Glimmering lights and sparkling smiles are exchanged during this time of the year when Diwali is celebrated with full fervour. Awaited eagerly by everyone, the individuals with physical and mental disabilities are not behind in recognising the importance. The festival of Diwali, for them, is as huge as their mainstream counterparts.
A different aspect to the celebration is added through the products which are created to celebrate the festivities. The specially abled individuals create these products for everyone to buy. Different NGO's working for the welfare of physically and mentally challenged come up with various methods to create awareness and remove the stigma that is associated with them. The major activity in which they indulge for Diwali is candle making, where this particular item is sold in major quantities. Along with that they create other items like stationery.
Kailash Chandra Pandey, Executive Secretary, The Blind Relief Association said, “The main attraction our Diwali mela are candles and products made by the visually challenged people. There are our trainees and workers as well. The sale of our products are done from one counter and other counters are set up so that rent can be generated. We sell more than 70 varieties of candles and then we have paper products, carry bags, envelopes etc.”
The Blind relief association has come up with a massage corner which is a unique concept. He adds, “Then we have a massage corner where we train visually impaired people the techniques and make them professional masseuse. This is a fund raising event so our activities are confined to this stall and the massage.”
At Muskaan school, Diwali is a peak season and a source of encouragement to create products. “Diwali is a very special occasion because our students work throughout the year for the festive season. Because we are an adult training centre so we give them training in different vocations. There are certain vocations which are purely Diwali oriented like candle-making, diya decoration, gift packs, bakery items and gift stationeries. So they work throughout the year and they keep stocking these items which have a long shelf life and they make bakery items just in time for the festive season,” said Neera Chawla, director, Muskaan.
The chaps are hardworking once they get well versed with the environment and with time their capabilities are enhanced. According to the level of intelligence and training, the mentally challenged workers proceed with the work.
“95 per cent of the work is done by them, only five per cent which goes into initial processing or finishing that is done by the team member. Their capacities have been built over the years and they have taken up the responsibilities of doing the work,” she adds. These institutions attempt to create awareness such that these people who have been marginalised get a chance at life. Not just work opportunities but acceptance.
“Their activities here in Muskaan is source of their monthly stipend and the Diwali bonus that they get. So they really work hard for that. The major thing about the products is that they create awareness in the society about the capacity of the people with intellectual disabilities. They are not burden on the society and they have capacities to make good products,” further adds Neera.
“When we had started our adult training program we had no model to follow but we were working with adults so whatever we have today is a well established model of training and that is why they are able to create items and be happy at the same time,” said Neera when asked about the model of training.
Millennium Post explored the premises of Muskaan where mentally challenged people were working with their team and creating products. “We make candles here, it is easy to make. We melt the block of candle and then put it on the mould,” said Sachin Sharma, who was chopping off the extra thread from the candles.
According to their capability they colour diyas or do some designing and with time they get better. Mridul was spotted, who was busy tying the knots of the carry bags and yet he had the energy to enthisiatically greet the visitors.
Their disability is not an issue for them to create products. They come up with quality items with simultaneously indulging in making happy memories.
“Given proper development opportunities which means proper education and training and employment early intervention and family support. So much growth can happen and one can gradually maximise the potential of the people and they become so productive and they can live a good and decent life. But it does not happen because the society has not provided these kind of opportunities. By society I mean the schools, the government, the neighbourhood, relatives and the larger community also comes in. Nobody will talk to them, nobody will understand and nobody will marry in the family with disability. Challenges are coming because of the ignorance of the society,” said Shanti Auluck, President, Muskaan.
Kailash Chandra Pandey reveals that the aim is to make them self-sufficient and training helps them because they are yet to be accepted by the society. One can say that they do not work for money, they do not indulge in worldly matters but they know what love and affection is. They have their friends there and the environment helps them to forget their problems and inconsistencies. One can actually spot happiness in their faces irrespective of the problems they have faced in their lives.
People have to know that there are special people around who are happy even after so much of compromising and marginalisation. They have friends where they work and everyday new people come and meet them, many volunteers join and enjoy with them. This awareness amongst everyone would help them gain acceptance and they will not be devoid of love.