25 Jan, 2022
Lakshmi Khanagar loves to sing. Her bright, lilting voice belies the struggles this 27-year-old has already seen in her young life. Born in a little hamlet in Gokak Taluk of Belgaum district, she always had to fend for herself. As a child, Lakshmi was forcefully sent away to Goa to work as a maid for an affluent family. However, she fought her way back home against everybody’s wishes. She then joined a hostel meant for backward classes in Gokak with the intent of finishing schooling without being a burden to her family. These years proved to be more arduous than she had thought.
“The living conditions were deplorable, and our food was always left uncovered. We would even find worms in the food on some days, but hungry that we were, we had no other choice but to eat what was served to us.”
After schooling, Lakshmi knew she could not expect any support from her family to study further. She joined a hospital and worked night shifts to be able to pay her college fees, which she attended during the day. Although doing this was taking a toll on her, Lakshmi kept at it and completed her 12th grade.
“I stumbled upon a classified ad in the newspaper for a marketing job with a local company selling dental hygiene products and decided to apply for it. Although I was happy to get through, there were newer problems that came with the job.”
Lakshmi and her colleagues had to walk several kilometres daily and knock on unwelcoming doors in the quest to sell as much as they could. She was soon promoted to the post of a manager. Also, work was not the only thing that she had to cheer about.
Around that time, I met Vishnu, and we fell in love. It was the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
However, destiny had other plans. In August 2012, Lakshmi started losing her appetite and was getting sicker by the day. On the insistence of her superiors at work, she went to see a doctor who sent her for a blood test. The results were startling. Lakshmi’s WBC count was significantly above the normal count. The doctors feared the worst and conducted a few other tests. Lakshmi, on the other hand, was utterly oblivious to all this and was busy preparing for her sister’s wedding. A couple of days before the ceremony, Lakshmi received a phone call from the hospital.
“They told me that my reports had arrived and I had to come with someone from my family to collect it. I was instantly taken aback and knew something was not right.”
However, instead of telling her family, Lakshmi went to the hospital alone.
“The doctor was just not willing to tell me what had happened. It was only after I told him about the situation back home that he finally relented and told me I had Blood Cancer.
“I started avoiding Vishnu as I did not want to burden him with the responsibility of a dying person.’
“But Vishnu refused to give up on me and told me, ‘Even if you live for a day, I want to be with you. I know for a fact that if we are together, nothing will happen to you, so let’s get married.’”
This is when Lakshmi happened to see an advertisement by a well-known cancer treatment centre in the newspapers around the same time and got to consult a cancer specialist for free. Two days after meeting Lakshmi and listening to her story, the doctors decided to waive all her medical fees and handed her a letter that guaranteed her free medication in Bengaluru. Staying true to his word, Vishnu married Lakshmi in 2014.
“Marrying Vishnu boosted my confidence even further. I realised that I had got everything a girl could ask for in her lifetime.”
Although love has always been Lakshmi’s source of strength in the battle against cancer, it was also singing that kept her from losing all hope.
“When I sing, I forget everything. I only want to see happy faces before me and try to give it my best, every single time.”
I decided to take each day as it comes. I stopped working and stayed at home to concentrate on my singing career. In life, you never know what is going to happen."
Lakshmi not only lives each day as it comes but also helps her family stay strong. Cancer may have made her world fall apart, but Lakshmi has picked up the pieces fast and put her life back together. Some days she succeeds, and some days she doesn’t, but she takes it all on with a smile. Every time she felt like giving up, she’s held on a little longer. Moreover, that is the stuff that heroes are made of.