I am glad to have started this series! I am beginning to meet some very inspiring women whom I would otherwise missed if not for this series.
A Short Bio
Meet Dr. Kinjal Chandra (Bhanushali) – a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Founder of Pehel Pediatric Therapy Centre, Mulund, Mumbai. It caters to children with Developmental Disabilities like Autism, Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s syndrome, etc.
It’s usual that we choose a profession but it’s destiny when a profession chooses you!
Destiny or Choice
Kinjal is really a wonderful person to interact to. She is down to earth and very simple at heart. I wanted to know about her life journey and how all this started, and here is her response.
“Dentistry” was the only thing that used to resonate in my and my parents mind everytime I thought about my future professional goals. A bright student that I always was fired the wanting even more.
But destiny had some other plans! In the crucial year of 12th board exams my grandfather whom I was very attached to expired and also my best friend happened to move away. This badly affected my results.
During the same time the family was going through some financial turmoil as well. Due to these personal and financial constraints the only option I was left with was to settle down for whatever that came my way. It became a common occurrence to hear people say that I being a girl, should focus on learning kitchen skills rather than studying ahead as that’s where I belonged in the future. Many a times financial help was denied .
Some comments like – If I had been that brilliant it would have shown in the results. You should only dream as much as you are capable of – hurt me.
It somewhere broke my confidence. I decided to move on and take whatever that will come my way. And that was Occupational Therapy something that I had never heard about nor had anyone else.
My mother being a housewife father now a grain merchant trying to settle in life earlier working full-time under someone and an auto rickshaw driver at night. Struggling day and night to give his family a good life.
The College Days
With a heavy heart I entered the college and started my studies. Always peeping at the dental department, at their labs searching and reading dental books online.
Soon started a constant battle between my heart and mind for 5to 6 years of my studies. While all my friends were enjoying themselves I used to be usually aloof, isolated, depressed and sleepy.
When I started working I realized that the awareness about the profession that I chose was extremely poor. It was as if compromising with the career choice wasn’t enough that the poor awareness added to it. This depressed me all the more. My heart still in dentistry, praying that if finances permit I would again persuade my dreams. But I knew this wouldn’t be happening.
I got to know that in OT there is a branch Pediatrics (kids) – something I always had inclination towards. I started working when I saw that all my friends were moving abroad for studies & for work as there was better awareness and money. I knew this too wasn’t possible at that moment. With a heavy heart in midst of all the issues I joined hands with destiny but always thinking at the back of my mind how lucky my friends were or how the world there might be.
It was during these testing times that I lost my childhood best friend in a train accident ( the only friend I had). That totally broke the half broken me.
There were times when I thought life was over. Nothing interested me academically and now even socially. To a point where a cheque bounced back and I realized I had forgotten my own signature!
The Fight and Success
But I didn’t give up. I fought those battles of being extremely depressed to bouts of anxiety about how would I face the entire life that was about to begin. With a firm determination that if destiny had chosen me for this field I would do justice to it come what may.
And started that unending urge to prove something to my own self, to those talking mouths about my caliber. To prove that impossible is nothing even if it means walking alone on a less heard and untrodden path!
It was those days when I started working in the field of pediatric OT with kids that helped me heal that badly hurt heart.
During that same time I got married. Along with all the happiness that a loving and caring partner brings, it also bought along many responsibilities and duties as a daughter in law.
Juggling between my professional life that I was starting to love and married life wasn’t an easy task at all. But I was determined to not giving up and now even if I would my husband wouldn’t allow me do that. After going through testing times life started settling and I started my own clinic.
While life started to look a bit better working with kids came the realization that along with having a child with issues what stressed the parents more was stigmas of the society, the way in which these kids were looked down by the society, marital disharmony, unwanted sympathy that these kids were given, hunting for good schools at times changing cities, lack of resources in school, etc. it really pained me that mere therapy wasn’t enough.
And I decided to step out of my comfy A.C clinic into public directly interacting with them about these issues. Unaware that this was gradually giving a direction to my otherwise directionless life.
I just wanted to give back to my people and society all that I had. That I would really make life better for these kids.I wanted to bring about real integration of these kids in the society. I started taking free lectures in Govt. hospitals like JJ Hospital, Mumbai, for doctors, speech therapists. Special educators, psychologists , etc from all over Mumbai.
I approached pre-primary and play schools to educate teachers about red flags to identify children with issues so that treatment can be started in the crucial years of development.
This didn’t come easy as well. The schools were resistant. Denying the fact that they had any such kids, or saying that they know everything about such things. I used to travel each and every school irrespective of their medium of teaching or board.
I used to wait out at times for hours to meet the authorities often without meeting them. But these issues, the wait didn’t deter me. I still managed to squeeze time out from my daily schedule of completing household work and clinic, reaching out to schools and taking lectures without any charges.
On the occasion of first anniversary of my clinic Pehel Pediatric Therapy Centre, Mulund, Mumbai, I in collaboration with Rotaract club started a month long campaign “ Nadaan Parindey” and did streetplays on railway stations and public gardens enacting the plight of kids and the societal outlook towards them, which was highly appreciated and covered in local news channels.
I took free lectures for parents of many community organizations, Nanavati womens college, Ngos sensitizing them and educating them about treatment options.
People giggling, calling me crazy, advising me to focus on work n money rather than this social work became a regular occurrence.
But I had understood my calling and wasn’t going to give up. I had something to prove to my own self.
The determination and stubbornness gradually started showing some results. For all my efforts an online blog SCROLLTHROUGH published a story about me “ Meet the real life Aamir Khan”
Local news channels had good things to tell about me. My initiative featured in many local newspapers.
Along with urban areas I also ventured into the interiors of Maharashtra like Wardha, Shirdi where I took lectures for parents, nurses and special educators.
For my unending efforts I was nominated, shortlisted and won the 100 WOMEN ACHIEVERS OF INDIA title, which was an initiative by the Ministry of women and Child Development, Government of India.
I was invited for a reception lunch by the PRESIDENT of India in Rashtrapati Bhavan , New Delhi along with other women achievers of India on 22nd January 2016.
Was invited as special guests to witness the REPUBLIC DAY PARADE on 26th January 2016 at RAJPATH, New Delhi.
I featured many a times on social media and many national dailies like DNA, Mumbai Samachar, Janmabhoomi, Lokmat,Dainik Bhaskar, to name a few for the work that I was doing.
From forgetting my own signature to giving my first autograph to someone, from going through severe identity crisis to someone coming to me for a selfie..the journey has been nothing less then a roller coaster ride.
The struggle still continues.. 7 years gone.. many more to go.., a lot still needs to be done, a lot of stigmas still need to be eradicated, and an ocean is yet to be crossed. But I am happy. That long lost smile is back.
No one would believe that a girl who started her career in such tragic situations, always depressed and sleepy is making headlines today in the same profession.
Well the journey doesn’t end there, infact it’s now that the actual journey begins!
Life is about being a sculptor of your own life.
Set out with a chisel and hammer in your hands. There will be blows some stronger some milder( friendships, relations,career, colleagues ,etc) each strike will cut a part of you and will make you feel weaker and broken.
But then will come the realisation that everytime you thought you were breaking down was when God and you were actually sculpting a beautiful idol of your life. And will come a day that this sculpture is what will give back rewards of patience,of perseverance,of not giving up even though that was the only option left at times!
Let’s understand that the work is still under progress..the blows and strikes will continue one after the other but now we know HIS plan!
They used to say YOU WILL NEVER REACH THAT FAR.. it’s time to prove THEY WERE RIGHT..you reached even FARTHER!
Today I am happy when a child succeeds in sitting on his own. I see my friend smiling at me every time I make a child smile. Every time a parent leaves the clinic satisfied I feels I made a difference in somebody’s life.
Indeed life isn’t about all big things.
But it’s about finding happiness in the small success stories around, it’s about finding a solution to the questions that life puts in front of you.
It’s about sailing in the ocean of life, sometimes deep, sometimes through disturbed water only to find pearls and treasure at the bottom.
I have found a way to live life. The battle between the heart and mind still continues at times only to add fuel to that burning desire to do something for kids even stronger.
What started as a small clinic is today catering to people not only from Mumbai but also from all over India to even Indians coming down from Canada, Germany, USA as well.
You can connect with Kinjal Chandra in her Facebook Page