A burn survivor…India’s story
On the 29th November 2003, when I was three years old, my party dress caught on fire, causing me to be rushed to hospital with 40% third degree burns where I’d stay in ICU for three months. It might sound like a lot to some, but in the span of my 17 years alive it’s a tiny timeframe, one which I hardly remember to this day. But it was the long term physical and psychological effects that would remain. An event that happened in a moment, suddenly changed how my life would pan out, because it would now be worn on me forever by the scars that now cover my body.
From then on it was check ups every six months, physiotherapeutic massages three times a day, and more surgery every two years or so. Then on top of that there were the stares, ranging from the slightest second glance in the street to outright unapologetic scrutiny. Intimate and probing questions about my scars from strangers, fully grown adults I might have only exchanged a few words with. Very occasionally it could be children throwing mean comments about how red and uneven my skin was or sometimes not wanting to play with me, which I could never understand, the social and talkative child I was.
But it was when I hit my teens however, that my scars actually started to really cause a dip in my self esteem. The probing question that had been hidden since I was a child began to emerge and grow: I know I have scars, but why do they have to define me? Why should looking different immediately give people a free pass into knowing the traumatic experiences of my early life? Why should it allow them to immediately judge my character, what kind of person I was, whether I’d be fun to play with or talk to. Why should looking unusual make me unable to look or feel beautiful?
I feel like the thing that changed all that for me the realisation that whether or not my burns would define me would always depend on my mindset, and whether I personally would let them. I used them to bring me out of my shell, my big personality inflating to become even bigger, as if I was determined to make my character so huge that people were forced to see who I truly was before they could judge me for my appearance.
My burns will always be a part of me, and while I think we should all fight to raise awareness to prevent future children’s burns accidents, I want anyone reading this who does have burns or know someone who does that you are not alone. It’s a rough road and one we’ve been unwillingly thrust onto, but it’s ultimately unchangeable for us. Therefore it is our choice how we choose to walk down it. In regret that of the past, or in pride of how we can use it to shape us for the better in the future.