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The work of a few friends to support blind students by reading out their textbooks to them,and later recording their syllabi on audio cassette has today taken this form where in a state-of-the-art recording studio, recording of books by volunteers is carried on all day long. Theseaudio recordings are used by people with visual impairment from all over the country andanyone from anywhere can send in a book to be recorded. This work, like it was in thebeginning, remains voluntary and is provided free of charge.

As they involved themselves with this work, the volunteers of Arushi discovered how peoplewith disabilities are living sequestered lives unable to participate in anything that the rest ofus take for granted, for example, going to a park or a bank. An attempt to plug these gapsand facilitate their inclusion grew gradually over these three decades into what Arushi istoday. From confidence-building through travel, participation in competitions, visits to publicplaces, meeting with celebrities and role models, they were provided with every opportunitythat everyone else enjoys. This is how Arushi involved itself with the creation of accessiblepublic spaces, advocacy, sensitization trainings, community-based rehabilitation andawareness campaigns.

The amazing thing here is that everything is looked at with a fresh perspective and the age-old, stereotypical approach is questioned. So, our blind kids read out stories to other kidsfrom their Braille storybooks; they also act as navigators to sighted drivers in the annual carrally. Inmates of the Bhopal jail record study material and in what was supposed to help theblind students, the inmates of the jail have found fulfilment and purpose. To disseminateawareness about various forms of disability, important information was printed on railwayreservation forms and school textbooks!

In these three decades that I have been associated with Arushi, the other thing that neverceases to amaze me is the attitude with which each task is undertaken – whether it is anurgent need for funds or a plan to take the children out on an outstation trip – there is nostress about how things will work out. Someone or the other is always around to lend ahelping hand. If a vehicle is required, a volunteer or patron who can arrange one just walksinto Arushi at that moment; if there is a discussion on taking the children to the hills, somestranger from the hills calls up to invite them and takes complete charge of the trip. There isa magic that works things here. Those who do not believe in magic call it ‘intent’. When theintent is to do good, there is little that can come in the way, if it does, there are invisiblehands that remove the hurdles quietly.



ShefaliTripathi Mehta

Bangalore December, 2018




HOW I BECAME A HUMAN CUM VOLUNTEER

A strong idea, that has been holding together the soil of humanity and preventing the life essence of humans from falling apart. Some would say that it is an old idea. But we must not forget that this idea has survived ages and that is the proof of its relevance in our modern life. As nature evaporates, our true nature also evaporates. But if we stand strong together to nourish each other when we see that a friend has a broken leaf or a withered trunk, by sharing the water accessible to us, we are doing humanity a favour.

But then, when you come to think about it, sometimes the real help is not needed on the outside but on the inside; where only the sixth sense can reach. Running constantly, we are not able to really see what is around us. To our dismay, this inability is becoming our disability. I have been part of a journey, which did not open my eyes, but my vision. I now know that I live in a beautiful world. I have the ability to see, to hear, to smell, to taste and to feel but not from my sense organs but rather my heart.

I have this vivid image of carrying books around Arushi, reading it out to my friends and the excitement of speaking in front of a mic in the Recording Room. I learnt that one should speak slowly and clearly. I have seen computers and hands talk and I learnt that language can be seen and felt. I have seen wheelchairs climbing up and down the wide ramps and I have learnt that life is a roller coaster ride. I have read more from the impressions of Braille than the words in my textbooks because I had been helped by a magical moving hand. I have experienced a lot of love, shaped like mischief, magic and madness.

Now when I think about this extraordinary journey, I feel how foolish I have been. I thought that I was Albert Einstein- living my life for others and making my life worth living. I think I did make my life worth living. But not because I was contributing to society, but because I had friends who had sheer love and care in their hearts for me. Because life was happier when it translated to madness and fun. Because this life was about having companions to look up to. It was as if I was living for myself but without being selfish. It was as if I saved humanity in me and let the soil hold me and not let me fall apart.



Kanupriya Gupta

Bhopal