Aarti Thakur and Prashant Pingale had something deeply life-altering in common before they even met. Both had survived acid attacks. In 2012, Aarti Thakur was waiting for the train in Mumbai when a man threw acid on her. It was the third time in two months that Thakur had been targeted, according to CNN. She had rejected a man's proposal, and he hired someone to disfigure her. The attacks left her with huge medical bills, as well as a sense of fear and lingering depression. But Thakur has spoken out against the practice and governmental support for victims.
Pingale saw Thakur talking about her experiences at a Human Rights Law Network event in November 2015, and described it to CNN as "love at first sight." But he first approached Thakur as a friend. Pingale had also been injured in an acid attack, for which his sister had been the target. Pingale jumped in front of her in a protective gesture that left him with burns over 50% of his body.
At first, Thakur says she had no idea that Pingale harbored more than platonic feelings for her. Thakur was abandoned by her fiancé months after the attack left her scarred, a man she had been with for five years. Pingale was also left by the woman he was with following his injuries. Pingale asked friends to help him communicate his feelings to Thakur, and on Mumbai's Juhu beach he proposed on their very first date. Thakur had to think about it! She told CNN, "I was not at all ready to accept someone or trust someone."
She eventually accepted Pingale's proposal when she understood the sacrifice he made for his sister. "When something like this happens, people save themselves first," she said, "He got attacked while saving his sister." The couple plans their wedding for June, but they still plan to continue their fight in defense of acid attack survivors. Both their attackers are out on bail, and their cases are still making their way through the justice system. They seem to be facing whatever comes ahead together, with grace and strength.
"I don't want to be called a victim all my life,"says Thakur. "If I want to change the situation, I'm the only person who will take charge of it, nobody else can make it happen for me." But now she has someone by her side for the journey.