Thirteen years ago,Monica Singh was a 19-year-old girl living in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh India. She had big dreams of becoming a big name in the fashion industry. She belonged to a small town but had big dreams. All her life she received many compliments for her confidence, personality and beauty. She used to be one of the most sought after girls in school. Everyone saw great potential for creativity in her. Despite all the attention from boys around Monica she was not interested in boys romantically, rather she would spend her time on sports or hanging out with the girls from her school.
She had a lot of trouble hiding herself from boys. They followed her every move aotend knew her high school class timings. Then one of her neighbours became a good friend which made the other boys leave the scene. She saw him as just as a friend, but he wanted to date her. She viewed him as a caring person because when he became her friend the other boys stalking her stopped following her.
Monica Singh never imagined that the protection she felt would turn into the most dangerous and threatening part of her life.
After school she followed her dream of becoming a fashion designer by joining one of the best universities for fashion design in Asia, ranking second in the country-wide entrance exam. Monica was determined to achieve her dreams with hard work and make her parents proud. In the meantime, her “friend” had become over possessive and obsessed with her. When she went home that year for her summer vacations her life changed forever. After rejecting his proposal to elope and marry because she wanted to continue studying, he hired people to throw acid on her. Perhaps his aim was just to ruin her face or may be he wanted to kill her. ‘If he couldn’t have her, no one could.’ such arrogant thought motivated him to do a barbaric act like throwing acid on a girl.
I remember an entire year spent in that hospital bed. My father took leave from his job to keep me alive. He used his entire life savings for my treatment, and my mother and brother prayed every day for me to live.
“Even though I was 19 years old, I had become like a 1-year-old child again. I could not speak, I could not eat, I could not walk…”
Monica Singh couldn’t recognise herself or anyone who came to visit her at the hospital. She saw her dad crying after watching her screaming when the nurses couldn’t give her injections. She had never seen her father cry before, and she could not bear it when he did. For the first month of her treatment, she couldn’t sleep at all. Her eyes were wide open and tears were constantly rolling down the sides of her face. She somehow found the strength to bear that unbearable pain. The attack haunted her: being attacked with acid and screaming “HELP ME” on the road, as people watched her and saw her face melt. She thought perhaps she should not have left her house that day or that she had rolled up the car window or even that she had not come to Lucknow for the summer at all.
Monica Singh’s painful story became news all over the country. The girl who appeared in the newspapers for her athletic achievements and scholarly accomplishments suddenly became the girl who had been attacked by acid by her lover. Her whole life was in front of her, and she didn’t want to die at all. She wanted to fight for her dad and mom. Her entire family left home to be with her in the hospital to take care of her. They made that room into their home for the next one year.
Doctors used to say to her family that her “will power” is keeping her alive. She doesn’t want to die, that’s why we want to do our best to treat her. Every second day Monica underwent plastic surgery or any other surgery. Today that number is up to 46 and counting.
With the strength and support of her family, Monica Singh is alive, walking again, talking again, dreaming again – to resume her career and to help other girls who have gone through agonizing acid attacks and cannot afford surgery. All his life, her father helped everyone he could. This mission to help others like her is as much her fathers’ legacy as hers.
Monica wants to say to every girl out there what her dad once asked her: “I am willing to take care of you for the rest of our lives together, or you can just pick yourself up and walk the path that leads you wherever you want to go.” The moment she heard him saying that to her, she decided to finish her fashion design course with good grades and follow her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Today she is studying at New York’s Parsons School of Design, pursuing a degree in Fashion Marketing. Her father passed away 2 years ago but his motivation and love have kept her strong. For his sake, and the sake of her family and every girl out there, she is overcoming the odds ad hopes her journey gives hope and strength to others to follow their dreams.
In 2014, Monica Singh came to her favourite place on earth – New York. She had dreamed of living there since she was in the sixth grade. The city gave her confidence and the motivation to do everything herself. Now she is studying with people from all over the world and learning from each of them. Her dream has become bigger, I now want to be an NYC-based fashion designer and repay her family and the people who saved her life. Monica has opened international foundation, the Mahendra Singh Foundation, to help acid attack survivors and support every girl who is in need.
Eleven years after her acid attack, Monica Singh is a living proof that beyond your worst nightmare, you can still live your best dreams. She is a motivational speaker. She has received True Honor Award and Recognition of Courage award for her fighting spirit. She has also been a Speaker at United Nations and Global Youth Champion of United Nations, Women. Salute to the real braveheart!