“When bad phases set in, it’s usually a cluster of events going wrong back to back. And throughout my childhood, this was exactly the scenario especially with my dad’s lack of job stability. Now, alongside his generosity being taken advantage of by several so-called ‘friends’ ensured to plunge our family into
the depths of poverty very soon!
There were multiple days when affording three meals itself was a luxury. Our house again, barely had any space, had leaky roofs throughout, and of course, a whole bunch of lenders daily, who always barged in for their dues. But regardless of the situation at hand, my mom who was a typist was determined to never cut expenses at the cost of our education. So most of her income went into our government school fees and other essentials.
Nevertheless, life’s tests were so intense that at one point we decided to give up entirely as a family. On the verge of that breaking moment, it was again my mother who took a hopeful glance at our faces and decided to give life one final shot! And today, it’s only due to her resilience, that my family has survived to cherish better times together! Of course, things didn’t go uphill immediately; It was only after college and when my brother bagged an opportunity to go abroad that we realized the onset of good times. I still remember my mother’s face flooded with tears of joy after I also got placed on campus; She ran towards and asked me to promise to never let my hard earned financial independence slip away at any cost!
Now, with scenarios brightening up, I knew somewhere that I had to give back to the others going through a similar state at any chance! And thus started my tryst with volunteering, particularly with kids who were visually-challenged. Their lives not only proved to be a huge source of inspiration but even a reminder, sometimes, of the need to be grateful considering how worse circumstances could be. One child, for instance, was studying at a blind school during her semesters and was sent to beg during the holidays for the lack of parental care and support.
Hearing stories like these right as a teenager brought tears to my eyes and in hindsight set me on a mission to change the lives of these children with my education. And that was the starting point to ‘Softhelp’- my attempt to integrate technology to aid those who can’t see towards a comfortable life!
My social work, especially with children who were visually impaired began right at the age of 17. I still have vivid memories of using my free time to do everything that’ll help them with their education- right from bookbinding, recording lessons to even volunteering as a scribe. But regardless of my contribution, there was always a lingering curiosity and heaviness on how these kids manage without their vital senses.
Upon confrontation, I realized that all of them had one thing in common- an innate tendency to count their blessings and rather than fret over what was lost! True to the quote ‘The best things in life are free’, the girls I worked with were more excited about the fact that they could listen to songs, classes and have reliable peers and people they can interact with than crib over their blindness.
Now, this attitude literally proved to be a major eye-opener in my own life! I knew then that I wanted to use all my education to somehow make their lives better. And thus started my journey as the co-founder of ‘Softhelp Educational and Charitable Trust’ along with my friend, who’s now my husband!
Here, besides the regular food distribution drives, educational contributions, a major initiative I’m focussing on, is towards creating an app that will aid the visually challenged in aspects like navigation and facial recognition. I realized the urgent need for Artificial intelligence to be integrated with their everyday lives, only while experiencing the wrath of the pandemic.
With a little help, these folks will no longer have to rely on another person even for the smallest of things. Recognizing bus signs, traffic signals, and identifying objects without touching can actually become a possibility without any hassle! I have ambitious plans for uplifting the lifestyle of all the children I work with and I’m sure the power of technology will add immense value to the process. 14 years with these kids went by in a blink and I want to use the rest of my time to see them rise up, independently, regardless of the disability at stake!”