Sujith Nambiar, Ahmedabad: The society might call them blind or visually challenged, but the students of Andh Kanya Prakash Gruh in Ahmedabad do not let their visual impairment/handicap to come in their way to living a life of dignity. The stationery workshop of the institute is buzzing with activity these days as several girls who live and study in the complex are busy making rakhis for the upcoming festival of Rakshabandhan. They sit in groups of 5-6 with the raw materials like thread, beads, and stones and work in coordination.

Smita Shah, the coordinator of the 63-year old institute tells us that the students of the institute have been making rakhis for last 20 years. These rakhis are then sold at very nominal rates compared to the exorbitant prices charged outside at shops. Fondly remembering the first order they had received, Shah says, “20 years ago, Air India had first placed an order with us for 35,000 rakhis. Our girls, who are trained in Home crafts like jewellery-making took up the task and that year, the air-hostesses of Air India tied our rakhis to wrists of every flier who travelled by their planes across the globe. Since then there’s no stopping. For the past couple of years, the advent of social media has helped us grow as more people are connecting with us and are buying rakhis made by our girls.”

The products made by the girls are purchased in batches by many institutes and organizations, with whom Shah gets in touch through social media well in advance before any social occasion or festival, by sending them pictures of the articles made by them. The orders are then dispatched through courier all across the country and foreign shores too. The rakhis being sold at the institute are nominally priced; it starts from as low as Rs 10. The demand for these rakhis has been increasing with every passing year. The institute also has a small stall near the entrance, which is always teeming with visitors and checking out buying these rakhis.

The girls are trained at the Kanchangauri Mangaldas Talim Kendra inside the campus where they are skilled in preparing stationary items like making files, home crafts like wax lamps, artificial jewellery, rakhis and home sciences like culinary skills, house-keeping. A professional physiotherapist also trains the girls in skills of massage and physiotherapy too. Shah adds that the chikkis made by the girls are quite popular during the Uttarayan season.

The girls are paid a stipend for the work they do. About 165 girls live at the institute located near Memnagar and all their expenses are borne by the trust.

Sujith Nambiar tweets @sujith17nambiar. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more.