Lakshman, one of the painters, says he finally feels like he’s a part of the festival when he’s painting diyas and making candles.

Festive glow for visually impaired Hyd painters who light up Deepavali with handpainted diyasAll image: Facebook/Nagaram Rajender
news Deepavali Wednesday, October 26, 2016 - 18:32

Their hands covered in bright reds, toasty oranges and deep blues, they carefully paint intricate designs on diyas and make attractive candles. While such scenes repeat in stores and workshops across the country, what makes this scene special is that these 20 painters in Hyderabad are all visually impaired.

Anarghya Foundation, an NGO working with the visually impaired residents of the Sai Nethra Foundation, has kicked off a project to gainfully employ them and give them a sense of participation in the festival of lights. Of the 20 visually impaired people here, four are blind, while the rest have vision impairments with as low as 30% vision or with single eye vision.

Thanks to this project, these 20 amateur painters have found a reason to look forward to the festival that was otherwise largely lost on them.

Lakshman, a 24-year-old with a graduate degree in Commerce, was a resident of Nizamabad till he sought refuge with the Sai Nethra Foundation two years ago. Since birth, Lakshman has been blind in one eye, and with low vision in the other.

According to his doctors, there is little they can do to rectify the blindness, even with surgery. In financially difficult circumstances, Lakshman’s family has always struggled to meet his medical and educational expenses.

For the past year, he has been attending a computer course so that he can apply for the government banking exam, and have a career.

Lakshman says that festivals were always a particularly sad time of year, since he can’t enjoy the colourful streets and lighted houses.

“I became very depressed few years back. When everybody in my family would enjoy the festival, I would spend my days at home,” he said.

Other participants in the project have similar stories to tell. Some, who were not born visually impaired, feel the loss particularly strongly, having celebrated Deepavali in the past, but losing the ability to see the lights and decorations along the way.

Balraj who lost his eyesight after an accident few years ago, sorely misses decorating his house with coloured lights and bursting crackers. Diwali was his favourite festival.  

However, as Lakshman says, “Now, while painting diyas and making candles, I feel I am celebrating this festival and contributing to the celebration.” He’s also excited about the fact that he’s obtained a skill with time, and enjoys the process of imagining the combinations of colours and reproducing them on the diyas.

 Harika, the founder of Anarghya Foundation says that the goal of the project is to not only give the participants a sense of inclusion in Deepavali, but also produce some gainful outcomes from their work. So the NGO is planning to sell the candles and diyas, and at moderate prices below the market levels, to make them more attractive to customers.

“For them this is a big step – they are making an effort to contribute as much as they can. Even though volunteers help them with the finishing touches, but the main ideas of how the diyas should look, what colour combinations should be used and so on, are generated by them,” she added.

Though they can’t enjoy the visual feast of Deepavali themselves, this festival season, Lakshman and 19 others are just happy to light up other people’s life and feel a part of the celebration through them.

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