A true story of PATIENCE AND GRIT
By Aditi Panda
All power is within you. You can do anything and everything. Believe in that”, Swami Vivekananda. Man proposes and God disposes, many a times it’s true as life is unpredictable and can take a U turn within seconds. A person who has undergone trauma, pain and personal experience can relate to this. The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment which is the nodal Department of Empowerment of People with Disabilities have announced a list of winners of National Awards for the empowerment of people with disabilities, 2017 . The awards shall be conferred on 3rd December, 2017 at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi. Coffee-bytes is pleased to share the news that Ms Chumki Datta is the proud winner of this prestigious award. Chumki Datta, an entrepreneur and social activist working for the rights of the people with disability as well as the underprivileged is a strong believer in the above quote shares her roller –coaster journey of life with Coffee Bytes.
Tell us something about yourself.
Born and brought up in Kolkata, my entire childhood was spent there. I specialised in advertising and marketing. I always wanted, rather my dream was to become an entrepreneur. Since I was a kid, I cherished this dream and therefore I pursued my goal. I attended various specialised trainings conducted by different organisation and capacitated myself to become a good entrepreneur. Eventually I got married to Prof. Tathagata Datta and then started my own advertisement agency.
Where and how did you meet your life partner?
We met in Kolkata. He was a professor in St. Xavier’s College. For a few years he was a professor in Jadhavpur university teaching MBA students. We shifted to Bhubaneswar after we got married as Tathagata wanted to work in the rural sector. Odisha is a better place to work in the rural belt compared to West Bengal. He slowly shifted to the development sector and I concentrated on my ‘Master-mind Advertising.’
Was Master-mind Publicity your answer to your dream to becoming an entrepreneur?
We both were happy in our personal choice of professions and happy to do what we always wanted and loved. When things were getting streamlined and we were looking forward to move ahead to the next stage, I met with an accident in 2003
The turning point of your life
Yes, agree with you completely. Thi s ac c ident comple t e ly transformed my life forever. I discovered myself actually after the mishap. I was doing well on both fronts, personal as well as professional. I was also into modelling and hanging out with friends, travelling. So I never actually thought of life on a wheelchair. We were travelling from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar, when our car met with a massive accident near Simulia police station. My husband and other people were travelling with me. The road repair was going on and to avoid a head-on collision the driver, who was a close family friend took a sudden turn. It was almost 2.00am at night and he clearly missed seeing the diversion. As soon as he turned the car tyres burst and I was thrown out of the car. The driver died on spot and I fell on the bush. I lost consciousness then but when I came back to my senses the first thing I told my husband was I am alive but cannot move as my legs are paralysed.
How did you deal the post accident phase?
I was shif ted to Cut tack immediately and then to Kar Clinic. At that time nobody knew much about spinal cord injury and rehabilitation. They had a vague idea but were not aware about the correct procedure. In Cuttack they should have told us to take an MRI immediately but no doctor was able to diagnosis. From Kar clinic I was shifted to ISIC, Delhi as there was lot of experimentation done and my treatment was delayed and no doctor was able to give a perfect solution. This waste of time cost me my life and I ended losing my mobility getting confined to a wheel chair for life. I was operated and stayed in ISIC for almost 4 months.
Tell us something about your emotional journey as an independent person to a Wheelchair user?
My husband could sense my internal debate and depression and he kept on assuring me that what so ever happens he will ensure that we lead the same life that we were used to. Basically I am a very independent person and to depend on somebody for even the smallest things became the biggest pain. If I am on the bed and my mobile is ringing I have to wait for somebody to come and give me that mobile. That adjustment and acceptance took some time. But then gradually I thought that I have only two options to lead my life in the current scenario. Either I lie on bed and crib about my life or bounce back. I felt that the best option for both of us would be try to become the real person I was in the past and do as much work as possible. Slowly I started working, socialising, which I was scared to do because I was not sure if I would be able to face there volley of questions. Just when I was trying to adjust to my new way of life my pillar of strength my husband passed away.
How did you manage to overcome this trauma?
To lose my husband was worse than becoming disabled. TD used to always be worried about me and used to wonder how I will live alone. Consciously we did not have a child as we were happy together and we did not miss a child in our life. We were happy pursuing our individual dreams. Now when I think about those trying times I realise that I could not cry over my loss as I had to handle so many things around me. There were many people full of negativity and jealousy trying to cheat me and hurt me but at the same time I had many good people who have helped me reach this place today. My business was also taken away and many wanted to take advantage of my vulnerability then. In the still prevailing patriarchal mind set of the society it’s difficult for people to allow a woman and worse a woman on a wheelchair to enter a male dominated sector. My family wanted me to shift base to Kolkata but I decided to continue here as I feel more at home now in Bhubaneswar and did not want to relocate.
What made you start Master-mind livelihood?
Earlier I hardly thought about the difficult circumstances the rural and underprivileged people lived in. But after the accident my thought process also changed drastically and the concern towards these people started to develop slowly. Today everything has become so expensive and you need money at every step. I wanted to do something to help people with disability and even underprivileged girls get a chance to earn some money. That’s when ‘Mastermind Livelihood’ was initiated. Basically under Mastermind Advertising and designs we do a lot of paper publicity and printing work. We design leaflets, brochures and outdoor campaigns. We have ‘Master mind Hospitality’ under which we run ‘Excel guest house.’ Now under Master mind livelihood we are making handmade paper products like files, notebooks, diyas and designer jute products. We are trying to showcase our products in different exhibitions to find a permanent market and the proceeds will be used for the underprivileged and people with disability. We hire good resources, train them and then involve them in producing these decorative products. We are in a very nascent stage and also developing our own product line.
Apart from so many ongoing ventures you are also working with the government as an advertising partner for the upcoming world disability day?
3rd December is World Disability Day and last year we had organised an “Ability Marathon” as well as a livelihood training program held at Adibasi Padia where we trained different people under different livelihood projects. We assisted the NGOs to showcase their products and also plan and design the hoardings to be put up, the leaflets to be made. The entire outdoor campaign and publicity campaign was designed and done by us. This year also we will be doing the publicity campaign for the government as Master mind publicity is empanelled with them.
Any future plans for expansion?
We already have 3 different projects under Mastermind and do want to expand but slowly. Like recently the entire painting of Vani-vihar underpass was done by Master-mind for BMC after which we got empanelled with BMC for similar projects in the forthcoming days.
As a governing body member of a reputed NGO how do you use it to reach out?
I am on the board of SMRC and we work for women empowerment. We reach out to Women with disability through the national network. We are planning to incorporate the livelihood component so that these women will become financially independent.
What are your hobbies?
I love gardening and have a beautiful garden with a plethora of flower plants collected from different nurseries, especially Roses. The second love of my life is music. I can spend hours listening to anybody who can sing in front of me. I love dressing up and travelling which at present, unable to indulge in because of my work commitments
In our society even today disability is shrouded with many myths, so please give a message to our readers
The last thing that anybody should think is that life is over if you are confined to a wheelchair. No its not! You can do anything and everything on a wheelchair. Think positive and BE positive and you will achieve everything. Just follow your dreams. I firmly believe that one must celebrate life. Live life-love life and spread love. The more you will love yourself the more you can give love. Each person enters this world with a predestined journey and we have to accept it as there is no choice. But if you have the grit and determination like Chumki Datta, you will march ahead and shine in life.