UTTARAKHAND: I have never missed a single off day to visit and teach differently-abled kids in this school. I am just happy to be here among them. They don’t expect much from me,” giggles Kavita Bisht, 28. Behind that quicksilver laugh, however, Kavita bleeds. She readily admits to “have swung between life and death, hope and despair. I have been called names and been told that I am ‘helpless’. That I am not,” she asserts. Kavita can never forget that fateful day of 2008 in Haldwani. “I was 16 and walking with neighbourhood girls to school when two men on motorcycles started buzzing us. We paid no heed. Suddenly, I felt as if my face and chest was on fire. It was stinging, burning. I felt I had been choked. It was total confusion. I wanted to think, cry out loud. I could not; I fell, unconscious.”
Hope lost in seconds
Kavita had turned an acid attack victim in seconds. She would not feel the hue and cry around her as she was carried to the hospital, treated for months and told after a year, that she would see no more. Her eyes had been burnt out; her sight lost forever. “That day, when darkness seemed to have settled in my life, I vowed I will not sit back. And here I am,” Kavita says, laughing away the pain. Ask the neighbourhood about the bubbly, beautiful girl, to whom anyone could take to so easily and people recount the pain which she lived through to remove the pain around. Kavita is today a brand ambassador for Uttarakhand for empowering women and a volunteer who counsels acid attack survivors as well as differently- abled children at a school in Ramnagar of Nainital district of Uttarakhand. Working also with the Nirbhaya cell of the district, she is known to be quite forceful, logical and one who will hold no punches. “Women are violated, beaten, burnt with acid and face innumerable atrocities. The law needs to change,” she says.
Not victim but survivor
“We are not victims, but survivors. We are normal breathing, thinking human beings like anyone else. We should be treated the same,” says the recipient of 18 awards at the state and national level, adds. Bisht has been part of many creative projects, among them, helping to write a book and a Bollywood project based on true stories of acid attack survivors across the country.
Always up for helping and volunteering to raise life’s bar for others who cannot help themselves, Kavita spends time with women and children at the Uday Singh Rawat Indu Samiti for which she raises `60,000-`70,000 each month to meet their food supplies. Sandeep Rawat, who runs the school, says: “She travels from Haldwani to be with them and motivate them to catch up with life, apart from teaching basic alphabets and arithmetic. The children love her. Many a time we came to know that she had nothing to eat, yet she never missed coming down a single day.”
Life’s problems pass
“Kavita has not received her petty salary of `7,500 per month from the Nirbhaya cell since December,” informed a neighbour. Yet she never complains. When her father, Diwan Singh Bisht, a driver with state transport, died in 2016, she had no money to cremate him. It was the people who crowdfunded the cremation. It was later found that Uttarakhand government, which had appointed her brand ambassador had not been paying her the `13,500 per month she was entitled to for the past two and a half years.” Kavita has two wishes, though — to clear her board exams, which she could not complete in 2008, and to meet Baba Ramdev to secure packaging work so that the differently- abled at her school can survive.
Innovative with a dream
There is no semblance of victimhood in her, but that of a fighter. Robbed of her eyesight, Kavita learnt to use software applications to operate her android phone, a laptop and computers — all to enable her to
stay connected. She fondly remembers IAS officers Nidhi Mani Tripathi and Radha Raturi, who she
says, “helped me in my most critical moments and told me Ishould never give up,” as also
her mother and brother, who are “the two pillars I rest on.”