In the last few weeks, I have been suffering from a ‘writers block’…haven’t been able to finish a post, leaving a few drafts in my dashboard. They say that when you are out of form or out of inspiration, always go back to basics and that what I am doing with this post. I am going to write about Vellore, one of the stops I did during the making of ‘Small Stories’; experiences which also led to this blog.
I didn’t want it to end. I couldn’t believe as I got off the train at Vellore, that this was the last stop during my journey across India, a journey where I met hundreds of people who selflessly made sure that I was comfortable, saw numerous projects that made smile or cry, experienced the wonderful world of Round Table in India. If this could go on and on…I thought while I waited for my hosts.
Like any other city, my hosts made me feel at home immediately and gave me a quick tour of the city. The next morning I visited their project which was called ‘Workshop for Physically Handicapped Women’. Vellore Round Table 23 was one of the first few tables to have their own Trust and over the years, have successfully carried it forward. They chose to work with physically handicapped women and in 1974, and with a small capital of Rs 6000, made a workshop for them to come and work. The women were trained in light engineering jobs like buffing, filling and drilling of plastic and metal components. This little workshop gradually become an important employer of handicapped women and the number of employees has risen from 8 in 1974 to over a 100 today. The workshop also deals with sophisticated and High-Tech jobs of assembly of automobile switches, which are used as original equipments in the automobile industry. The workshop itself has been transformed from a ‘hired’ shed to two fully functional work sheds, owned by the Trust. It has been a long and a successful journey.
This success was due to constant fundraising of the tablers as well as the unstinted effort of the ladies who worked hard and provided with quality controlled products. In return, the employees are provided with all the benefits as per Government norms, which include Provident Fund, Bonus, Free Uniforms, LIC Policy, etc. The commitment of Vellore Round Table 23 is such that the project has received numerous awards- Best Project, Round Table India (1974), National award for the Best Employer of Handicapped People from the Government of India (1992), State Award for the Best Employer of Handicapped People, Government of Tamil Nadu (1993) and the Peacock Award for the project from Round Table India (1975, 1994).
Last but not the least, the dream for Vellore Round Table 23 was to provide a home for every worker, which would be built to cater to the special requirements of the handicapped. In 1995, the Government of Tamil Nadu helped in realizing this dream and gave land that could accommodate 43 houses. This land was registered in individual names of the workers. This dream was slowly realized.
Vellore Ladies Circle- 41 also contributes in many other ways. They provide for the uniforms and sarees to the ladies at the center. They also supported the education of Mr. Vishnukanth, who pursued a B.E. Degree in Chennai.
This is one of the many ‘Small Stories’ that I saw during my 6 months of travel. It is inspiring to see the dedication and consistency of this project and how, over decades, they saw their dreams take shape. There is a lot of learning here for numerous tables in the world!