The comic book Priya’s Mirror is based on the real-life stories of several acid attack survivors in India. The book is being used to empower other survivors, address the stigma and shame around this type of gendered violence, and boost awareness and action against it.
In the book, Priya is a gang-rape survivor who helps a group of acid attack survivors escape the rule of Ahankar (or ‘Ego’ in Hindi) – the demon king,
The narrative, based on the format of Hindu mythological tales, includes a character inspired by Monica Singh, who survived an acid attack in retaliation for her rejection of a marriage proposal. The attack burned more than half of Singh’s body instantly, altering her appearance permanently.
In a Mashable article, Singh says using a mirror has helped her reclaim love for her reflection, and for herself.
“I became my own strength. I used the mirror as a type of therapy to accept what happened to me — and that story was very much intertwined into the comic book. The mirror is Priya’s Mirror, but it’s also Monica’s Mirror, too.”
The book was co-produced by two nonprofits supporting victims of abuse and acid attacks — Singh’s foundation, the Mahendra Singh Foundation, and Fundacion Natalia Ponce de Leon. It is also the first comic book to be funded by the World Bank.
Readers can read Priya’s Mirror as a standard comic book or experience it in augmented reality. In the latter case, through an app readers can hold their phones or tablets up to the comic’s pages to unlock videos and animated content. Users can also use the app to participate in an awareness campaign inspired by Colombian activist and acid attack survivor Natalia Ponce de León.
But why was a comic book chosen? The book’s creator, Ram Devineni, explains that it is primarily targeting teenage boys, who are the next generation of potential aggressors. They are essential in the fight against gendered violence. The augmented reality component was also included to further engage this audience.
Devineni hopes Priya’s Mirror will have a similar impact to the first comic in the series, Priya’s Shakti, which was created in response to the gang rape of a woman on a bus in Delhi in 2012. Devineni points out that Priya’s Shakti helped create an “alternative narrative” about how society treats rape survivors.
Reaching out to fellow survivors, Singh says: “The worst thing that could happen to a girl has already been done to us. I wish nobody would go through the same thing. But, for us, it has allowed us to become fearless.”
Featured photo: Illustrations of the acid attack survivors who are the inspiration for the heroes in Priya’s Mirror.