MitraJyothi – 31st Annual Day Celebrations
Experience shared by a supporter – Ms. Supriya Waikar!!! “Kannallikanasu…..”(Kannada song that loosely translated means “in my eye”) sang a spirited young girl with her melodious voice. Decked up in a sari for the occasion, she quickly moved on from initial nervousness on stage & sang with gusto as the audience clapped her on. Her name was Nethra (Eye). As I wondered about the irony - that the very thing she was named after was her one debility, the audience – her friends, fellow students sang along with her.That her vision was impaired didn’t stop her from giving a fabulous performance! Nethra was one of the beneficiaries of the MitraJyothi “ Computer Training” program.
It was the 31st Annual Day of Mitra Jyothi. Established in 1990 by Madhuji, with a mission to inspire & enable visually impaired individuals to lead independent & dignified lives, Mitra Jyothi continues its inspiring journey. There were several visually impaired beneficiaries who had joined the Mitra Jyothi staff, board members & volunteers to celebrate 31 years of Mitra Jyothi&rsquo's journey.
The auditorium was decked up for the celebration with flowers adorning the tall brass lamp on one side of the stage while the Emcee stood on the other side with mike. Not only was the atmosphere fragrant, but it was filled with the energy and positivity of all the people gathered there. One could easily have mistaken it for a college gathering with the wonderful performances onstage & more importantly, the camaraderie offstage in the audience with a lot of smiles, friends trying to sit together, cheering for their friends performing on stage, recording the proceedings on their mobile devices.
Sujatha was facilitated for her brilliant performance in PUC that secured her a whopping 94%! She attributed her success to Mitra Jyothi. Other visually impaired students who had done well were also facilitated.
Harsha who is currently learning Java after having completed his degree (BCA) inspired us with his perseverance & dedication. He had to prove his computer skills to obtain the Java training material for the differently-abled. It was indeed humbling to hear of his journey that led him to be employed as part of a ‘ Accessibility testing’ program at ‘ TEK Systems’ & how he continues to learn despite the challenges.
True to its mission, Mitra Jyothi managed to conduct several programs for the visually impaired in the last few months despite the pandemic. A computer literacy program was conducted for the visually impaired. Students who cleared the test at the end of the training program were awarded certificates. As the students were called on stage to award the certificates, it was pure joy to see the pride on their parents’ & friends’ faces.
One of the parents of the students spoke a few words about her son Kiran’ aspirations to build a better life for himself and support his mother. Hailing from a small town in Karnataka, he had managed to figure out that Mitra Jyothi can help him in his endeavors & had come to Bangalore & enrolled in the computer course. She swelled with pride as her son received the certificate. On an emotional note, she hailed organizations like Mitra Jyothi that enable her son’s dreams to come true, one step at a time.
His noble intentions are indeed ideal & would inspire today’s entitled youth.
In an endeavor to enable students to lead independent lives, Mitra Jyothi conducts ‘Mobility programs’. Visually impaired individuals are taught techniques to walk on the road, navigate through traffic. On the occasion of the Annual Day, ’ Smart canes’ were distributed to the individuals who had successfully completed the Mobility program. The students regaled the audience with anecdotes of how they were motivated to continue the arduous program with the promise of bajji once they reached the other side of the road. It was heartening how the Mitra Jyothi staff egged on the individuals with various support & motivation techniques.
Meritorious & deserving students interested in higher education were happy to receive DAISY players. Digital Accessible Information System, or DAISY, is a standard for digital talking books in an accessible audio format. The DAISY player allows the visually impaired students to easily navigate to a particular page or chapter & listen to the content of books that support the format, or to read documents in a folder or off a USB drive. A pocket-sized device, it also has a recording feature that allows students to record lectures in class. Talking books – such a great boon for the visually challenged were made available to deserving students thanks to Mitra Jyothi.
The Emcees regaled the audience with jokes, managed the whole show with wit & aplomb, never letting visual impairment come in the way.
There was a beautiful dance performance by Anneyamma who had the entire audience tapping with their feet to the beats as she gracefully moved to the tune. Some of the Mitra Jyothi beneficiaries shared their experiences. Their choice of words, Basavanna& Sarvagna&rsquo's quotes & eloquence inspired the listeners. Wonderfully articulated anecdotes galvanized the audience. One of them shared his moving story – about being able to travel independently not only in a town but across Karnataka since last year. His family’s pride that he longer needed someone to escort him around was priceless. Simple things like crossing roads or being able to travel alone that most of us take for granted are such challenges for the visually impaired. His words enlightened me further on the hardships the differently-abled face in our society, & at the same time encouraging others. Several students who were part of the residential program at Mitra Jyothi expressed the positive impact it had on them. While few of them reminisced about the delicious food prepared by the Mitra Jyothi in-house chef Krishna others expressed their gratitude to the staff& called them out fondly. A few mentioned how they ended up asking the same questions over & over to the lab teacher Mr. Mansoor who helped them with computers& patiently clarified their queries. Mansoor had met with an accident that led to his loss of vision but did not deter. He took it upon himself to help other visually impaired individuals - he provides computer training to the students as part of Mitra Jyothi&rsquo's computer course. It was apparent that Mansoor was a huge inspiration to the students who not only looked up to him for technical help but also advice on other topics. Many of them mentioned Sathiya& Madhuji for providing them this forum & unconditional support.
A keyboard recital by Rohan followed next which swayed all the audience members. And last but not the least, the energetic duo -Satish & Tanushreeperformed mimicry of popular artists & politicians and had the audience in splits. Tanushree&rsquo's imitation of an old granny had the audience giggling. Their sense of humour& skills left us all spellbound
Considering that the world celebrated Women&rsquo's day recently & with all the focus on women empowerment, it was heartening to note the healthy ratio of the male & female students. There were several females who had stepped out of their homes in small towns and villages thanks to the efforts of Mitra Jyothi
After the finale & Vote of thanks, the students clamored to get a group pic taken with Sathiya& Madhuji& rest of the staff. It reminded me of a typical college gathering with decked-up students, happy to be together, making memories while looking forward to what life has in store for them next.
All through the performances & events, there was gaiety & stimulating talk. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the august celebrations & get a glimpse of the impact being made by Mitra Jyothi&rsquo's endeavors. May Madhuji&rsquo's vision light an inspiration amongst us all to better support the differently-abled in our society & here is hoping that Mitra Jyothi&rsquo's journey continues on for years to come.