Theatre For The Visually Impaired: A 21 Year Old’s Unique Initiative Is Lighting Up Lives

Posted on September 18, 2014 in Disability Rights, Specials, Taboos

By Sagar Vishnoi:

They say that if someone has passion, dedication and the will power, then they will overcome all obstacles and reach their ultimate goal. I would like to introduce you to such an amazing individual: Sandeep Rawat, a student of Delhi University, at the mere age of 21, has found his passion and drive to make a difference. Sandeep’s passion for theatre has allowed him to give back to his community, by teaching the unique art of drama to visually impaired students. Not only are these students learning the tricks of preforming live theatre, they are also bringing color and light to their otherwise somber world. Here is the conversation and discussion that we were able to have with Sandeep Rawat, on this unique experiment:

Performance at Gargi college
Performance at Gargi college

1. When did you first think about the idea of Samarth? And once contemplated, when did you actually get the wheels in motion for such a unique movement?

It started about two years back, when I first came into contact with these visually impaired children. At that time, the concept was not so solid, as I was just a part of these children’s lives as a good friend to them. Gradually, I realized that I could combine both of my passions – theatre and these children. Indeed, the road was very difficult in the beginning. I wrote the play, I changed the way I worked, adapted different techniques, and worked with the children to help them improve. I was hesitant to involve anyone else with this project in the beginning; I wanted to be able to prove to myself that I can accomplish what I have dreamed of. Should be confident in myself before I involve others? Then came the deciding day, and the children’s first attempt was an amazing success. I was able to find both the inspiration and the confidence I needed to give birth to the idea of “Samarth”. Starting from January 2014, we dived heads on and started working even harder and involving other people. In the beginning, the children won at Hindu College, St. Stephens College, and Gargi College that created a great beginning. However, the most defining moment was when they won the first place at IIT Roorkee’s street play competition. It was a moment of pride and accomplishment, which ultimately gave them the confidence boost to continue their journey with Samarth.

2. What are some of the current difficulties you are facing with Samarth? In response, what have been some of your actions to overcome these difficulties?

I think one of the biggest difficulties that we are currently facing is connecting with the children. Working with visually impaired children is definitely a very difficult task, and requires the help of multiple individuals. Working alone on such a project is not only strenuous but is very much near to impossible. However, if there is a will then there is a way. Gradually, I started reaching out on social platforms. I became an active member of Facebook, where I was reaching to the community to get more people involved. Soon, my efforts started to pay off and there were people that were joining themselves to the cause.

Performance at equal opportunity cell
Performance at equal opportunity cell

3. What do you think has been the impact of your work?

The effect for me is not as important, the effect my work is having on the children is by far the most important thing. The changes that I am able to see in the children are amazing. We can observe and see the self-esteem boost, their ability to showcase their talents to others, and most of all, the children are able to test their potential and challenge themselves. In the end, I am able to see them embody the true spirit of our organization, which is to make them truly “able”.

4. Sandeep what has been the most memorable moment for you?

I am proud to see these children on stage every day, choosing or picking one day will be really difficult. It is especially very difficult since I am very closely attached to these children not just through Samarth, but emotionally as well. I would like to mention one specific moment, that would be the day that they won first place at IIT Roorkee. There are two things to note down in this particular victory of the children. First, the children had only been involved in theatre plays until that moment. Taking a step into street theatre was a different experience for them, and they were able to test their boundaries. Second, we received many cautionary statements; such as how will you be able to compete in street theatre with such a handicap. It was a proud moment that we were able to fight against this social taboo and came out victorious. That day, each individual that clapped for them had respect for these children.

Performance at IIT Roorkee
Performance at IIT Roorkee

5. What is the one thing that you are the most passionate about, and how do you satisfy your passion?

Having a background of theatre, I would say that I am the most passionate about the preforming arts. It is my goal to get more people involved in preforming arts, and to explore and expand the horizon of what we perceive theatre to be today. One of the few efforts that I have taken is to create a new way to teach theatre to my blind students. Not only did this benefit the children, but it also added new possibilities to the modern concept of what theatre can be defined as. In the future, there is always much room for improvement.

6. What inspires you the most?

My inspiration is the effort to teach such children, who are visually impaired, all forms of arts, whether it is singing, dancing, or painting. The idea of expanding their opportunities to learn and hone their talent is by far the most inspiring aspect for me.

7. Despite being absorbed in your work, are you able to inspire others?

For the work that I am currently conducting, I need the concept of a brand or logo, to pass on the idea to others so it may become a movement. I make active efforts to reach out through different social media platforms. This has allowed many individuals to step forward and volunteer at our organization. I also work closely with them so that we can inspire their efforts to go beyond how they are volunteering as of now.

Group Activity
Group Activity

 

8. How is your initiative different from other movements?

It would be incorrect for me to say that the visions of our movement is entirely different from others. I have just found a possible path that will help us ultimately achieve our vision, that we have for Samarth. I have been working on possible solutions, and will keep working in the future. The work I am doing is not for myself, it is for these children that I work with each day. Is the self-esteem and confidence of these children taking a turn for the better? Is their talent receiving the ideal platform for everyone to see? Ultimately, are these children happy and smiling? If yes, then I can say that my opinion is creating that difference from other movements.

9. Finally, in a few words can you please describe “Able” and “Blindness”, and make a final statement.

What is blindness?

Those who cannot see, or those who choose not to see?

The word ‘blind’ makes people look at these children in a different light. These people need our support and motivation, but more than that, they need ample opportunities. We should talk about opportunities for these children on public forums. However, our society is very interested in asking useless questions and making equally useless statements. We spend countless hours talking about support, but they never needed support, only opportunities to prove themselves. We, as a society, need to change our approach to those who are visually impaired. Rather than asking our society about how should we support these children, we should be asking – who are these people? What do they do in their spare time? How do they go about their daily tasks? We should try to become a part of their lives, and understand the true difficulties that they face. Perhaps, by understanding their lives better, we will be able to shed light on the blindness we have, as a society, on our approach to those who are visually impaired. That is when we will be able to make them a truly “able” part of  the society.

Check their Facebook page learn more about Samarth.

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