Acid burns the skin and eats the flesh - acid attacks can blind and maim and leave a person's face unrecognisable.
In India it's estimated that there are 1,000 such attacks per year, maybe more.
But in the shadow of the Taj Mahal a group of strong women, all survivors, have come together to run a cafe and tell their stories to the world.
A young waitress stands in the doorway of Sheroes cafe in Agra. “Welcome to our little cafe,” she says above the rumble of the rush hour traffic.
Her name is Dolly and she is 15 years old.
“I'm the youngest here and the naughtiest,” she says, and then laughs - it is impossible not to join in.
A few customers arrive for a quick cup of masala chai. Agra is submerged in a dense winter fog, so the cafe's colourful murals offer some morning cheer. Dolly takes an order and heads off to the kitchen, flashing another broad grin.
Three years ago someone tried to destroy that winning smile. He didn't succeed but there is no ignoring the thick scar tissue which snakes across most of Dolly's face.
The trouble began when a man from the same neighbourhood - twice Dolly's age - wouldn't leave her alone. He started stalking the 12-year-old schoolgirl, making lewd remarks and suggesting they should sleep together.
Then one day he suddenly turned up at her house while she was playing with other children.
I ran away towards my room but he threw acid on my face. It started to burn and I screamed and shouted.”
Dolly's family immediately doused the raw flesh of her face with water and she was rushed to hospital. Thanks to the quick thinking of a doctor, her eyes were washed out and her sight was saved.
Even so, Dolly is now permanently scarred and she still has trouble breathing because of the damage to her nostrils. She recalls the moment she asked to look in a mirror after returning home from the hospital.
“My mother refused and told me I was still beautiful. She said I could look in the mirror later. Then my little sister accidentally put a mirror in front of me and I saw it. I cried and howled and screamed.”
Dolly didn't want to eat or leave the house. “I even thought it would have been better if I had died,” she says.
Her gut instinct was that she should cover her face with a veil. For a year, she would ignore the gentle encouragement from her mother to try venturing outside the house.
Dolly's life changed when her family heard about Sheroes. Here she met another survivor called Sonia, who changed her view of the attack.
“She told me that I wasn't the one who needed to keep my face covered since I hadn't done anything wrong. The person who has committed this crime should be the one to cover his face.”
Her assailant is now in prison. Dolly recently sent him a letter to tell him that he had failed to break her spirit.
“You burned my face, but not my will to live. You cannot throw acid on that,” she wrote.
She said she had forgiven him but she admitted that it had been a difficult process. “Sometimes, I have wondered how it would be to empty a full bottle of acid on you,” she told him.
In the cafe Dolly dances and sings, but she is wise beyond her years.
She is troubled by the fact that some people think the victims of acid attacks bring their misfortune on themselves, by rejecting the assailant's advances. That is why she believes it is so important that survivors like her engage with the world instead of hiding themselves away.
She works hard at the cafe, serving backpackers who pass through town on their way to see the nearby Taj Mahal. She jokes with them in broken English and tries to teach them snippets of Hindi.
Sheroes helped her get her confidence back.
I like the fact that my parents feel pride in my work and that I'm standing on my own two feet.”
Dolly hopes one day to return to her studies and perhaps become a doctor.
So what would she say to another woman who was attacked today?
“I would tell her that whatever has happened has happened. Look forward. Don't look back.”
Rani is the newest arrival at the cafe. She is not able to dance or sing like the irrepressible Dolly because her injuries are far more serious.
Instead, she sits in the cafe's front yard, enjoying the shade, once the morning fog has lifted.
Rani was also pursued by a man who wanted to marry her.
Now 20, she was a teenager at the time so her mother told him to wait a few years until her daughter had finished school. But he persisted.
One day he accosted me in the street and tried to molest me. I slapped him. That made him angry and a few days later he attacked me with acid.”
Rani's injuries were so bad she could not even walk - acid can destroy nerves and muscle as well as skin. The doctors in her home town were not equipped to treat her properly.
Even when she was transferred to a bigger hospital her burns were not washed out with water and she was left in the same bandages for days on end. Eventually she was sent to an Intensive Care Unit and she remained there for nine months.
In this time her weight halved. Rani's family became concerned and had her discharged from the hospital, despite protests from the doctors.
She was then kept at home, bedridden, for four years.
During this period she got no medical treatment at all and became blind in both eyes. The only visitor she had was a childhood friend.
Luckily, a kind stranger intervened and secured Rani better care in a nursing home. There she received physiotherapy and began to learn to walk again.
Rani's story is disturbing in many ways. Some in her family blamed her for the attack.
They wished that I had agreed to marry that man and let him do as he pleased. But I wanted to study.”
Then there's the unsettling fact that her attacker still walks free today. Rani has heard that he is married, has a family and a steady job.
He has all this, while Rani's own dreams of joining the Indian Police Service lie in ruins. She still feels that she did not get the support she needed to see her assailant held to account.
I want him to be punished. I want my case re-opened. I want him to suffer his punishment for life.”
Taking the train to Agra after four years shut away in her bedroom and the nursing home was incredibly exciting.
“I now feel like I have the strength and power to do things - the strength and support that I could not get from my family,” Rani says.
“I want to study more and being here has made me believe I can do that. By coming here I have gained a lot of courage.”
Acid is cheap in India. It costs less than milk and is readily available in shops and markets.
It is commonly used in households as a cleaning fluid for sinks and toilets, and in numerous industries, from textiles to jewellery-making.
In 2014, the National Crime Records Bureau recorded 309 acid attacks, but experts believe the real figure could be nearer to 1,000 a year - or three every day.
Many of the most serious cases are recorded because the victims require medical treatment. But there may be other cases that never get logged for fear of reprisals or because a victim's own family might regard her as the author of her own suffering.
In remote areas, campaigners believe even fatal attacks remain hidden from view. A death may be hushed up and recorded as a suicide or a house-fire fatality.
The vast majority of cases are against young women - usually because they have rejected a suitor or annoyed an abusive husband or father.
It is a particularly vindictive form of crime. By disfiguring the victim for life, the perpetrator is hoping to deprive them of love.
And survivors often do end up ostracised by friends and neighbours simply because of their appearance.
Not all victims have the support that the women of Sheroes provide for each other says Aarushi Ahluwalia, a journalist who specialises in shedding light on violence against women.
Many of the survivors she has interviewed have simply had to resign themselves to the fact that “they will never have careers, they will never get married and they will never be able to live the life of a normal woman,” she says.
“They are suffering in many ways we don't even see.”
Three years ago an acid attack survivor named Laxmi Agarwal stood before India's Supreme Court.
Laxmi was 15 years old when she was attacked in Delhi in 2005. She had rejected a marriage proposal from a family friend who then became obsessed with her.
One April day, when Laxmi was waiting at a bus stop on her way to a music lesson, her stalker threw a bottleful of acid in her face. It took seven operations to heal her wounds.
But out of this terrible episode, there emerged a tireless campaigner for changes to the law. Before arriving in court she had gathered 27,000 signatures for a petition to curb the sale of acid.
“When I saw Laxmi standing in the court it really pained me. She had gathered together all her strength to get justice not just for herself, but for every acid attack victim,” says Rajendra Mal Lodha, one of the judges, who went on to become India's Chief Justice.
The Supreme Court responded with a demand that central and local government pass laws to restrict acid sales and provide better compensation and healthcare for survivors.
Buyers of acid are now required to provide photographic identification and vendors need a licence to sell it.
Campaigners have welcomed these changes but remain worried that there is a gap between the legislation on the statute books and everyday reality. It is still easy to buy acid in India, they say, without showing any ID at all.
Rajendra Mal Lodha agrees there are problems. “The laws may be there,” he says “but they have to be effectively implemented and unless that is done I don't think much can be achieved.”
He would also like acid attack cases to work their way more quickly through the Indian courts. According to the law firm, J Saga Associates, the average case takes somewhere between five and 10 years to complete, which makes it hard for victims to move on with their lives.
“Things move slowly in our country,” says Lodha.
But Bangladesh has done great things. They have passed a law where the investigator has to complete his investigation within 30 days. Special tribunals then have to complete the trial within 90 days.”
Prosecutions should be fast-tracked in special courts in India too, he argues.
Ignorance and insensitivity can lurk in the most unlikely places - even in hospitals and courts. Lodha recalls an incident where a tactless judge once asked an acid attack victim to cover her face during proceedings.
“Mindsets have to be changed” he says firmly. “Perhaps this could be part of education in schools for girls and for boys.”
Improving the status of women in India should be part of this, he says.
If men consider women equal in all spheres of life then perhaps a lot of this problem can be solved.”
Alok Dixit from Stop Acid Attacks - the NGO which runs Sheroes - agrees that changing society is still the biggest challenge of all.
“When you are an acid attack survivor, you walk out and everyone is watching you. People will comment or they decide not to give you a job. People treat you like something from another world,” he says.
In fact, Alok first came up with the idea of Sheroes cafe after he met and fell in love with Laxmi - the woman whose case moved the Supreme Court to action.
They now have a nine-month-old baby girl.
More recently still, Laxmi became the model for a range of designer clothing. One of its slogans is “What does not break you makes you stronger.”
In February 1834 in Glasgow a man called Hugh Kennedy threw acid in another man's face.
“The crime of throwing vitriol has, we grieve to say, become so common in this part of the country as to become almost a stain on the national character,” wrote the Reformers' Gazette.
“It is so savage and cowardly that fiends only, in the human form, can be guilty of committing it.”
So acid attacks are not only a challenge for modern India.
Pakistan, Colombia, Cambodia and Uganda are among other countries facing serious problems today.
The worst country for acid attacks may well be Afghanistan, campaigners say, but there are no reliable statistics to back this up and the evidence remains anecdotal.
The phenomenon often tracks the use of acid in industry according to Jaf Shah from the London-based charity Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI).
“In Cambodia, for example, it's more prevalent in districts where there is rubber production. In Bangladesh, it's those areas where the jewellery or cotton industries exist.”
In the UK, attacks appear to be on the rise. Five hundred people have been injured or threatened with acid since 2012.
The police believe it may be becoming an alternative weapon to guns and knives, especially in gang-related violence. The Home Office is currently looking at whether there should be more regulation of corrosive substances.
In India, most attacks are perpetrated against women. But interestingly, in both Uganda and Cambodia 40% of victims are men. Gradually countries are beginning to share data along with suggestions on how best to stamp out the crime and rehabilitate survivors.
Like Rajendra Mal Lodha, campaigners often point to Bangladesh's success. There has been a dramatic 70% reduction in cases in that country since 2002. It was the first nation to pass laws to control the sale of acid.
Pakistan, impressed by its example, followed suit in 2011. But not every country would want to go as far as Bangladesh in introducing the death penalty for acid attackers.
Colombia has been making progress too, following a high-profile case in 2014, when a woman from a middle-class background and was attacked by a stalker.
Natalia Ponce de Leon's story shocked the country in a way that other previous cases had not.
The President of Colombia offered reward for information leading to the arrest of her attacker and the case recently prompted the country's Senate to change the law.
Perpetrators now face sentences of up to 50 years, and a programme to provide protection to victims, their families and witnesses, encourages more people to pursue prosecutions.
Jaf Shah from ASTI believes a lack of confidence in the police and judiciary is one reason why so many cases across the world go unreported.
Many police officers don't investigate attacks efficiently enough. Once that happens, you've lost vital evidence which might help bring cases to court.”
But perhaps the most powerful force for change is still the survivors themselves.
Dolly, at Sheroes cafe, knows only too well about the urge to cover up the scars and hide away in shame.
Today, however, her advice to other victims is simple: “They should not lock themselves up. They should meet people and talk to them.”
By telling their stories, they can help keep acid violence on the political agenda.
By having the courage to remain part of society, they can help break down prejudices and make it easier for others to step out of the shadows.