That is Kanmanipriya, whose wailing mother says, “When she dies, I will die, too. After her last suicide attempt, even her brother says that we will all die together now. Her pain has become unbearable for us, too.”
Frequent abuse by her husband pushed Kanmanipriya's mother to move to her father's place when her daughter was only eight-year-old. Kanmanipriya's grndfather, a priest at the church, got worried as she entered teenage and married her off at an early age of 14. She soon was a mother of two and regular sufferer of her husband's atrocities. Young Kanmanipriya couldn't cope with the harassment and got a divorce. She then moved to Trichi along with her son to live with her mother and got a job as a cashier. While Kanmanipriya was peacefully raising her son in Trichi, a friend of her former husband visited them from Singapore, tried to impress them with praises for Kanmanipriya, and proposed to marry her. She denied the proposal straight away, but he kept insisting her to rethink her decision. Relatives and friends advised: “Being alone throughout your life would be tough. If someone is ready to hold her hand, why not?” They were soon married in a church.
Kanmanipriya had clarified to her second husband that she won't be able to conceive, as she had already undergone a tubectomy, and he agreed that he would never demand kids. She married the man and moved to Chennai with him. When her new in-laws visited, they seemed unhappy with the marriage that had happened without their consent, and expressed their desire for a grandchild. The husband, too, started pressurising Kanmanipriya for a child. She was shocked.
Her inability to give birth proved troublesome for Kanmanipriya, as this family, too, started abusing and harassing her regularly. “He was already quite cruel on me and a womaniser. His parents' presence made him all the more cruel. He started figuring out ways to finish my life. Became worse than an animal. He would frequently abuse me in public, so that I get frustrated and commit suicide, and he could marry another woman who could give grandchild to his parents.
“On June 5, 2004, the man brought an acid bottle from the bathroom, uncapped it, and forced Kanmanipriya to gulp it down. She had no way out and soon started vomiting blood and chunks of melted flesh from her insides. The husband got frightened and rushed her to hospital. The first four to five hospitals refused to touch her without the involvement of police. Death was hovering around Kanmanipriya, when a nursing home finally took her in, and saved her life.
“But, by then I had turned into a hopeless case. When I gained consciousness, he told me I will be fine and that he will always be around me. He begged me not to disclose his crime and say that it was a suicide attempt by me,” she narrates.
He urged the 63-year-old mother, too, to hide his crime. The old lady thought it was out of her social and financial status to get involved with the police and courts and did not have any relatives either to support them. She agreed, in the hope that her silence in front of police would save her daughter's life, as she had no idea how to get Kanmanipriya the required treatment when she had not been able to drink or swallow anything, because of the melting innards.
After 45 days and three surgeries, Kanmanipriya's doctor said only nine percent of her treatment had been successful. The fourth bypass surgery could save her life somehow and that was around 2006, when the accused husband, who forced her to consume the acid, decided to flee.
Her son James Samuel Dharmaraj is 25 now, and makes about Rs 7,000 every month, which facilitates the trio's bread and her mother's few medicines for survival. Kanmanipriya needs to undergo endoscopy twice a year, but it has been two years since she underwent one; each costing her about Rs 10,000-15,000.
“The injury is inside. Even I haven't been able to see it ever; only feel the burning pain even if I try to swallow a lentil seed, it is tough for you to imagine how it feels throwing up after almost every meal you ingest forcefully. I don't have the energy to puke any more. It kills me. The last time my doctor told me he doubted some sort of cancerous system inside my body when he saw me throwing up blood clots,” says Kanmanipriya, lying in their tiny residence, that has lost every single article of use over her treatment and survival. Life, still, doesn't seem to take any easy turn for the three of them. Her mother's cousin sister helped them last time with her jewels that saw Kanmanipriya through the last round of treatment.
When Rakesh from SAA asked the family about the complications involved in saving Kanmanipriya's life, she said, “Please talk to my doctor urologist Ashok Thyagarajan, sir. He is a renown doctor and no less than god to me, sir. He can tell you everything about my medical needs.” Dr Thyagarajan was caught up in a surgery when Rakesh contacted him, but he assured that he would soon share with us a detailed note about Kanmanipriya's medical needs and estimated cost of the best possible treatment for her.
We could reach Kanmanipriya through a translated story that appeared in Kunguman Thozhi, a Tamil magazine, lying by her bed. A report by Vijaya Anand about Stop Acid Attacks informed them about this campaign that aims at rehabilitating acid attack survivors, and providing them medico-legal support.
While Dr Thyagarajan shared with us how he had been hoping that Kanmanipriya's son completes her graduation, despite the odds he is facing, so that he could get him a decent job that would take care of family's monthly expenditure, Kanmanipriya explained Rakesh how she spends most of her days. “I like movies. I have seen a couple of Hindi movies also, like Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jayengey and Hum Aapke.... .” Rakesh had to remind her the name. And she added, “I have seen both these films about a hundred times,” with a sparkle in her eyes. “Kanmani means eye ball, sir,” she explained. She, the one dear to eye balls, lies on a bed in that tiny hutment.
Hoping against all misery that this doesn't turn out to be her death bed.