The Blind Relief Association’s Diwali Bazaar at Golf Links, which began on November 3 and will run until November 9, features a wide range of products and services skilfully crafted by visually impaired and blind people. There were five stalls run by blind persons coming from diverse backgrounds. They offered services such as relaxation massage and products like candles, diyas, soaps, and cloth merchandise. There was also a cafe run solely by blind persons.
Bittu Kumar Verma, 24, who wants to become a businessman in the future, opened his stall of soap products for the first time in the festival. His start-up, Rangat, offers multi-scented soaps made by blind people. The start-up became operational in October, with the help of the NGO The Blind Relief Association and three other partners.
“We were given proper training here at the NGO on multiple things such as English language, computer skills, stitching and soap-making. I realised that soap was a product of regular use and wanted to start a company for the same. I started with the help of three other people,” says Verman, who hails from Ara district in Bihar.
Verma wanted to become a businessman from an early age and said that the training and support of the NGO has empowered him to realise his dream.
“As blind people, we cannot reverse what has already been given to us. What we can do is change how we see our future, with proper training and realising our potential. This is what I am doing right now,” he adds.
The Bazaar, which started in 1980 as a small venture to help fund the NGO, has become a cherished tradition over the years. Commonly called the “Blind School Diwali Mela”, it has progressively grown over the years into one of the biggest festive shopping events in Delhi during Diwali.
Presently, it houses about 45 stalls, the commission of which will help fund the operations of the NGO. There is also a hall dedicated to other NGOs that promote social change.
The NGO offers computer training, vocational training, relaxation massage training, and multi-skill training to empower visually-impaired and blind people across the country. It also offers placement to people who have completed the training there, apart from other services such as health care, computerised Braille printing, and hostel facilities.
In the stitching section, a group of people are busy stitching cloth bags that will be sold in the Bazaar. Sadhana Devi, 19, who hails from Uttar Pradesh’s Koshambi district, says that she feels empowered to be a part of the programme.
“I love it here. We are learning many things here but what I love is stitching. It is often thought that only people with sight can stitch but I am glad that we are challenging this notion. There are some difficulties but I am glad that we are trained in such a way that those don’t hold us back,” says Sadhana, who lives in a hostel of the NGO.
The products that people are making with clothes include ring bags, laptop bags, sling bags, tote bags, shoes bags, jute bags, and scrunchies.
The Bazaar provides exposure to the visually impaired masseurs trained at the Association to demonstrate their skills. The tired visitors can enjoy soothing head, shoulder and foot massage at reasonable cost.
Cafe Mast, an initiative by the NGO operated by the trainees, offers a wide range of services all run by blind people. Two people of the initiative have also been hired by Echoes Cafe in Saket.
Aman Mahant, a resident of Chhattisgarh, says that he has learnt almost everything to run a small cafe.
“We have learnt everything, from making burgers to baking. So, there are a lot of things that we have learnt here,” says Aman, who wants to complete his education and is currently in 10th standard.
Aman was previously learning music at a local school in Laxmi Nagar but says that he wants to do something with his computer skills.
The cafe offers a variety of hot and cold beverages, besides burgers, toast, cookies, and muffins.
Among other products were candles, diyas, and paper products, all made by blind and visually-impaired trainees.
Pankaj Kumar and Vaishnavi are meticulously working on a file made of paper. The section makes paper products such as files, envelopes, paper bags, and boxes.
“I am in 12th standard and have learnt relaxation massage here in the last three months. Currently, I am working on paper products and I enjoy it a lot. I want to become a government employee and I am planning to apply for it,” says Pankaj Kumar.
The NGO has been working with visual disabilities since 1945. It has expanded over the years and was awarded ‘Best Institution working for the Cause of Persons with Disabilities’ in 2012 by the Government of India.