“Can you recognize the note that I’m about to give you?”, I asked Shailesh, who was explaining the tools that visually impaired people used to recognize currency note denominations. “Sure”, he responded, as I handed him a latest 500 Rupee note. Shailesh, who’d lost his eyesight when he was 5 years old, now works as a Software Engineer with Cisco. As he held the note close to his body, I noticed him feeling the corners and touching the note surface, so as to size it up. “This feels different – I’m not very sure – is it a 50 Rupee note?” I was shocked – “No Shailesh, this is the new 500 Rupee note!” I exclaimed. “Ah, the new ones are very challenging to read. Even the so called Braille print on the sides don’t help as they are too thin. We have written to the Government about this issue. Hope that they respond soon!”, Shailesh responded calmly, the smile on his face still remaining as serene as before.

As part of the Creative Leadership Program, the participants were provided with exposure to various social contexts. One of them – the immersion with visually impaired people to celebrate World Sight Day, organized in partnership with Enable India, was literally an ‘eye-opening’ experience. It gave the participants a chance to experience first-hand the day-to-day challenges that most of us take for granted. Thasneem Fathima, one of the participants of the program and an M.Tech student from RVCE, reflected all our sentiments well that day, when she recognized the sheer amount of patience and hard work that the visually-impaired need to live by on daily basis. She also observed how some families conveniently avoid visiting that relation’s house, who have differently abled children.

(Click on Image for gallery view)

At University of Commons, we strongly believe that the first step towards self-transformation is the ability to listen deeply into one’s community and into oneself. This reflective nature is what gives one the strength to search for purpose, clarity and creativity within themselves. This was clear to see in the project ideas that the participants finally presented.

  • Bhavana V, an IT professional, presented her vision on how creating more aspiration towards medical careers that focused on addressing and enabling differently able people would help to elevate their living standards.
  • Moved by the aged lady who he’d seen sitting outside her shanty all day, as he walked to and back from his workplace, Vishnu Maniyil, an artist and illustrator, focused on creating support systems for the aged in our communities. Through the power of art, Vishnu showcased his idea to the entire team through powerful visualizations.
  • Inspired by the power of collective vision and the need to get started, that she learnt from chatting with Mansoor at the Jayanagar DWCC, Shubha Lakshmi, a final year B.Tech student from RVCE, has already put into place steps to create an awareness drive for her locality, which would get the residents to segregate waste and avoid landfills.
  • Karthik Narayan, who is an active volunteer himself, found the shortage of blood banks in the city alarming. Having had experienced a challenge himself when a close relation went through a critical operation, Karthik felt the need to investigate the problem deeper. His research made him realize that there needs to be more impactful interventions done to increase avenues and encouragement for many more people to donate blood.

As always, we have more stories to tell than there is space in this blog. The participants have made us believe more that change-making narratives such as these are indeed the stepping stones to captivate the imagination of the curious and drive active citizenship in society. We also thank our friends at Clean City Recyclers Association (CCRA), Mantra4Change and Enable India for the insightful community immersions.

To learn more about the Creative Leadership Program or to apply for the next edition of the program, please click here.