Visible wounds earn sympathy. Those within can make life miserable.
Sapna Devi — a 24-year-old woman from Gomia in Bokaro who as a child became the victim of a bizarre acid attack, met officiating chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty at Project Building, Ranchi, on Wednesday, seeking aid and justice.
In 1999, Sapna was a bubbly girl in an affluent family. Father Ram Narayan was a goldsmith and mother Bina Devi a happy homemaker.
Tragedy struck on April 16 that year. A soothsayer offered the family “holy water” to improve fortunes. Little did the couple and their three children, including Sapna, know that they were being tricked to drink nitric acid.
“My father took a sip and realised it was acid and threw away the glass in my mother’s hand. By then, we siblings had gulped down what was offered,” she recalled.
While the soothsayer fled, Sapna and her siblings were rushed to a Gomia hospital. “My sister Asha passed away that very night while my brother Gopal died in Ranchi’s Nagarmal Modi Seva Sadan eight days later. My father and I fought for our lives. We were referred to Mumbai. My mother took us there and our treatment continued for two years,” said the young woman.
After two years, when the family returned to Gomia, people did not allow them to enter their home because they had not done antyeshti (last rites) of Asha and Gopal. “My father was compelled to complete rituals before we could step inside,” said Sapna.
With time, the family had to sell off their property bit by bit for the treatment of the father-daughter duo, but Ram Narayan died of internal injuries within five years.
Sapna is living with hers for more than 14 years now.
“Whenever I am hungry, I need to push inside a pipe to dilate my oesophagus. It stays inside me for nearly 15 minutes and only then can I eat some broth,” she showed Chakraborty the tube provided to her by doctors of KEM Hospital, Mumbai.
Sapna, who had to discontinue studies after Class VII, said she had survived only to suffer more.
“People asked my mother to marry me off. In 2006, I tied the knot with a cycle mechanic. We have two children (a daughter who is seven and a son aged four). Last year, when I went to Mumbai for review, doctors said my condition would never improve. My mother-in-law asked me to pack my bags. I have been living with my mother since,” she added.
Chakraborty said he had asked Dr Sumant Mishra, the director of state health services, to prepare a medical report highlighting Sapna’s present condition. “She needs and deserves assistance, medical and otherwise. We shall see what can be done for her,” he added.
Dr Mishra said a medical board was being formed to examine Sapna on Thursday.
How can Sapna be helped?