I sat down on a mat floor beside her father, Tuba was sat in the middle, her mother on the other, rubbing coconut oil over her burns. I remember taking a few deep breaths before talking, trying to get over the initial shock and stay collected. The first thing that struck me was her face and in particular her loud gasps for breath. The acid has so severely burnt her face that Tuba cannot not move her lips or open her mouth. She has only one eye. The other, is an empty eye socket. She has no eyebrows or eyelashes and the acid had literally destroyed her face. Tuba wore a traditional Indian salwar kameez and a contrasting dupatta (shawl) across her neck. Her long black hair was tied back in
At first, I was afraid to touch her, but wanted to know what it felt like on skin. I reached out to hold her delicate hands and asked if I could touch a patch on the topside of her right hand. As gentle as I could, the burn had formed a large lump and felt solid to touch. I didn't realise how painful it was for Tuba, she could feel every sensation and it was Unable to talk at length Tuba and her parents together, told me what had happened to their daughter.
Her story goes like this. She was on her way to daily tuition class, a routine walk she made every day. On her way, Tuba was met with four boys and stopped in her tracks by one she recognized from her class. Insisting Tuba should talk to him, she walked on and rejected his advances. Her rejection damaged his ego. With a two liter Cocoa Cola bottle filled with acid, the boy then splashed the bottle in her face. Tuba told me, at first she thought it was boiling water because of the burning sensation. She never thought it could possibly be acid. When she bent over to cover her face, screaming,
the boy then poured the remaining acid in the bottle over Tuba's back, shoulders, arms and legs. It was only when her clothes had melted away, passers-by knew it was acid and rushed to help her.
When I saw Tuba's pictures pre the attack, that's when it hit me and I broke my promise. I remember turning away so Tuba couldn't see me, and I cried helplessly. I have never felt so helpless in all my life. I was filled with guilt, helplessness, and anger all at the same time for what Tuba was a beautiful girl. With long black wavy hair, a coy innocent smile and dark brown marble eyes, radiant, milky white skin made her gorgeous young girl. What do you say, what can you say? I felt completely helpless. Our eyes met and I saw a tear drop from Tuba and I knew I had to be strong for her. Why should I be crying? I wanted to change the mood and learn more about Tuba.
She told me her dream is to become a doctor. Tuba has been out of school for nearly a year and she told me she cannot wait to return back to school to complete her studies. Her parents tell me she's a strong academic. Tuba's favorite subject is math's and she's a very talented
Henna artist. I was lucky to have Henna painted on my hand by Tuba. With a witty streak in her, Tuba joked with me and said she'd paint Henna on my hands when I get married! Growing up, Tuba's parents told me how she was mischievous yet the life and soul of her family. She's the eldest of her siblings and has a younger brother and sister. Tuba's mother told me that it took months before Tuba's younger sister would look at her older sister. She was scared of what Tuba looked like.
After the attack had happened Tuba refused to look at herself in the mirror. About a month and a half later, Tuba first saw her face as a reflection in a stainless steel glass filled with water.It was time for Tuba to have some oil rubbed over her burns. I followed Tuba and her mother into the small dark bedroom. I wanted to help and Tuba's mother gave me the coconut oil. Coconut has a cooling quality and helps to reduce the burning sensation in the extreme Indian heat. Tuba's mother lifted up the back of her kameez and I saw the horrifying extent of how much the acid had destroyed her back. Her
back was covered in deep lumps and gaping hollow grooves of skin mangled up into hard bits. We gently massaged the oil on to her skin.
Tuba told me she struggles to sleep at night. She said it's too painful on We sat on the bed together and shared a few girly moments off camera and I remember showing her pictures of my dog on my phone, Tuba was fascinated. She had never seen snow before. Tuba tried to smile and I could see she couldn't. We took some pictures together and she gave me her email address. I knew this would be a moment in my life I
It was time to say goodbye but I didn't want to leave. I felt like I wanted to give her everything that I had. How could I possibly make a difference. My stomach was churning and lumps formed in my throat. I gave her the warmest hug I could. I held her delicate hands and with tears trickling down my cheeks I told her to stay strong. I said goodbye and turned to put my sandals back on. I couldn't look back, it was too
Her attackers are in jail and the case is ongoing. They may have taken her face, but Tuba still has her beautiful personality, her warm heart and intelligent mind. This is the price Tuba and many girls have had to pay for simply saying NO.
Tuba is the bravest girl I have ever met!!
(Radha Bedi is television presenter based in London. She met Tuba while making a documentary for BBC3 in March 2013)