MAPUSA: A human is hardened by the life experiences they go through. While some people put their guards up to shield themselves from further hurt, others channel their vulnerability into creating art. Camrulim’s Smita Vernekar is one such example of bravery, who managed to turn her life around after tragedy struck.
While Vernekar was travelling to Panjim for work, she met with an accident at Guirim, and fractured both her legs. She was bedridden for six months and after completing treatment, attempted to rejoin work. Unfortunately, her legs lacked the strength to stand for long hours and she had to stop working. Her husband then took her to Mumbai for further treatment, which is when she experienced a life-changing moment.
There was a training centre near the hospital, which was offering a short course on how to make furry stuffed toys. While undergoing treatment, Vernekar enrolled herself for the course, just to pass time. Little did she know that such a delicate art would provide her with tremendous strength and enable her to get back on her own feet.
After returning to Camrulim, Vernekar began making the stuffed dolls at home by herself. What started as a means to distract herself and keep her mind occupied soon became a small enterprise. Her stuffed toys initially became popular among friends, family and neighbours, and eventually, Vernekar had to hire and teach two women to help her make the dolls as the demand for her handmade product kept increasing.
She realised that the business was expanding at such a pace that she had to then rope in more workers from self-help groups to keep up with the ever-growing demand.
Today, Vernekar herself trains other women to make the colourful dolls and other craft items, and has employed them under her guidance. She is even being invited to various government-run organisations and self-help groups to conduct workshops. Some women in her village have launched their own independent businesses after learning the skill from Vernekar. For her contribution, the Rural Development initiative of the Government of India felicitated her for uplifting fellow women.
“Yes, it is not easy to predict misfortune and recover from certain incidents, but such is life. I want women, especially from rural areas, to be financially independent. It is the need of the hour,” said Vernekar.