Married at 16 to a much older man living with tuberculosis, Soni knew that she would have to become the breadwinner of her family. From the very beginning, her in-laws and husband were opposed to her working, but nonetheless happy to live off her earnings. Finally, Soni decided to take her daughters with her and leave the house — becoming a local reporter for a women-only newspaper in Uttar Pradesh.
Four months after she had left home, her husband showed up at her work, begging her to come back. Soni and her daughters moved back in to their old home. Within a few months, her husband began to return to his old ways — he wanted to know where she was at all times of the day, called her constantly at work, and accused her of sleeping with other men. In 2004, Soni was asleep at home with her daughter when her husband poured acid on her face.
Soni ran out of the house, to a government hospital where she had gone just the day before to interview a doctor, and begged him for help. As her treatment began, her husband was admitted to the same hospital, three beds away from her — right after she had left their home, he had attempted suicide. Five days later, Soni's husband died.
In the years that followed, Soni, an acid-scarred mother of three, trained herself in law and began to fight cases for women undertrials (those detained in prison while a trial is ongoing) in Lucknow's jails.
"If no one accepts you, reject all of them," she said over the phone. "I would tell people, if you don’t like my face, don’t look at me, I know just how beautiful I am. Remember, the day you lose your nerve, you lose everything. Keep fighting."