Imagine this – a senior artist with a Master’s Degree in Arts is extremely talented. However, all his best talent is going down the drain. Why? He ends up doing some manual job at an NGO owing to lack of opportunities for deaf artists.
Amit Vardhan is one among the sea of deaf artists in India who have immense potential but zero exchange with the mainstream creative professionals.
Enter Smriti Nagpal
Having grown up with two elder siblings who were hearing impaired, Smriti, 25, was well-aware of the challenges the deaf people have to deal with. More importantly, she understood how miserable they felt when others underestimated them.
After her chance meeting with Amit, she knew then and there that she wanted to do something to bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing communities. Her experience as an interpreter of sign language for the Hearing Impaired Morning Bulletin for the Doordarshan Network, further strengthened her mission.
And that’s how Atulyakala was born in 2013.
Atulyakala is a creative space which celebrates, explores, and represents deaf art culture in India, fostering interesting collaborations with mainstream art, simultaneously exploring the creative aspect of the language of signs. Since Atulyakala’s inception in February 2013, the organization has been working on creating a wide array of fun and colourful products representing India and its varied culture created by the deaf artists, thereby helping create a better world for their community.
Ups and Downs in Atulyakala’s Path to Success
They want to challenge the status quo. They want to create a buzz and they are extremely passionate about what they do. But, aren’t we all too familiar with the financial constraints a young organization has to deal with?
Moreover, one needs to get at the root of the problem in order to provide an apt solution. Atulyakala aims to do just that. The prospects for Deaf people in India are not that great. India lacks the basic infrastructure and consciousness to accommodate the voices of Deaf people. It has been estimated that only 5% of children who are deaf attended any special educational programme. This educational gap is further exacerbated by the fact that there are few teachers in Deaf schools who are full signers.
How does one progress in a scenario like this?
Atulyakala has, therefore, been working on creating awareness about the Indian Sign Language in India by means of conducting seminars in various universities. Most importantly, the organization now wants to set up a proper space which will enable them to train and provide new skills to deaf students. They want to start with 70-80 students at first. The barriers are, indeed, huge for disabled people. Smriti, through Atulyakala, wants to eliminate these barriers, which will help them work in a safer and enriching environment.
What Makes Smriti So Driven
“It’s our duty to give something back to the community. This will give you so much happiness that you cannot imagine. To do that you don’t have to be a social entrepreneur, you can simply do small things for people and society every day,” Smriti said in one of her interviews.
The 25-year-old’s phenomenal work also got her positioned in BBC’s inspirational women list, 2015.
How You Can Help
Just because they are deaf doesn’t mean they should give up. You can play a prominent role in their lives. You can help the deaf community learn, explore, and excel together. Your contribution will not only help them illustrate their creativity, skills, but also help support themselves financially. Any funds raised will be used to set up a proper training space for the deaf students.