Close your eyes! Okay, actually don’t do that. You have to read further. Imagine how challenging life would be if we couldn’t do the simplest of things, if we couldn’t read Whackk!, if we couldn’t see pictures of the grumpy cat, if we couldn’t read the newspapers. Upasana Makati – A true visionary and winner of L’Oreal Paris Femina Women Awards 2014 for Science and Innovation (Sounds Fancy, Don’t it? ) took the first steps to solving this quandary. She has started India’s first Braille English Lifestyle Magazine – White Print and I got a chance spend some time with this twenty-something old prodigy.
Rocking a gorgeous black plazo, she sat there narrating where the story began. After having graduated in BMM from Jai Hind College and pursued a course in Ottawa, Canada, she came back and took up a job in a PR company in Mumbai. She said, “One day I happened to think to myself about the number of publications that the sighted had to read and could easily name more than 50. However, if I took the same exercise for the visually impaired, there wasn’t a single name that came to my mind. This not only surprised me but left me worried.” BOOM! In walked the curiosity, the concern then came in the research and three months into it she decided to say despedida to her job and commit herself completely to this.
“So White Print is a 64-page monthly English lifestyle magazine that entails information about inspiring stories of the common man, review of audio books, gadgets, travel and hospitality and food related columns. It also comprises of information pertaining to politics (Straight from the minds of Barkha Dutt) , art and culture from across the globe. In order to add a literary angle to the magazine, it also publishes short stories by young authors every month. They recently incorporated a reader's contribution section where readers write about anything that interests them”, she says.
“White Print is a privately funded venture and we determined from the very beginning to not accept donations.” says Upasana. So in order to generate funds, they approached advertisers. Advertising till today has been a glamorous affair, the prints, colours, the models and graphics, right!? Who would fund a magazine like this and in a market that only wants to generate revenue, Why would they fund?! Ergo, began Upasana’s spree of knocking on a lot of company’s doors. This (Braille) is a new step in the field of advertising too. The Raymond Group advertised with White Print in the inaugural issue followed by the Tata’s. Taking it a step ahead, Coca-Cola India created an audio based ad. She adds, “We hope more and more companies come forward and talk to the visually impaired community directly through White Print.” (So if you are some hot-shot executive of some fancy company, please, call Ms. Makati!)
This month, the 13th edition of the magazine has been printed(White Print turns One!). A lot of the readers send WhatsApp messages, texts, emails, letters and even call to tell how White Print is their medium of entertainment, information and a companion during their leisure time. A reader’s brother messaged saying it gives her a sense of independence since she could read it herself and no one was sitting next to her to read it out to her. Upasana says that the “worth-it” feeling is when the readers tell her how happy and empowered the magazine made them feel.
She carefully removed a copy of last month’s edition of White Print and placed it in my hands. It was thick and very WHITE. The words White Print glazed on the cover in purple and at the bottom corner Rs. 30 it read. She explained how the visually impaired didn’t want it to be free and how she conducted a research to find out what cost would be appropriate. I opened the magazine to the first page and she immediately said,”Braille is read from left to right.” As if she knew what I was thinking. (She must get that a lot!) A continuous string of TINY DOTS! Even Rocket Science would probably make sense to me at that point! ‘The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend’ my brain said to me. We, The Gifted are challenged by our minds. No wonder it took us 65 years of Independence and this humble gracious lady’s gray matter to come up with a simplistic, beautiful idea like this.
So I asked her what any awe-stricken, inspired, juvenile someone would ‘What would be your advice to the future entrepreneurs?’ She said and I quote ‘Something that I have learnt in the past one year is never hesitate to try something new. Only if you try will you succeed. Most importantly if you can combine a social cause with a business idea, there’s nothing better than that. It’s only fair we give back to the society that gives us so much each day.’ (That’s all the gyan for today. Yes. I know. MIND=BLOWN)
White Print also welcomes contributions from freelance writers too. You could get in touch with Upasana Makati on [email protected]