While India is still basking in the glory of the Paralympics and Olympics, closer to home Pune was graced by the presence of the first Indian female blade runner. That’s not all Kiran Kanojia must be applauded and remembered for. A story of grit and determination that has transformed Kanojia from a normal working employee to an inspirational figure. We caught up with her while she was in the city preparing for her first ever TEDx talk in Hyderabad which took place on September 25.
“Kiran, I don’t think you can ever run,” words by her doctor that could have been her tipping point but made her scale higher peaks in life. After a scarring incident in 2011, when two miscreants tried snatching her bag while she was travelling to her hometown Faridabad from Hyderabad. Just as she was nearing her destination, the two offenders tried pulling her bag which was fastened around her, dragging her to the train door. One of them pushed her off the train, as her leg got caught in the door, crushing her foot. While she was meant to celebrate her birthday a day after on December 25, 2011 she was grappling with the harsh reality of losing a limb.
Almost six months after the incident, she went on to resume her job in Hyderabad. But, the recovery phase did not weigh her down. “Everyone around me said things like your life is over, you can’t do anything, bechari you can’t run, walk or do your own work. That moment I knew I wanted to do something but didn’t know how it would move forward,” claims Kanojia. Braving through hardships has been her forte since she was a child. Her parents who made a living as launderers, did not have the means to make sure their daughter received a complete education. But, with the help of her uncle and a friend she found the courage to make a life out of nothing. She managed to study at a reputable college and secure a job at Infosys as well. “I never imagined I would study in a college where I saw well to do people go and then upon insistence of a friend I interviewed for a job and got it,” beams Kanojia. It isn’t just sheer luck and support that has made her India’s first female blade runner, but her willpower and strength from within to achieve the impossible. A relapse in the form a fall a while after the accident resulted in her getting a prosthetic leg fixed. “The prosthetics doctor asked me, Kiran do you want to run? I didn’t know I could run after losing my leg. After this I found a reason to move ahead and a purpose in life,” says the braveheart.
She then discovered Dakshin Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) in Hyderabad, which made her realise what she is capable of. “When I met the people at Dakshin who did not have either hands or legs and yet they would cycle and run, it opened my eyes. It gave me so much encouragement and then I started going to a nearby stadium to keep myself fit,” adds Kanojia. It was at this stadium that she met a group of runners that became the stepping stone for her future achievements. “When I just began training with the runners I thought to myself, how can I compete with them? In the beginning I couldn’t even run 400 metres, now I run more than 10 km. This has become my strength which I was unaware of before,” she smiles.
She has managed to race against all odds to achieve all that she is today. Beginning from a five-kilometre marathon to conquering 21 kilometres in two-and-a-half years is something unachievable for any of us with even with our limbs intact. It’s all a result of her hard work which pays off after training five days a week for almost two hours. No matter where she goes, her story manages to tear up the audience and inspiration lingers on. After going through a traumatic experience at such a young age which could paralyse one mentally as well, Kanojia decided to fight it with all her power and smile through life. “After all, that I’ve been through, I think you need to believe in yourself. Convert your disadvantage into an advantage and most importantly don’t listen to others,” she asserts. Kanojia is gearing up to run her next marathon in Bengaluru during the month of October.
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