When an acid attack happened, Monica Singh was 19 and sitting behind the wheel of her car in Lucknow, India.
Orchestrated by a jilted friend whose marriage proposal she rejected, five hired thugs threw a bucket of acid on Singh, instantly burning 65 percent of her body. It nearly killed her, but Singh later woke up at a trauma center to medical professionals soaking her body with cold water, trying to save what was left of her skin.
Ten years and 46 reconstructive surgeries later, Singh’s face bears the marks of a survivor. But throughout her ordeal, she never gave up on her dream of being a fashion designer.
And now she’s one step closer to achieving it.
When I first got here,” she recalled, “I remember looking out of my window at the lights in Times Square and jumping up and down saying to myself, ‘I’m finally here.'”
But her journey astonished even herself. “I’m surprised that I came this far,” she told the New York Times’ Women in the World. “Surviving is not just to stay alive and sit at home.”
Together with her brother Nikhil, Singh founded the Mahendra Singh Foundation (named after their late father) that offers support and guidance to other girls and women who have suffered acid attacks.
“After their faces get ruined, they hesitate to get back into society and nobody hires them,” she told Women in the World, adding that acid attack survivors face the reminder of their attacks every time they look in a mirror. “We haven’t been a victim for one day or a certain time — we are victims since then.”
Singh has big plans to launch her own clothing company and to hire acid attack survivors whom society largely shuns.
Her advice to other survivors is to keep on fighting. “Life is too short to cry over one thing.” Singh told Women in the World. “Keep on living … Forget that you lost your face, your soul is still intact, your mind is still intact. Keep on doing.”