This is Niaz Bano, or Bano aunty as I call her. 9 years ago, her husband purchased 5 bottles of acid for Rs. 100 only, grabbed her by the elbow, and decided to impression his revenge on her forever. She was guilty of an unforgivable crime; marrying off his step-daughter to protect her from his desires.
Bano aunty works at ACF, where I’m interning. After refusing to show her face for 6 years, she’s found a sanctuary among animals. She says shyly, “these dogs love me regardless of how I look. When my own neighbours don’t look at me, they incessantly follow me until I feed and pet them. That’s all they want from me.”
Then again, she has her bouts of insecurity. “Look at how beautiful my husband made me”, she cried during her storytelling. “He ruined me for a meagre Rs. 20!” She’s further struck by his death 20 days after the incident. “He was about to go to prison”, she mumbled bitterly. “He escaped”. Telling her he faces a harsher punishment in the afterlife doesn’t work, she feels he’s free from justice forever, while she remains in continuous torture.
Currently, she finds therapeutic solace in her children and animals. “An uneducated woman like me, that is all we are worth”, she reminds herself. I look at her and think otherwise. Today, I decided to tell her that. “You inspire me, aunty.” These four words transformed her face completely.
Someday, I plan on explaining to her how. I’ll tell her she’s an emblem of innocence, on an earth filled with ugly souls masked by exterior beauty. I’ll tell her she’s no different from anyone else, everyone has the same heart, kidneys, intestines, regardless of how they look. And I hope someday, my opinion results in her changing her views. Possibly as much as she’s changed mine.