As many as 27 visually impaired children helped drivers navigate through city roads using a map in Braille as part of 'Blind navigates - You Drive,' a car rally organised by the Institute of Blind in Sector 26, here on Sunday.
The unique rally was added to the institute's annual calendar three years ago. School chairman-cum-senior vice-president Major General Rajendra Nath (retd) said, "These children will never be able to drive. They need to be directed in everything they do. The idea that they would be guiding sighted people for once, even if only for a while, is liberating to them. It instils in them confidence and does wonders to their self-esteem."
The schoolchildren aged between 12 and 18 eagerly await the event every year. Sonam Sashni, a Class-12 student, who is partially blind, has participated in all rallies that have been held so far, but found this edition 'the most exciting'. "I completed the trip which included several checkpoints in about an hour," he said.
"The rally has been designed as a contest. All cars follow the same route, which is navigated by our students who read the directions from a map written in Braille. The car that takes the minimum time to return wins," informed the institute's honorary secretary KR Sood.
"It is very normal for any person to make a mistake while navigating. But the girl who was giving us directions was brilliant. You should have seen her level of patience. The school has really worked hard on these students," said Rahul Markande, who works with a private bank, and sat on the backseat of the car that his wife Pooja drove.
"Our children might not have eyes but they have vision. Our aim is to teach them to be self-reliant and lead a meaningful life, which is what the rally also attempts to achieve," said JS Jayara, school's principal, who too is visually impaired.
The girls turned out to be the best navigators. Three students - Mamta of Class 10, Tulsi Bharadwaj and Amandeep Kaur of Class 11 - bagged the first position. Gajanand of Class 11 and Mandeep Singh of Class 12 stood second and third, respectively. All winners were awarded a cash prize of `2,000 each by UT adviser Vijay Kumar, who was the chief guest at the event.
"I had a great time participating in the rally. I had not expected that I would win. The announcement came as a pleasant surprise," said an elated Mamta.