Sense International

No preparation seems enough for the social documentaries I work on. On most days, I see what lies before me through the lens of my camera: a little detached (if that is the correct expression) and not getting enough time to reflect. Usually, it sort of sinks in when I am back home – poring over the images. But when I returned from a recent shoot for Sense International – a non profit working for, supporting and advocating a better life for deaf-blind children and adults – I longed to go back and spend an afternoon with Sneha – to smell the roses, feel the pebbles beneath my feet, and marvel at her life-like-no-other.

Can I say that for a brief moment, I ‘peeped’ into her world? A world unseen and not spoken of. The world of Sneha, who considers, walking from her room to the entrance of the orphanage, an adventure – acknowledged with a shy grin. Her eagerness to learn is palpable, as she gingerly places her fingers on her teacher’s throat, sensing the vibrations which distinguish one sound from another. This is a world where a nice perfume is all you may need to belong. To be Sneha’s friend.

Reproduced here are some of the images through which I’ve tried to capture what I experienced, for you. I have to thank all the specialists and staff of the Kottayam Social Service Society (Sense International India’s local partners), including Jesse, Sally, Sheeba and Sister Lucy. They, along with so many others, lead a life less ordinary to imagine and create beautiful worlds for Sneha and her friends.

All images are subject to copyright and cannot be reproduced.

It has been a year since Jesse started care sessions with Sneha. The improvements have been dramatic to say the least. Sneha’s behaviour was violent and she had an extremely cocooned existence

Jesse helping Sneha identify the smell and touch of a flower

Jesse helping Sneha identify the smell and touch of a flower

Jesse's dedication has changed Sneha's life. Today she is able to walk independently

Jesse’s dedication has changed Sneha’s life. Today she is able to walk independently

Sivalakshmi in a session at the learning center. Any adult or child with a combination of partial or full deafness and blindness is known as deafblind

Sivalakshmi in a session at the learning center. Any adult or child with a combination of partial or full deafness and blindness is known as deafblind

Sally (left) from KSSS in a session at the learning center.

Sally (left) from KSSS in a session at the learning center.

Sally uses a doll to help Sivalakshmi learn and identify body parts

Sally uses a doll to help Sivalakshmi learn and identify body parts

Sister Lucy teaching Vishnu how to play drums

Sister Lucy teaching Vishnu how to play drums

Sally with Arya during a session at the sensory park in the learning center. The sensory park was inaugurated on Helen Keller Day this year.

Sally with Arya during a session at the sensory park in the learning center. The sensory park was inaugurated on Helen Keller Day this year.

Sheeba helps Arya balance herself on a ball

Sheeba helps Arya balance herself on a ball

1-36 - Shiji Joseph cooking in her family's kitchen. She is also undergoing vocational training at the community based rehabilitation center - Agape Bhavan - run by KSSS

Shiji Joseph, learnt cooking during KSSS’ vocational training. She now cooks daily and supplies to the night food stall run by her brother. Shiji (extreme left) with her family

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