Such attacks mostly target women and are alarmingly frequent in India
As twisted and cruel as they sound, acid attacks occur with alarming frequency in India. In the majority of instances, the acts are hate crimes against women, with the perpetrators intending to disfigure them in response to some perceived wrong or out of simple jealousy.
In 2012, Aaarti Thakur was waiting on a train in Mumbai when a thug, hired by a man she had rejected romantically, assaulted her with acid, hoping to disfigure her for life.
That was the third time in just sixty days that she had been targeted by an assailant.
Her scars and injuries were treated, but the fallout left her in debt with medical bills and crippling anxiety and fear. Knowing the terror of being targeted, she nonetheless went public with her story, hoping to bring attention to the epidemic of acid attacks in India, as well as letting survivors know hope and redemption can be found after these nightmares.
It was through Aarti’s work as an acid attack victims advocate that Prahsant Pingale first met her. Prashant suffered acid burns over 50% of his body when he stepped between an assailant and his sister. His sister walked away unscathed, but Pingale would carry the scars from the attack for the rest of his life. Both victims were present at a Human Rights Law Network in 2015 – Aarti Thakur as a speaker and Prashant Pingale as an attendee. According to CNN, he describes their meeting as “love at first sight.”
While Aarti was still reeling from the dissolution of a previous engagement – her fiance had left her a few months following the attack – Prashant was steadfast in his pursuit of Thakur. He enlisted a mutual friend to play matchmaker and convey his feelings to Aarti.
On their first date at Mumbai’s Juhu Beach, Prashant proposed to her.
Even in the context of Indian romantic culture, this was a startling, bold move that took Aarti aback. She said to CNN, “I was not at all ready to accept someone or trust someone.”
After taking time to consider the surprise proposal Aarti said yes, and the couple is planning a June wedding. She says that it was Prashant’s story of heroism that served as the deciding factor. She said, “When something like this happens, people (normally) save themselves first,” Thakur said. “He got attacked while saving his sister.”
They are both far from whole following these hellish attacks, but with sharing this unfortunate bond, they strengthen each other in both recovery and in the upcoming trials of both of their assailants.