[AI] A Bright bundle of energy

Sameer salatey at gawab.com
Tue Jan 1 19:44:04 EST 2008

Deccan Herald, India
Saturday, December 29, 2007

A bright bundle of energy

That's what Kanchan is, says L Subramani after a chat with the 
visually-impaired solicitor. She recently won a landmark case to allow blind 
students more
time to write exams and ensure that they get scribes

Sitting beside Kanchan Pamnani (42) and watching her fiddle with her phone, 
sift through the cluttered inbox on the laptop screen and continue the 
of her conversation while doing all that, kindles a secret desire in us: to 
steal away a little bit of her energy.

In all this, we are likely to forget one fact: that Kanchan is blind, which 
is largely eclipsed by her ceaseless energy and ability to engage companions
in an absorbing conversation.

What may perhaps matter to us more is Kanchan has 17 years of experience as 
a lawyer and she backs up the tricks of the trade with qualifications that 
been the envy of her tribe. "I believe in making the most of the opportunity 
given to me and I think I have done my best," she says, having performed her
day's work as a solicitor and partner in Pamnani&Pamnani law firm (with the 
aid of the screen reader-enabled laptop and mobile phone).

Of course, respect for the legal profession doesn't come without the stomach 
for a fight. Kanchan's father, Mr Shyam Pamnani, would vouch for her 
having faced a tirade of questions to his mild suggestion that her fading 
eye sight may stand against her aspirations of a career in law. "I wanted to
prove him wrong," Kanchan says; the smile slowly giving way to pensive 
recollection. "I grew up seeing him (Mr Pamnani) wading through large 
volumes of
books and discussing about cases with his clients. This affinity for law and 
my own hunger for learning meant law almost became my natural career 

Though at the cutting-edge of her chosen career today, Kanchan can't forget 
the hard days when she had several unanswered questions about life. Yes, she
had smiles and the steel underneath to sustain her desire, but tackling low 
vision in childhood asked for more courage.

"Handling low vision wasn't difficult, but certainly it wasn't easy either," 
recalls Kanchan.  Thanks to the self-confidence she gathered from "standing
up", be it answering questions posed to her or delivering a cohesive talk on 
a topic, she assumed leadership roles such as president of the Rotaract Club
and later the district governor (Rotaract Representative 3140), where she 
ensured "the buck stopped at my doorsteps."

Corporate law
Her passion to marshal continued during her days in government law college 
(Mumbai), where, besides other activities, she was the founder editor of the
college magazine. At this time, she started putting her tender steps into 
her career, doing articleship for law firms like Dhru & Co and Thakker & 

Solicitor's exam from Bombay Incorporated Law Society and Qualified Lawyers 
Transfer Test (Solicitor, Supreme Court of England) from The England Law 
followed her graduation. In the 1990s, she also specialised in corporate law 
and intellectual property rights.

The dream title, "solicitor," was the price of her perseverance, as she 
practiced independently for a few years, but it needed more courage to take 
setbacks of her personal life: four operations to restore the detached 
retina in her eyes failed and the little vision she had, dwindled. "All 
those surgeries
only proved to me that I could still recover and had another day to resume 
my work."

References came initially from her friends, who, having felt 
more-than-satisfied with the way she handled their legal issues, started 
spreading the word.
But the glamour of dealing with corporate community and the elite among 
entrepreneurs didn't make Kanchan forget her "obligation and 
responsibility", of
taking time off and winning landmark cases for persons with disability. 
Until recently, students with visual impairment in Maharashtra struggled to 
a scribe (who writes the exams for the blind as they dictate the answer) and 
a PIL was filed in the state High Court requesting adaptation of a proper
procedure in assigning scribes and a gradual extension in time to write 
exams (which is necessary as finishing exams depended solely on the writing 
of the scribes).

Being in the unique position of an advocate and also a visually challenged 
person frequently sitting for exams, Kanchan intervened and presented a 
perspective to the court and the policy she drafted with the assistance of 
NGOs in disability sector was finally accepted by the court and implemented
by the government of Maharashtra. Her intervention was also crucial in 
implementing a change in rule that allowed persons with blindness to open 
account independently, something that wasn't permissible until recently.

"You got to work extra hours to accommodate this workload," she says. "Of 
course, that can be done, with a pleasant chat and a bunch of chocolates.. 
that's the secret of my energy, if you like," she says bursting into 


Sameer Latey
Mumbai, India 

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