She dreamt of a life straight out of the fantasy novels she grew up reading. Had it not been a major turn in her life, she was almost there.
She dreamt of a life straight out of the fantasy novels she grew up reading. Had it not been a major turn in her life, she was almost there. But as she sipped on to a cup of tea seated in Rashtrapati Bhavan minutes before meeting the President, Rajlakshmi Borthakur realised her life meant much more than a regular fairy tale.
She was one of the ten finalists selected by Intel’s Innovate for Digital India programme who pitched their innovation idea to President Pranab Mukherjee in May this year. Rajlakshmi’s innovation was a smart-glove that could read neurotic signals from body and predict the occurrence of a forthcoming epileptic attack.
Over a cup of tea Rajlakshmi took us through her tale — from her early entrepreneur skills where she created the basic database for banks and made enough money to be the richest student in her class to her odd choices of taking rides in military vans that made her mother think she would give her a heart attack.
While she did find her prince charming in a training class, married him and had kids with him, fulfilling her childhood dream of a perfect family, a happy ending seemed distant for her.
Fifteen years through her career—studded with her maverick resume of being a database developer, a computer trainer, a technical writer, a content strategist—her inclination to “solve” puzzles, riddles, situations and life problems found greater meaning when her one-year-old son Tejas was diagnosed epileptic.
Recalling her son’s second major epileptic attack when he was over a year old, Rajlakshmi shudders to imagine the consequence had she not followed her instinct against doctor’s advice that her son was fine and they could take him home. But she felt something was wrong with him and waited in the hospital. Minutes later, the kid began to roll his eyes, started drooling and shivering. He was rushed to the emergency room.
While she was lucky enough to predict the attack that saved her son’s life, Rajlakshmi also realised the necessity of anticipating an epileptic attack. This, she says, was the inception point of the idea of creating T-jay, the smart glove—a mother’s brainchild named after her child.
Having noticed odd behavior of her kid right from the time he was born, Rajlakshmi says, Tejas was diagnosed properly only after her persistent and repeated attempts of consulting different doctors across the country.
“By that time I’d been reading a lot about neurotic diseases, causes, behavioral symptoms. I knew what questions to ask the doctor, though not all of them were properly answered,” Rajlakshmi says. During one of her visits to Parijma Neurodiagnostic & Rehabilitation centre in the city, the realization hit Rajlakshmi that while she had the resources to educate herself and get proper diagnosis for her kid, there were many others, including uniform-clad auto-rickshaw drivers who came with their kids and had no clue on how to give their kid the best treatment.
For Rajlakshmi though it was her personal experience and empathy channelized into a solution to help the epileptic patients and their families, her team members Chayanika and Kartikey—both hardware engineers—plunged their effort and energy in to the project merely influenced by the positivity and goodwill it emanates.
Though the team received a share of monetary aid, infrastructural support and expertise from Intel, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and the government of India, Rajlakshmi says there are days when she thinks, “I might need to sell my house.”