Children have an unwritten birthright to listen to stories that make up their own imaginary world. Even with their eyes shut, they can visualise a magical world that most of us have lost touch with. This is the firm belief that led former digital marketeer Ajay Gupta to launch ‘The Kahani Project’ — an online portal that records and reads out stories to visually challenged children.
“As a digital marketer in my previous job I had the chance to interact with the visually impaired. These encounters made me realise that they had only Braille to rely on for all their stories. And Braille is not that widely available. So, I decided to experiment with software,” says Gupta.
Launched on Children’s Day in 2012, The Kahani Project is a website where anyone can come and contribute their narration of any story. “If you have a computer that has an in-built microphone, you can tell a story. All you have to do is record and upload it on the site.” Once the stories have been uploaded, they are checked for sound clarity before being published. As of date, the site has about 40 published stories in English, Marathi, Bengali and Hindi while 20 more are being uploaded.
Aditi Kumari was among the first few volunteers of the project. “When I learnt that my voice could go across to visually impaired kids and make them happy, I didn’t think twice,” she says. But as a regular office goer, she wondered how she would find time to record a story. “After I finally recorded my story, I called home and spoke to my grandmother to tell her that the story she had shared with me 20 years ago had just been shared with numerous children across India via the Internet.”
To spread awareness about the project and take it a step further, Gupta has tied up with two blind schools in Pune, “One is an all-boys school — The Poona School and Home for the Blind Trust, where we have already conducted five sessions with the kids. The other is a girl’s school — The Poona School and Home for Blind Girls, where we’ve just started,” he explains. During sessions, the children listen to the stories from the site. And at the end, they are given a chance to record their own stories, too.
Ashok Pakhare, who works with The Poona School and Home for the Blind Trust as a full-time quality enhancer told us, “The kids were thrilled to record their own stories. They gained tremendous confidence when they realised they could do things on their own. Also, after a regular session, all kids love to summarise the story they just heard.”
But, the final goal of this project is a much bigger one. “I want to develop a technique where these kids don’t have to depend on anyone when they want to listen to a story. If they have Mp3 players and are taught how to download stories off the site, they’ll be in a position to listen to a story as and when they want,” explains Gupta.
In a few years, Gupta hopes the project will become self-sufficient. “Every project is successful only when it becomes independent. We plan to develop The Kahani Project Apps that will be downloadable for a basic fee. This fee will then be used to enhance the project.”
To contribute to The Kahani Project, log on to www.thekahaniproject.com