During Diwali, Hema Sadarangani chooses to give the diyas and lanterns in local bazaars a miss, in favour of the exclusive rangolis and festive ornaments sold at modest rates in a little handicrafts store in Mahalaxmi.
The store is run by the non-profit Shraddha Charitable Trust, and the hands behind the artefacts are those of more than 40 autistic and mentally challenged young adults who work there to earn their living.
“I get my Diwali gifts only from Shraddha because their products are unique and well-priced, and because I know the organisation has transformed the lives of special children and adults,” said Sadarangani, a housewife from Peddar Road who particularly loves the traditional plates and bowls made from banana leaves.
Shraddha is among the host of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the city for whom Diwali is boom-time, not just for sales of products made by their wards, but also for spreading large-scale awareness about their varied causes.
“We participate in exhibitions throughout the year, but during Diwali our sales double, and students can walk away with larger stipends,” said Rekha Mehta, a Shraddha trustee.
For Child Rights and You (CRY), which sells festive and home products printed with drawings of disadvantaged children through its website and Byculla store, the rise in profits during Diwali are not important.
“Profits are always meagre, but a 50% rise in sales means that we made many more people aware of child rights,” said Priya Zutshi, senior manager at CRY, which is focusing on the Right to Education Act this season through its diyas, lanterns and Diwali cards.
The organisation raises less than Rs 1 crore a year through its store, CRY World, and the money helps contribute to their 220 country-wide projects for children. While ADAPT (formerly the Spastics Society of India) does not have large profits to boast of, Diwali is still the perfect time for indirect fund-raising.
In the last week of October, the organisation held its annual I CAN Bazaar, a three-day exhibition of decorated diyas, lanterns, and paintings. More than 1,000 shoppers showed up, and many went a step ahead to become donors.
“Spreading awareness also helps create open employment opportunities for the people with disabilities working with us,” said Sangeeta Jagtiani, head of the organisation’s education wing.
The booming Diwali business also boosts the self-esteem of all the special children and adults involved. “I feel happy when people buy. I put my money in the bank,” said a beaming Abuli Mamaji, a patient of Down’s Syndrome who makes bags and paintings at Shraddha.