Make Love Not Scars
INDIA - DELHI
As we drove away from Indira Ghandi International airport and into Delhi traffic, our taxi driver followed his routine line of questioning and enquired about the purpose of our visit. Before we knew it, we were emotionally quoting acid attack statistics and survivor accounts from Make Love Not Scars (MLNS). And while he wasn’t expecting anything other than a generic backpacker response, he patiently listened to how MLNS shelters survivors and supports their road to recovery and independence. His stunned reaction reminded us of how few know of these survivors.
Sandra Chevrier x Anu
Anupama Kumari Rai, Anu to her friends, was born in the north-eastern Indian state of Bihar on the border of Nepal. She is the youngest sister in a family of eight and was known throughout her town for her academic ability as a child.
One night a neighbor’s friend with a juvenile grudge decided to take his hatred a step further from his typical teasing. While her family slept, acid was thrown through the window and Anu bore the brunt of the attack. She assumed the house was set on fire as she was consumed with a deep burning feeling fixated on her face. On arrival at the hospital, she was told they were not capable of treating her wounds and referred her to a facility in Patna. Unfortunately, the specific doctor responsible was on leave so the nurses simply washed her wounds with water. Without proper medical attention, she was left with limited sight and restricted movement in her arms. This was the first night of a battle that has span nearly two decades with several agonizing surgeries and countless attempts at seeking justice. But, to this day, the man responsible is yet to spend a night in jail as the judges believed she had only “simple injuries” despite being close to death.
When we met Anu, she had lived 18 solitary years shielding herself from the wider world before Make Love Not Scars (MLNS) supported her to take the next step. She has become willing to walk in public and undertake simple yet sensitive tasks like visiting the doctors on her own. To get to this point, she has exhibited an unmeasurable amount of courage and determination that is comparable to a moment of heroism from a Marvel movie. Enter the artwork of Sandra Chevrier.
Conventional time-consuming teaching wouldn’t work with Anu as she expressed such enthusiasm that putting paint to canvas as soon as possible was the only option. How she approached the canvas, much like her conversations, was with constant attention and a contagious smile. The particular skillset needed for the task at hand had not yet been established but her movements were that of a young artist eager to experiment. As her portion of the painting came to completion, her satisfaction could be felt in the air as all eyes were admiring her attention to detail and the undeniable talent expressed during her first self-portraiture experience.
“She is the only survivor I’ve seen who has never shed a tear.” – Tania Singh, Make Love Not Scars
Martin Whatson x Mamta
Perhaps the best place to start is with her siblings, Mamta was considered the “protector” of her five younger brothers and sisters after she assumed several roles when her father suffered an accident. Although these additional duties took up a lot of time, they didn’t prevent her from dreaming of another life focused around applying make-up to the actors of her favorite films.
Several years later, she opened the doors to her own beauty salon and, shortly after, met the man she felt would complete the fantasy. During the next few months, she began to uncover his initially concealed true character. He was a man filled with hate and determined to abuse her as often as possible but before Mamta could consider any alternatives, she gave birth to a baby boy. This cherished moment soon twisted to a nightmare as her husband disappeared with her new born. Mamta moved home and sought comfort in her family at this agonizing time. One can’t help but imagine this is the deepest point of darkness, but her husband wasn’t satisfied with the pain he had inflicted. He arrived at her home and attacked her with acid causing her to lose her left eye, a new shattering level of low.
Another major aspect of her husband’s character, apart from his ability to cause pain, was his power to lie. After being caught and convicted of the crime, he convinced police he had left Mamta’s son in a dangerous location and was released for two days so he could safely return the boy to his mother. To this day, neither her husband nor her son has been seen since.
Her childhood dreams of being part of the film industry have dwindled but not erased by the attack, they are simply exceeded by the hope of seeing her son again. And with this in mind, we felt her vibrant character and optimistic outlook could only be captured by combining her portrait with the work of Martin Whatson.