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She made junk worthwhile

Learning mathematical calculations from a kabariwali (junk seller) may seem like an anachronism, reports Alka Dutta.
None | By Alka Dutta, Patna
UPDATED ON MAY 18, 2007 02:43 AM IST

Learning mathematical calculations from a kabariwali (junk seller) may seem like an anachronism. But hard work, determination and courage along with an inborn talent can catapult even a junk seller to a mathematics textbook. That’s the story of Kiran Devi.

Maths-Magic, published by the National Council of Educational Research and Training for CBSE students of Class IV, has a chapter on Kiran called ‘The Junk Seller’. Carried in interview format, it talks about her tough and unprivileged childhood and also has mathematical calculation based on her daily expenditures and investments. The lesson not only makes boring math problems interesting but also shows how will power can help overcome the biggest hurdles in life, as Kiran has proved.

Kiran is one of three women entrepreneurs selected for the new interactive NCERT textbook released this year during the second phase of restructuring of the Class IV, X and XII syllabi. The other two are Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon Ltd, and the women who run the Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad.

Though Kiran hates math, she accepts the subject has proved most useful in her business. Speaking about her life, she says she studied up to class VIII. After she lost her father in an accident, she was forced to give up studies and get married. Married to a tea stall owner who lived in a hut, she decided to start her own business to supplement the family income. She thought of starting a bangle or tailor shop. But her uncle’s idea to open a junk shop caught her fancy.

In 2001, Kiran and her mother-in-law started off with a bank loan of Rs 8,000. And ‘Kiran Sumitra Kabari ki Dukan was born. “People laughed and teased us, branding it a dirty business, but I knew this idea would work,” she claims.

Her faith proved her right and today, Kiran has a house with all the comforts — a fridge, television and gas stove. She sends her daughter, brother-in-law and sister-in-law to school. She has, however, not stopped at owning a junk shop and now owns nine rickshaws, which she rents out for Rs 20 a day. “On Sundays I do not take any money from the rickshaw-pullers,” she says.

For her efforts, Kiran has also been chosen as the face of UNICEF’s Girl Star Project to create awareness on education for the girl child in Bihar.

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