She can’t walk properly. Yet Kanchan Biswal has braved all stereotypes to emerge independent
At a time when women are no longer reluctant to break the barriers to succeed in a man’s world, we bring you the story of a dynamic lady who has been defying the stereotypes and running a betel shop Bhubaneswar for the last 34 years. 52-year-old Kanchan Biswal has been fighting it out all alone for leading a respectable life despite the fact that she is physically challenged. Although Kanchan cannot stand straight or walk properly, she has been toiling hard without being a burden on anyone to eke out a living.
A self-made woman, Kanchan makes it a point to do all the daily chores by herself besides running her shop in old bus stand area, Bhubaneswar. No wonder, she is a favourite in the locality. She is also extremely courteous by nature and therefore customers enjoy purchasing a paan from her shop.
However, life hasn’t been easy for this woman with iron will-power. Eldest daughter of her parents who belong to Banki area, Kanchan was born with the disability and unfortunately did not receive the love she deserved from them. Perhaps, she was even told that because her mother had tried to abort her when she realized it was a girl child and the medicines did not work properly, that Kanchan got such physical issues. Sadly, they never even bothered to give her medical treatment.
Kanchan once had a dream to visit Bhubaneswar and kept telling her father to take her to the temple city at least once. One fine day, on her birthday, her father did bring her to Bhubaneswar and Kanchan was elated! “My happiness knew no bounds. He showed me around the city and took me to quite a few temples and then when we were back at the bus stand, he made arrangements for my tiffin and asked me to wait for a while so that he could bring me some water. However, when even after an hour or so, he wasn’t back, I realised that my father had done what he wanted to do even before I was born – he had gotten rid of me! I waited for three days at the bus stand without food and water but in vain. And, then I decided that I have to do something about my life. I was sure that I would neither resort to begging nor take any extreme step,” she recalls, the tears welling up in her eyes.
She goes on, “There was this tea and biscuit shop in the locality and the owner took pity on me and offered me food. He could see I was hungry. But my principles did not allow me to take his help. That’s when this idea struck me. I asked him to employ me at his shop so that I could wash all the glasses. And, in return, he could give me food to eat.
He readily agreed and that was my first step to livelihood in the capital. But the kind man that he was, he not only gave me food twice a day, he also paid me Rs. 30 as monthly salary. I used to keep all the money as my savings. I used to work in the shop for the entire day and sleep at the footpath during night. For three years, I followed the same routine.”
When Kanchan realized she had saved some good money, she decided to start her own business. With that money, she started her own betel shop within the compound of the bus stand. But repeatedly, the existing shop owners used to throw her out from the compound. At times, the local broker would even come and ask for money. So, it was getting difficult for her to manage a shop within the compound. Soon after which she decided to shift her shop to the footpath.
Since then, Kanchan has been operating from the footpath; three polythene sheets and one wooden chair being her only assets! Notwithstanding the fact that she is 52 today, Kanchan depends on none. She gets up at 5.30 in the morning everyday and continuously works till 11 p.m. Even today, she sleeps under the open sky since she doesn’t have a house of her own. Although she had not received any help from the government in 35 years, recently she was given a wheelchair by BMC which has made her life slightly easier.
What’s interesting is the fact that Kanchan today helps her family, who never cared for her, financially! After deserting, her father had come back to the city searching for her after seven years. He apologized in the end and later informed Kanchan about her mother’s death. Although, she never went back to the village, but she did give him some money for her funeral rituals. Since then, her father & brothers are in touch with her and at times Kanchan even helps them financially.
Indeed, this woman is a source of inspiration for all of us. Despite being physically challenged and having faced so many hardships in an unknown territory, she never gave up.