By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | March 08, 2019

International Women’s Day Special

Fit as a fiddle, super confident and wearing her scars to reveal the beauty within. Opening Doorz on International Women’s Day to Mitali Sonawane, the girl who was declared dead at age six, who is now focussed on storming the beauty scene.

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Mitali Sonawane is a classic case of someone turning her scars into stars, rather than bemoaning what fate dealt her.

An accident that should have been treated within a week turned into a catastrophe that had doctors at JJ Hospital in Mumbai, declare her dead in 1999.

Her mother would have none of it—she shifted her daughter to Masina Hospital in that ‘dead state’ where she lay in coma for 11 days.

There was a glimmer of hope and a flood of relief washed over her mother’s face and the entire family heaved a sigh of relief as the child began fluttering her eyelids.

Then began the grim process of rebuilding the girl’s life: her entire left side was infected, face down.

Welcome to the world of Mitali Sonawane, a fighter who is now an inspiration for her family, those around her and those who have interacted with her and know her in the modelling industry. Mitali is a classic case of someone turning her scars into stars, rather than bemoaning what fate dealt her.

“I just wanted my daughter to live says,” Vandana Vilas Sonawane, Railway Police Head Constable at CST. “I never thought about the looks aspect of it although to be honest, later on I was worried but it was Mitali who drove the gloom away from my face telling me that she was fine the way she was.”

That was a huge relief for the mother. “I could now smile with her without worrying about her appearance. My daughter was alive and that was the most important thing. To top it, she was in the right frame of mind spreading positivity around,” reveals Vandana.

Today, Mitali Sonawane, who has a Masters in Banking and Finance from Sydenham College, is a known name on the fashion scene having walked the ramp and also being present at auditions and participating in various events.

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Mitali Sonawane with her mother, Vandana Vilas Sonawane

So what actually happened in 1999, when Mitali was six years old? Let’s hear it from her mother.
“We were at a relative’s place since there was a death in the family. Mitali was coming down the ladder and there was a hot water utensil, which she accidentally hit with her leg. The boiling water fell on her chest. We rushed her to JJ hospital and since there was no place in the Burns Ward she was placed in the General Ward. Burns patients have to be kept in an isolated Burns Ward where there is no chance of infection. Within seven days, a simple burns case turned tragic. Her entire body turned septic and doctors at the JJ Hospital declared her a ‘gone case’. She had turned cold. Doctors told us that they could do nothing now. We took her to Masina Hospital. I said to myself: ‘Here they have declared her dead, there too they will declare her dead’. That’s the worst that would happen.

“At Masina Hospital, the doctors admitted her but told us that there is no guarantee, but we will try. For 11 days, Mitali was in a coma. When she opened her eyes, the doctors said they would try and do something for her but the surgery would be costly. I told the doctors that I would sell my house and raise the money but will do whatever it takes to save my daughter. Hearing me, Dr. Arvind Vartak and his team who treated her decided to waive off their fees and performed the surgery successfully. Mitali was in the hospital for two months, completely bandaged and when she was discharged, the doctors told me to take care of her because she could not afford to get another infection. The entire family rallied around her. Me, my husband, mother and even my brothers!”

After the miracle, the worry
“At that time I just wanted her to live. I wanted my daughter back. But as she was growing up, I began to worry and at age 12-13 I wondered what her future would be like with her left side fully scarred. Mitali stopped me from thinking on those lines. She clearly told me: ‘How I look, what the others say, will I get nasty comments’ is not something she was worried about. She taught me to overlook all this. ‘I am feeling fine so you should have no worries’, she told me. I felt good hearing these words from her. Now nothing matters to me because she is strong and confident about herself. In fact, my granddaughter who is six years old tells Mitali that she is her role model!

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“There is something in me and I want to inspire people,” says Mitali Sonawane

Mitali on her quest for the beauty crown!
Mitali is sure about the path she has chosen. “I hate the typical 9-5 job,” she smiles adding, “My family is happy with the profession I have chosen and all are very supportive. I have received tremendous support from the fashion industry and that has helped me in my quest. Everywhere I go, people are curious to know what happened to me. And they are happy that I have chosen this path. The best part is, no one is sympathetic and sympathy is not something I’m looking for,” says Mitali who recently did a course at Cocoaberry, Talent and Academy, the brain child of Alesia and Anjali Raut.

“I came back with lots of confidence as well as polished myself in certain areas and became more aware and what to expect in this industry. There too I received a lot of support from the girls who were genuinely happy for me,” reveals Mitali.

“There is something in me and I want to inspire people. I went to Cocoaberry because I want to be part of Femina Miss India, which the best platform in India for any aspiring model. At Cocoaberry, the girls told me that I was an inspiration to them. When I participated in the Femina Miss Diva contest, I got a standing ovation even though I was not selected. I’m now preparing for the Femina Miss India auditions which are on March 24 in Mumbai.”

Mitali recently shot for a pageant called Unconventional Beauty, which will be aired on television in April. Ask her which brands she would like to endorse and she says “Reebok and Nike,” without batting an eyelid. Why sports brands, we ask, “Because I am into fitness,” she beams.

Also Read: A skate park in Janwaar

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