SHUBHANGI APTE, SOCIAL WORKER
We all are, to some extent, guilty of avoiding, glossing over or turning a blind eye to the lesser fortunate ones. Not because we are bad people, but because each of us are doing our best to manoeuvre through what life throws at us or we have toughened ourselves to avoid the emotions we feel when we look at the ones who are suffering. I am not here to judge, as I am guilty of it myself.
But here is 63 year old Shubhangi Apte, from Raipur in Chhattisgarh, who on a visit to a blind school found the children spending hours playing one game. Their only form of entertainment was a dirty, weathered ball that made a noise when rolled on the floor and a bat which was actually a big wooden ladle from the kitchen. Shubhangi was extremely shocked and could not take her mind off the children. She kept asking herself “Don’t they have a right to have fun?”, “Wasn’t there any other way they could enjoy themselves?”. With determination and a powerful drive to make a difference, Shubhangi reached out to several national blind associations, blind schools and braille centres across India and collaborated with them to develop and print a book of games in braille. This was back in 2012, since then Shubhangi has distributed close to 1000 books across various schools in India including Nagpur, Kolkata, Baroda, Jaipur, Mumbai, Chennai, New Delhi, Bhopal, Jabalpur, etc. and to broaden the reach she printed them in Hindi, English and Marathi. A second edition of the book is being worked on to be distributed for free to as many blind children as possible.
It was inspiring to hear Shubhangi talk, she told me about how she doesn’t remember when she last bought a sari or ornaments for herself. She has devoted every spare penny towards developing, publishing and distributing games for blind children. And not only that, she is very active in other social work too. She distributes cloth bags in an effort to discourage the use of polythene and because it is her belief never to give empty bags to someone she fills it up with a home made sweet, or something meaningful.
Shubhangi has been interviewed by several TV channels, written about in the local newspapers, honoured for her selfless effort across various platforms, but she says that there is no bigger reward than to see the big smiles and pure joy when she gives all the blind children she meets, their childhood back!