This article is sponsored by eBay
It was on 26 January 2012 that Archita Gupta’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, sending her close-knit family into a state of shock. Archita decided to get her parents over to her home so that she could ensure that her mother had access to the best possible treatment. Even while battling the deadly disease, (she underwent 35 sittings of chemotherapy) Archita remembers how positive and cheerful her mother remained. She used to try to cheer up other cancer patients undergoing treatment with her and even told the mother of a young girl to have faith that her daughter would recover completely. When she succumbed to the disease in September 2013, it left a void in Archita’s life. But being the daughter of a strong mother, she wanted to do something constructive rather than grieve and brood.
As the primary caretaker of her mother during her illness, Archita knew first-hand the problems faced by patients with critical and terminal illnesses and their caretakers. One of the biggest issues was accessibility to quality medicines and medical equipment. Even if someone is not suffering from a life-altering disease but lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension or hypothyroidism, there are numerous daily challenges that can be easily dealt with if the patient has access to the right treatment, medication and equipment. When it comes to life-threatening diseases like cancer, even going to a nearby pharmacy to purchase medicines becomes a tough task for a caregiver because they often can’t risk leaving the patient alone. Having gone through the ordeal herself, Archita knew being self-reliant would mean a lot to most patients and their families. So Archita and her husband Chhavi decided to start an online store aimed at providing quality medicines and equipment to the customer’s door step. They named the site Healthvala.
Chhavi quit his job and started work on Healthvala full time. When the site started getting good response, Archita joined him a year later in October 2013. The couple had big plans to change the face of healthcare and make the lives of patients and caretakers a lot easier. But destiny had other plans. Just a month later in November 2013, Chhavi, Archita, their daughter and niece were involved in a horrific car accident that took the lives of Chhavi and their niece.
The loss of a loving spouse is devastating. For Archita, it also meant the loss of a companion she knew since they were both six years old. They’d finished school together and were married soon after finishing college. “Maybe we met so early in life because we were meant to have so little time together,” Archita reminisces. Life without Chhavi just didn’t seem worth living. “It was difficult to get up…life without him seemed meaningless. But I thought of my daughter and told myself to face life again,” Archita recalls. Ironically enough, it was Chhavi who had explained death to their daughter, Aarna, who was just nine years old when Archita’s mother had passed away. The child had been very attached to her grandmother, and in hindsight, it looks like her father had prepared her for another irreplaceable loss. Children are often more resilient than adults, and Archita says she sees in her daughter the same outgoing, positive nature that Chhavi had.
For Archita, it was impossible to move forward after Chhavi passed away; maintaining some semblance of normality on a day-to-day basis was a challenge in itself. Having a strong support system has been her lifeline. Archita says she has been fortunate in that way. Being the youngest of four siblings, she received tremendous support from her older brother and two sisters. One of her sisters stays in the same building in Noida as she does. Even her father, who still works as an Income Tax lawyer in their hometown of Lakhimpur Kheri in UP, makes it a point to visit them frequently. She also feels her close friends have provided immense moral support during the last couple of years and were instrumental in ensuring she got an occasional break from work.
Archita has taken baby steps in trying to live her life as a single parent. She wants to try and make up for the loss of her husband in their lives as much as possible. The first suggestion she came across was that fitness is very important for a single parent in order to cope with the demands of raising a child single-handedly. Archita had always loved running but had stopped a while back. With encouragement and training from her running coach, she began training with renewed determination and even participated in a 5 km mini-marathon with her daughter. They now want to attempt a 10 km run next.
In their own way, Archita and Aarna have enshrined Chhavi’s memories in the way they pay tribute to his hobbies. Chhavi loved trekking and they often combined trekking with Archita’s passion for photography while travelling across India and abroad. Archita and Aarna have begun taking more of such trips. Aarna, in fact, has inherited her father’s love for the outdoors. They both love bird sanctuaries, which are a great place to go on long walks and also provide great opportunities for photography. Just a couple of weeks back, mother and daughter made a quick trip to shoot pictures of the Taj Mahal.Archita is now trying to bring about a new normal. Her day starts with getting her daughter ready for to school. She then goes for a run then and leaves for work by 9.00 am. She tries to get back home by 6.00 pm so that she can spend quality time with her daughter.
At work, the seven-member team at Healthvala mostly comprises women. Growth plans were naturally hit given the nature of the loss the family suffered, but Archita is once again working towards making Healthvala a one-stop support system for those battling critical illnesses.
Earlier in her career, Archita had worked with companies like Techmobia, Motorola, Satyam and Genser in a technical capacity, so she is very involved in the technical aspects of the website and app development. The app is currently undergoing a round of de-bugging and changes to make it more user friendly. Her products are also being sold on e-commerce sites like eBay, among others. Her work and idea have already been recognised – she was chosen as one of the winners of eBay’s #SheMeansBusiness contest.
Archita also wants to start a support group to provide counselling for patients and care givers and introduce them to others going through a similar experience, so that they can share their stories and together find ways to cope with the challenges and emerge stronger.