After cafe, now lounge, spa by acid attack survivors

After cafe, now lounge, spa by acid attack survivors

A lounge-cum-spa is the next initiative by survivors of acid attack whose cafe 'Sheroes Hangout' in Agra established to rehabilitate themselves is now over a year old.

The upcoming spa-cum-lounge will also sport a cafe-lounge set up in the front with the customers getting a chance to avail facilities of salon and spa.

"We are in process of setting up a spa-cum-lounge which would have a cafe-cum lounge in the front along with the luxuries of spa and salon for the visitors," says Parth Sarthi, a member of the city based NGO Chaanv and also the Project Manager of Chaanv Foundation.

Sarthi says plans are afoot to set up cafes similar to that in Agra in cities like Lucknow, Varanasi, Udaipur and even Delhi.

"Work is going on in parallel in four cities to start new branches of Sheroes Hangout. At the front, it will always be a cafe, but keeping the interest areas of the survivors we are planning to bring more branches with special facilities," says Parth.

The move comes in a bid to rehabilitate acid victim, Sonia Chowdhury, whose face was battered by a heinous acid attack in the year 2004.

Sonia Chowdhury, a resident of Ghaziabad was employed at a private salon when she was attacked with acid by her neighbour Anurag over a dispute.

Narrating her story, Sonia says after a shopkeeper refused to sell her a mobile phone since she did not have the required identity proof, a neighbour agreed to buy one for her.
She received a new cellphone from her neighbour Anurag after the payment only to discover some time later that it was a stolen property.

"After three-four days of buying the mobile, I got a call from an unknown number which happened to be from the police station. I was told that the cellphone that I was using was a stolen one. I panicked and gave complete details of Anurag who had got me the phone," says Sonia.


Anurag was arrested after Sonia divulged details about him.
"A day after he was released from jail, he came to my place and demanded apology for the insult he had to face due to his arrest to which I refused. He also took up fight with my father and later one day he threw acid on me with while I was returning back from work," she says.

It took her over three years to recover from the attack. Discovering that her family was reeling under debts, she wanted to resume her job only to realise that she would not get one in the beauty industry due to the condition of her face.

"I was the eldest of all the siblings and when I recovered, I found my parents had put in everything they had to save me and for my treatment. I thought of going for a job but could not have got one. That's when I decided to start my own salon in 2007 which operated from home in Ghaziabad," Sonia said.

Sonia, who is featured in an episode of the show 'Mission Sapne season-2' on 'Colours' channel, says she has also been invited by beauty expert Shahnaz Hussain to receive training.

"I always wanted to be famous like Shahnaz Hussain and consider her to be my role model. However, my dream was shattered due to the attack. I had expressed my desire to the team of 'Mission Sapne' who arranged a surprise meeting with Shahnaz Hussain at her place in Delhi.

"I was blindfolded and taken to her place where she extended her support to train me and help me in every way possible. This was the biggest surprise of my life," adds Sonia.
The move, Sonia thinks, would help to inspire other survivors to come out of their shells and rehabilitate themselves.

"I think that this would create awareness among the people especially the survivors. They would come out of their shells and will work for their upliftment," she says.
She promises to continue working for Stop Acid Attack (SAA)campaign and Chaanv with a dream to be famous like her role model.

"I would continue working for SAA and Chaanv. Such a move is a lesson for the attackers who think that by destroying our beauty, they can also destroy our hopes."

Recently Laxmi Saa, another acid attack survivor, was signed as the brand ambassador of a fashion brand, 'Viva N Diva.'

Confirming the move Laxmi said that it was co-incidental and she was just called as a model for a photo-shoot but she was signed then and there as the brand ambassador of the brand.

"It was all co-incidental. I went as a model for the shoot and to my surprise I was taken as the brand ambassador," Laxmi says.

The survivors, along with the NGO Chaanv have been running an extensive campaign for the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors.

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