Disability magazine The Voice hopes to start publishing again
In March 1986, a 37-year-old Senior Occupational Therapist’s life changed forever when intruders fired at him in his house, which they had come to loot. For challenging them, Rajinder Johar got a bullet in his chest, but the real damage was done by another to his spine leaving him paralysed from the neck downwards.
He remained deeply depressed for six years before deciding to do something for people like him. Thus was formed The Voice, which in 1992 was one of India's few magazines on disability. Compared to previous writing on disability, which used to be heavily academic, “this,” he recalls, “was in simple English and had wide appeal.”
After 20 years of publication, The Voice was discontinued. “We plan to restart it soon,” Mr. Johar assures. Currently, a tabloid sized 8-page bulletin called The Fodder comes out thrice annually and has been well received. It contains news, snippets, cartoons, jokes and in-house developments of his organisation, The Family of Disabled (FOD).
For the paralysed Mr Johar, writing was very difficult. His elder brother Surinder stepped in and designed a special pen that he attached to the wrist to make it more comfortable.
Anxious disabled people and those with disabled wards now flock to Mr. Johar, who is always ready to lend a shoulder, and they have become the centre of FOD’s activities.
Short of funds, FOD began selling New Year cards, which they continued while the market lasted. Presently the chief source of income is donations from individuals, corporate and charitable trusts.
“In 2001, we started ‘Beyond Limits’, a show of disabled folks’ artworks with just about a dozen people, which has now grown by more than three times,” says a proud Mr Johar. His daughter and COO Preeti, says that sales have gone up significantly too. From having difficulties in finding disabled artists more than a decade back, today their plate is full, she says adding that artist Arpana Caur has always allowed her gallery’s use free for FOD.
Aware of the agony of unemployment among the disabled, Mr Johar started the Apna Rozgar Yojana in 1998 to provide micro grants to the marginalised to initialize small trade. So far an astonishing 655 people have availed this service, and be it to start a paan shop or some other enterprise.
After FOD was recently featured on Satyamev Jayate, Aamir Khan's hit television show, the public donated Rs 88 lakhs towards the building of a vocational centre, for which the land has already been bought. The Reliance Foundation, which sponsored the show, matched the amount. Mr Johar said that even a one rupee donation came in! He plans to start classes in computer education, cooking, tailoring and cutting at the proposed centre. “We will try for more features like R&D later. Money is very important,” he says. The Ministry of Women & Child Development recently awarded him Rs One lakh.
Mr Johar’s son is an awarded documentary filmmaker while his daughter is devotedly helping steer FOD with her livewire father. Together they hope to restart their first effort – The Voice.