What sets Bhavna Botta, a CavinKare Ability Mastery award winner, apart is her determination to overcome physical challenges to achieve success.
Merely a stone's throw away from a bustling main road in Saidapet lies Saahaagika, an ahimsa silk and organic cotton boutique. The shop itself is small, a one-room extension to the proprietor's house with two armchairs thrown in amongst the displays for customers to sit back and relax. There is a wide array of colours, earthy browns juxtaposed with soft creams, deep greens lying side by side with mustards and oranges. Nudging past the potted plants at the entrance, I knocked on the door to meet Bhavna Botta, the brain, face and heart behind the entire show.
The only difference
Bhavna's life is no different from mine or yours. She revels in bunking college, gets an adrenaline rush from participating in city events with friends, argues with her younger sister and constantly bickers with her mother. Fresh with a degree in Corporate Secretaryship from a local college, Bhavna is a budding young entrepreneur who has dreams for her future.
There is one thing, however, that sets her apart. Bhavna Botta has Athetoid Cerebral Palsy; meaning, she has never spoken or walked in her life. Having been wheelchair bound all her life, she uses a special eye-pointing mechanism to communicate, spelling out her words one at a time. Developed by Vidya Sagar to cater to her demands of continuing her education, it now serves more as a tool to communicate with friends. “I even use it to Skype with people. I will spell out what I want to say and someone else will type,” says Bhavna.
Bhavna is an epitome of focus and determination. She decided that she would be an entrepreneur way back when she was in Std VIII, initially mulling over the idea of starting a mobile library and then settling on textiles. The decision was based on a final year project that exposed her to the life of weavers and the fact that Bhavna herself is a PETA activist as well as a WWF member. Saahaagika was opened in September 2011.
Bhavna's education is a story of pushing the bar, extending the limits and expanding your own horizons. As her mother Kalpana Botta explains, “First she wanted to study till Grade VIII, then it became Grade X, then XII and then she said she was going to college. She just kept at it!”
Both Bhavna and her mother vouch for the support that her educational institutions gave her. “Bhavna was the first non-verbal child with physical needs that everyone was dealing with but they were very accommodating throughout, catering to whatever extent they could to all her needs,” reminisces her mother.
Where does Bhavna see herself and Saahaagika in the future, I asked, expecting two independent responses. Little did I know that this entrepreneur does not treat the future of her venture separate from her own life. “I want more retail outlets in hotels,” she declares, to which her mother immediately reminds her that “it all costs money.” Bhavna merely smiles, true to the Miss Smiley title they awarded her at college.
Though Bhavna has picked up a couple of awards and a lot of media attention on her way, she doesn't revel in the past, nor does she believe she is the rightful recipient of any of them. “I have not achieved anything,” she says simply.
Any conversation with Bhavna Botta flows easily, punctuated by plentiful smiles. Her mother pulls her leg in jest and chides her, her younger sister (who she says has been her biggest support) walks in to inform her of some quotidian chore she needs to run and Bhavna laughs through this all.
In her, one does not see a wheelchair-bound girl wallowing in what could have been. Bhavna Botta is a young woman full of dreams and ambitions with the confidence, will power, determination and attitude to make them reality. Bhavna Botta, despite her insisting otherwise, is what a lot of us aspire to be — “just (a young woman) living my life”
In a word...
Happiness: Being a turtle saver
Future: Starting a coffee ‘adda'
Freedom: Bunking college
Yashasvini is a student of IIT-M.