Bhubaneswar: A simple thread with little pom-poms to ones with cute buttons, sporting little beads, and subtle zari embellishments, these handcrafted loops and knots of a sacred thread- Rakhis by 13 autistic teenagers from Bhubaneswar have started selling online.
Many people flock the markets to select Rakhis at this time of the year but the wrath of unprecedented shutdown due to the pandemic seems to have knocked off that charm.
Coping with the shutdown life in the capital city, this initiative was the brainchild of Abhaya Mohanta, Director of WE4YOU, a voluntary organisation that works towards the betterment of persons with disabilities.
“This is the first time we have stepped in selling handcrafted low-cost Rakhis. I thought of engaging autistic teenagers as I wanted people to know about their talent and simultaneously this opportunity would encourage them to eke out a living with dignity,” explained Abhaya.
“Bhubaneswar is experiencing unprecedented shutdowns. So if people are buying stuff online, including Rakhis, then they might as well buy these local handcrafted Rakhis by autistic teenagers. We are currently managing sales through WhatsApp,” he said. WE4YOU will be launching its e-commerce website ‘TheAbilityBazaar’ on August 3- the day of Raksha Bandhan, informed Abhaya.
Talking about the challenges they faced, he explained, “There are a lot of difficulties. It is a pro bono attempt that begun in the first week of July. Our volunteers are working relentlessly to ensure proper home delivery. We got help to gather our resources for Rakhis from a parents association for autistic kids. We collect the Rakhis from autistic teenagers of institutions like OLS, Chetna, and many others. Autistic teenagers who are living in their homes are also putting in efforts. Almost all of them are 15 years old. We received very few orders initially but they have begun to shoot up in the past three-four days.”
The Rakhis are in the price range of Rs 15 and Rs 60 each. The ones that have a simple design cost Rs 15 each while the threads which scream style costs around Rs 50-60 each.
“We have received 200 orders within the city. Nowadays, we have started receiving nearly 50 orders per day. We are delivering Rakhis free of cost within the city with postal charges outside the city. We have received 50-60 orders from Bengaluru, Gurugram, and Chennai too. Even as we are talking I have to despatch 250 more orders,” said Abhaya. The most ordered Rakhis are in the range of Rs 50, she added.
He believes that people should start putting faith in these indigenously made homegrown products instead of relying on Chinese products and what a better way to start than a festival which is the symbol of love and solidarity!