There was a will and there was a way

Akash Khandke in Kolhapur tells the story of a woman who took her disability by its horns.


Meenakshi Patil knitting a sweater.

A physical disability from birth, which confines a person to a wheelchair for their entire life, is enough to discourage and make one believe that life has been difficult and unfair. But the one who, despite such difficulties, continues the journey is truly daring. Meenakshi Patil from Kolhapur is one such individual who has proved that one’s determination and will power are the keys to success.

She started her career as a receptionist and today, she is a successful entrepreneur in the sweater-knitting business. She has generated employment for 15 underprivileged women workers.

Meenakshi was diagnosed with a rare disease at birth, which affected her walking ability. In her childhood, when children of her age were enjoying outdoor games, she spent her time reading books. She was dependent on her parents for daily chores. A bright student, she earned a degree in Sociology. But the degree seemed to be of no great help as her disability did not allow her to step out and engage in a job. The family doctor, who had witnessed her struggle, offered her a receptionist's job at his hospital. When everything was on track, a tragic incident occurred. While leaving the hospital, the wheelchair carrying her slipped and she crashed down the staircase. This ended her stint at the hospital.

In the next two years, when she could not work, Meenakshi came across a sweater-knitting workshop and enrolled in it along with her aunt. Sweaters knitted during the practice session were sold out quickly. This boosted her confidence. She decided to take this up as a profession as it was perfectly suited for her physical condition. Meenakshi convinced her parents and bought a knitting machine. Along with her aunt, she started taking small orders. In the next two years, the business grew at a slow pace. Even as many of those who had taken up this business after the workshop had backed out, Meenakshi persisted. Her patience paid off when she received an order for 45 shawls from her neighbour.

NGO 'Swayam Siddha' helped her reach out to the public. This proved beneficial for her business. As orders started flooding in, she bought another machine and employed a woman, and soon orders started coming in. Today Meenakshi has 15 women working with her.

A confident Meenakshi Patil says: "Life has never been easy. But that doesn't mean we should be unfair to life. Once I was struggling to get a single order, but now we have hundreds of orders every month. The nation-wide lockdown on account of the global pandemic has affected our business, but this is not the end. We will surely get back on track and expand our business.”

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