Their courage melted away my fears
What these survivors of domestic abuse taught me about the beauty of life.
Before I started shooting this film about PCVC, I was both scared and cagey.
Scared that I might do something disconcerting to the survivors - who had endured unspeakable pain to escape domestic abuse - and cagey because I was unsure about my own reactions to meeting them for the first time.
One of the survivors, Nadia, approached me and touched my cheek. I was taken aback initially. They then asked me questions like whether I was married, what I do and so forth.
It then dawned on me that I, being someone coming into their lives to make a film about them, should have been the one making them comfortable. Instead, it turned out to be other way round. The women were slowly bringing me into their own world, a world full of life, a world devoid of malice, a world in which they desired to be seen as normal human beings.
It was also a world of remarkable resilience. Meeting the women, I was immediately struck by how the physical disfigurement inflicted by their burns had not dented their psyche.
From there on, the next three days was an easier journey than I imagined. We hugged, we held hands, we danced inside the bus when we went on an excursion, we took pictures and we shared the most precious moments. All of this was surreal; it was a defining moment in my life, where my soul blended with theirs.
Pooja, (wearing bandanna in the centre), with the women supported by PCVC
Having spent precious time with these beautiful souls, I also realised how our idea of looking good was just a mirage.
In front of mirrors, these wonderful women applied make up, put bindis on their foreheads, slipped bangles onto their arms, and donned colourful dresses. But this elaborate ritual of looking good before stepping out of the house is only the surface.
The true meaning of beauty was brought to life by the fact that these women made the choice to feel good.
Meeting Yashodha and seeing her regarded as a respected mentor to these women was inspiring. She had not only conquered her fears but stepped into the position of a role model.
The multiple surgeries she endured had not dented her confidence, a confidence that was not only magical but contagious.
Those three days of my life spent with these women also taught me that we should not be so quick to reject, or hold back from what comes our way. I came to understand that our paths meeting was a part of a bigger change in me.
It is a change that has pushed me to look at things as they are, and not jump to conclusions or be judgmental. A change that gave me an alternate perspective — to respect life in general.
I hope you will watch the film, understand what happened to these women, and give yourself the chance to become a part of theirs.
Donate here and help PCVC support more women on their journey from survivor to thriver.
Watch Pooja’s film about PCVC here, and find out more about how you can support them.