Being Reshma by Reshma Qureshi with Tania Singh: Review

Title: Being Reshma

Author: Reshma Qureshi with Tania Singh

Publisher: Macmillan

Pages: 248

Price: Rs 599

Heart-wrenching. Tragic. Miraculous. Extraordinary. These were the first words that came to the mind when I finally finished reading Being Reshma — a remarkable story of grit and determination about Reshma whose name evokes the imagery of a fabric by the same name — soft and lustrous yet the strongest natural fiber available. Right from the detailed insight into the events surrounding her birth and her childhood to 19 May 2014, the day that changed her life, Reshma is true to every aspect of her existence. She offers the reader a peek into her conscious and unconscious thoughts and emotions while she traverses through her arduous journey.

Reshma, at a rather young age, became aware of the structured existence led by women in India amidst the invisible clutches of patriarchy, as a result of her experiences at Mau Aima and her sister Gulshan’s abusive marriage. Her profound understanding of women’s place in the community, at such a tender age, is clinical to the point of being disturbing.

In the events leading to the dreadful day, Reshma vividly describes each and every moment almost as if she could turn back the clock and conducted herself differently. The reference to ‘Mistake Number One’ and ‘Mistake Number Two’ is especially poignant since the reader also feels the inevitability of the imminent tragedy. ‘A Dead Rotting Rodent’, the chapter describing the aftermath of the acid attack is perhaps the most tragic, tugging at the heart of the reader to somehow help Reshma overcome her situation. The dastardly act by the attackers, sheer apathy of the hospital administration, and her own long and hard struggle (and eventual triumph) with the helplessness of her situation, have all been documented in the story.

The story touches at various levels — her brutally honest description about her attempt to take her own life, her innermost fears and concerns, and her thoughts about what lay ahead. Her family’s undying love and support — despite Reshma’s intermittent backlash — is extremely touching; they follow her like a shadow and never give up, in turn instilling in her the will to live and move on in life.

Reshma’s encounter with Laila, another acid attack victim, is based on pure empathy; she moves from being subjective about her situation to an objective state of life. Laila’s zest and zeal for life becomes the perfect antidote for Reshma — relieving her of the baggage she had been carrying post the attack and filling her with hope for a better life.

Reshma’s collaboration with Make Love Not Scars brings out the best in her by creating a sense of closure. Besides, she begins to lead a purposeful and optimistic life in the form of her work in the #endacidsale campaign and walking at the New York Fashion Week, amongst other ventures. Reshma’s story, narrated in a simple, easy to read by Reshma and Tania Singh, leaves a strong imprint in one’s mind with the learning that change is gradual and survival, in the face of unimaginable odds, is what makes the difference. We just need to hang in there.

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