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True grit raises high hopes
- Bengal’s first blind woman lawyer-to-be sets sights on Everest

When in Class III, she woke up one morning and couldn’t see a thing. Today, on the last lap to becoming the first ‘blind lady lawyer’ in Bengal, Kanchan Gaba is also taking her first steps towards Mount Everest.

High hopes has Kanchan, dreams of going all the way to the top. Having scaled 14,000 ft at Dzongri, Everest should not be too hard to conquer. The 26-year-old has a series of firsts to her name. Now all she is waiting for is a group adventurous enough to venture to the highest peak in the world.

“I have started contacting groups abroad, because the local expedition teams are usually nervous about frostbite and things like that,” feels Kanchan, currently pursuing her Ll.M in Burdwan after figuring among the toppers in the Calcutta University BA (Ll.B).

Losing her sight to glaucoma when she was eight didn’t slow her down one bit. “I just woke up one morning and couldn’t see a thing,” recalls the straight-talking Kanchan. “But the doctors assured us that it was treatable and I would get my vision back, so I guess the initial depression wasn’t there.”

Even when she did realise she would never see again, her spirits never flagged. “Most parents of children with disability are either over-protective or neglectful. Mine treated me just like they did my other two sisters,” she explains. But the true grit clearly comes from within. “I have always believed in the survival of the fittest. I knew that only if I take great risks can I actually gain something,” she asserts.

Kanchan, now an active counsellor for the blind, first enrolled at the Calcutta Blind School and soon joined the girl scouts. She went for her first camp in Kanchrapara when she was in Class V.

She attended a national meet

in 1993 and received the Rashtra

pati Award from Shankar Dayal

Sharma - the picture hangs

proudly in the Gabas'

Sintheemore living room.

When her CV got around, Kan

chan was the only disabled person

invited to Sussex for an interna

tional Scouts and Guides meet in

1997, attended by 700 girls. For her

success in 11 challenges, includ

ing rock-climbing, abseiling and

kayaking, the Punjabi girl won a

special award. Jungle treks, Tiger

Hill, Sandakphu prepared her for

Dzongri, at the base of Kanchen

junga, "harder than Everest to

climb", for which she has made it

to the Limca Book of Records.

Mountains to climb Kanchan

will always have, but her profes

sional interest lies in human

rights, especially the rights of

the challenged. "I have managed

to break out of my shackles, but

it hasn't been easy," she admits.

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