courage and bravery is what drew me towards her," adds Tewari. Not only lauded by her husband, Sonali has been an awardee of various bravery awards including an award at the Indian Television Awards, CNN IBN Bravery Award for the year 2014 and many state level awards.

Sonali moved to Delhi after the attack and was treated at hospitals here including government hospitals and says that the city has been very supportive. Prior to the attack Sonali had been an National Cadet Corps cadet and believes that her participation helped her to battle the odds for so long. "NCC brought the discipline and courage in my life for which I am being hailed nowadays. It has infused a lot of positivity in me. I wanted to be a lecturer but life came to a standstill after the attack," says Sonali.

Sonali has now got a job of a clerk at the District Collector's office in Bokaro last year and the couple say they want to dedicate their lives to the betterment of acid attack surviors. "The society should change its perspective and mentality
towards people like us. I know it is very difficult for physically challenged people to get married and lead a normal life. But I am happy that I have broken this conception and come out victorious thanks to my husband who is very supportive," says Sonali.

The couple aims to work for the rehabilitation of the victims and say they have made numerous appeals to government to provide medical, financial and mental aid. After years of struggle trying to cope up with the emotional and physical pain of the attack and battling other odds, Sonali says she now has found a reason to live.

"I am trying to learn the work here at the office and people are very supportive," says Sonali.

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