I experienced several losses of beloved family members and friends but this one totally breaks my heart. Chanchal, acid attack survivor and a close friend of mine, but also the Indian face of resistance and extraordinary courage, suddenly passed away.
What once started in 2014 with a documentary film project about acid attacks in India, developed into a deep friendship. Chanchal was never only a film protagonist for me. We got closer and closer each time I visited her in India and nobody in my entire life inspired me more. I never even imagined that a film shoot in one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of India could be such a blessing for me. Whenever I went to Bihar, it was like going home. I just visited my Bihari family. Today, on the verge of the completion and release of the documentary ”SHANTI’ (Hindi: inner peace), Chanchal suddenly passed away.
I captured her struggles and daily life over a period of 3 years. She allowed me to film her in the most private and sensitive situations. I observed how she developed an incredible strength to overcome what had happened to her.
In 2012 a young man was in love with her. He wanted to marry her but she refused his proposals. With his 4 friends he entered Chanchal’s house and threw acid on her. In the last 5 years Chanchal and her family tried their best to overcome this horrific night and fought hard to regain their dignity and standing in the community. Several surgeries, years of physical and mental pains, new threats by the released attackers, as well as dozens of court appointments later, Chanchal was the one who said to me just a few months ago “let’s leave the past behind…whatever happened, happened. All I want is to be able to live in peace, now.
I can’t change my face. I can’t change my destiny. I can’t change what happened. So, I accepted it. I’m over it. All I want is to live a happy life.” – And you did, dear Chanchal! You laughed, you smiled, and you impressed and inspired all of us with your outstanding personality and soul.
I wish I could have told her how much she taught me about life, determination, strength and acceptance. Chanchal was a real role model. All I can say is that I am incredibly thankful that I’ve met her and that she was one of the best life-teachers. After all she had to go through; she always smiled, made fun, laughed and spread love, hope and happiness.
Chanchal had the mission to spread her story, the wish to educate people and to fight against gender based violence in India – I give you a promise little sister, I will do everything I can to fulfill your dream. The world lost an irreplaceable soul today. But I know you found your shanti already in life, so
(A German Documentary Film Maker)