Upasana Makati who pioneered White Print, said to be the country’s first lifestyle Braille magazine in English
Anushka (28) always knew what it felt like to hold a magazine in her hands, but never had the opportunity to read one. Being visually-challenged, she was accustomed to someone reading aloud to her, but she longed to experience the joy of reading. Now, she can. As she flips through the pages of White Print, said to be India's first English lifestyle magazine in Braille, there's a sense of accomplishment on her face. Like Anushka, numerous others with visual impairment are thankful to Upasana Makati who came up with White Print.
"I studied journalism and got a job in a PR company. I wasn't satisfied with what I was doing and decided to start something new. I couldn't recall any newsletter or magazine that was being published specifically for the visually-challenged. After doing some research I found that they were eagerly waiting for a newsletter that they could read on their own. That's how we started White Print," says 24-year-old Upasana.
The magazine covers topics such as food, politics, music and gadget reviews. Besides a political column by Barkha Dutt, “our readers really enjoy the success stories we publish, which they feel are inspiring. They love the short stories and interviews too," says Upasana. There are also sections that encourage feedback from readers. A team of six works on the project, apart from freelancers.
The 64-page magazine is priced at Rs. 30 and has been receiving subscription orders from all over the country. "We initially thought of free circulation, but then one of our readers told us, 'We are done with people’s sympathy. We work and earn an income, we can definitely pay Rs. 300 or so a year," says Upasana, who works with the National Association of the Blind in Mumbai to convert text into Braille.
White Print is text heavy and doesn't have pictures. Even the advertisements are in the form of text. "Since advertisements are all about colour, image and grandeur, it's difficult to convince sponsors to give an ad in a Braille magazine. Raymond was the first to place an ad with us,” says the young entrepreneur. Another problem she faces is reaching the magazine to subscribers in small towns and villages. "Since these areas can be accessed only by registered post, it takes a while for readers to receive their copies. Some of them become restless and we are flooded with anxious calls,” she says, adding that it's good to know that people can’t wait to get their copy.
While White Print came into existence earlier this year, Reliance Drishti, a fortnightly Hindi newspaper in Braille, has been in production since March 2012. Funded by Reliance Foundation, this newspaper was started by Swagat Thorat, a former journalist, who in 2008 launched Sparshdnyan, a Marathi newspaper, widely circulated in Maharashtra.
“We publish around 900 copies of Reliance Drishti fortnightly, which are gifted to organisations for the visually-challenged. Every copy is read by at least 80 people,” says Thorat.
Reliance Drishti is available throughout the country and Thorat soon plans to bring it out in the regional languages as well. It enjoys a sizeable readership abroad and is currently being sent to 18 countries.
“Our newspaper has content that you and I like to read every morning. We want to acquaint our readers with current issues. Our content is diverse and includes politics, sports, science and technology, music, movies and food. We don’t want to restrict ourselves to issues that concern the visually-challenged,” says Thorat.
When he launched Sparshdnyan five years ago, Thorat invested more than Rs. 4,00,000 in a Braille printing machine and renting an office space in Mumbai. The Reliance Drishti and Sparshdnyan team is the same and has six members.
With the demand for such newspapers on the rise Thorat says, “I dream of a day when the visually-challenged get their own daily. I hope one of the media houses comes forward to launch one, if not I hope to start one in a few years.”