The Optimist Citizen

Making KAHANIS available to the Visually Impaired just through a Website


Panchatantra, Akbar Birbal, Malgudi Days – These are stories without which a childhood is unimaginable. Nights spent on the cozy beds reading your favorite bedtime stories or your grandparents narrating those for you in the most thrilling fashion. Ah… It used to be fun! Now imagine a scenario where all these beautiful visuals become just plain paper for you. The words seem to sink away in the depths of darkness. This might sound horrifying but this situation is faced by thousands across the globe who are visually impaired. Should they spend a childhood without the bliss of stories?

While attending a workshop in Singapore, the same thought crossed the mind of Ajay. In the workshop he performed numerous tasks in a dark room with 15 people. The tasks which seemed simple at first proved to be incomprehensibly daunting. What left them amazed at the end was the fact that the facilitators of the program were all visually impaired and yet performed every task smoothly. This taught him something. He understood that our body is so habituated of using just one faculty of sense- vision, that it has forgotten the presence of the other faculties which are equally important. That darkness inside that room illuminated an idea in Ajay’s mind. One fine day, he found himself reading out stories to the visually impaired kids of a nearby NGO ‘The Doorstep’ and to some kids residing at a nearby construction site. The appeal of a Kahani struck Ajay and that’s how ‘The Kahani Project’ was born.  A group of friends with an idea of recording audio stories and crowdsourcing them on an open platform. Completely ‘not for profit’, the project is run by an active network of volunteers all throughout the country, recording and uploading stories just with their laptops and headphones.

The project comprises of Story Sessions conducted by volunteers in different blind schools, government schools, areas in the outskirts of the city like a construction site and a website which is an open source database containing 500 stories made accessible worldwide. ‘The Kahani Project’ also organizes story telling workshops called ‘storythons’, in which people participate in huge numbers and record stories. Fairy tales, fables, myths, legends and short stories narrated in 10 different languages, touch the lives of thousands of children, especially the differently abled and underprivileged kids. The gleaming faces of those children and ecstatic uproar become a story in itself for the storytellers. One they can cherish forever.

“What gives me immense pleasure is to see those kids enjoying, laughing and rolling on the ground while I have these story sessions with them. For us, that is Kahani Project’s success and that is immeasurable”, joyfully expresses Ajay Dasgupta. With 500 stories already uploaded and accessed by listeners across 70 countries, the project aims to reach a stage where every child spends a complete childhood brimming with thought provoking stories that can shape their outlook towards the world. Ajay mentions, “As hygiene and good health is important, so is the role of a story in every child’s life”, for what subtly inculcates the values of life in a child, what lays the foundation of a child’s personality- a story, a ‘Kahani’ it is.

Story by : Piyuli Ghosh

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