Monday, June 08, 2009

Sight and Vision are so very different...

It is not often that we come across a personality who, after a brief interaction, impresses and affects your life in a profound manner. I had one such encounter yesterday (07th June, 2009) when I met Sabriye Tenberken ( . I met her at the Radio Play hosted by the International Institute of Social Entrepreneurship (IISE) for which I got an invitation since I am part of the radio business .

When Mr. Rajesh, the manager of the institute, sent me an invitation, I did not know anything about this. I thought it was a function at a blind school discussing the importance of radio for the visually impaired. Also, I like volunteering and hence thought it would be a chance for me to get involved. So with these thoughts in mind I traveled to the location of the institute. The road to the institute was a winding one, full of twists and turns and roads leading left and right. The more I traveled the more I was convinced that it was a blind school for children with visual impairment.

I could not have been more wrong. The gates opened onto a sprawling 2.5 acre campus which had a total of 5 buildings overlooking a the serene waters of the Vellayani Lake. All the buildings are state-of-the-art and completely eco friendly. The campus can house a total of 45 students who are given training for an entire year during which they learn the nuances of running a business and becoming independent for life.

And all this was possible due to the hard work and determination of one woman. She is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a recipient of the Mother Theresa Award, and TV host Oprah Winfrey’s choice of “Eight Women Oprah wants you to know”. Her vision is to remove the taboos that are associated with any sort of handicap. She believes, and rightly so, that each of us are capable of changing the world and making it a better place to be in one small step at a time. The institute shouts its mission statement in everything it does “Do you have to have vision to be a visionary?” and it proves with equal fervor that vision need not be a hindrance to human development in any way!

Not only the IISE, but she has also built schools in Tibet, where she also helped to develop Braille script in the Tibetan language. This was in 1992 made the official Braille script for the nation. Apart from this she also swims, opens schools, learns new languages, uses a laptop, rides horses and also climbed upto the base camp of Mount Everest. So, what’s so great in doing all this? Nothing, except that she has been completely blind since the age of 12 due to a retinal disease!!

The passion with which she spoke to the audience… the passion with which she interacted with each and every one of the guests present yesterday… the passion with which she carries the light of her vision aloft… it is something that needs to be seen and experienced.

So, how were the Radio Plays that I had gone to listen to in the first place? They were OUTSTANDING!!! I listened in awe as the 5 plays filled the room with emotions and zeal. They were very proffesionalyy done by teams of 4 visually impaired participants. Over a 7 week period, they mastered the techniques of story, scripting, casting, recording, editing etc. And came out with works of art that truly deserve a larger audience. The topics selected were relevant and heatfelt. The execution was proffesional and the final outcome were 5 plays that the institute can be truely proud of. I felt humbled by the creativity shown by the participants. Each of the plays was better than the other in one aspect or the other. And it was so wonderful seeing the smiles on the faces of each of the participants... the happiness in what they were able to achieve in the short span of time alloted.

The world really needs more visionaries like Sabriye. And I wish her all the very best and heartfelt prayers in all the endeavors that she takes up.

(Please go thru the link, you will be as impressed as I was)

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