The Telegraph
Sunday , August 10 , 2014
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Light at end of rally route

Early on a Sunday morning, they made their way to South City Mall, walking in a chain, one hand resting on another’s shoulder. Alert, eager and excited, students of Calcutta Blind Academy, Blind Boys’ Academy and other schools for visually impaired persons were ready to zip through the city roads.

The Exide Rotary Car Rally for the Blind, partnered by The Telegraph, along with Just Sportz, Rotary Club of Calcutta Midtown, Turnstone Global, and Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy, Narendrapur, saw visually challenged persons navigating with the help of a tulip (route map) in Braille.

“They read the tulip and instructed the driver on the route,” said Suchandan Das of Just Sportz.

For most of the participants, it was their first rally. Sourabh Pan of Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy was clearly excited, “We had a trial run in the Eden Gardens-Mohun Bagan club area and I can’t wait for it to begin,” he said. Sourabh, along with his driver Dipanjan Ganguly, went on to finish first in the amateur category. They were trailed by Aditya Singhi and Pradip Mondal in the second position and Vandana Sethi and Sabita Jagotia in third place.

Suraj Jha of Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy found the experience empowering. “It feels good to be a part of the mainstream,” he said.

Many veteran rallyists were also part of the venture. Debarati Chanda led an all-woman team of Tamanna Parveen, the visually challenged navigator, Sumana Phadikar and Polly Ghosh. “While Tamanna will translate the Braille tulip, Sumana and Polly will make notes and do the calculations as I drive,” said Chanda before the flag-off by actresses Locket Chatterjee and Malabika. Actress Rachana Banerjee and police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha, too, were there to cheer the rallyists.

Another rally regular Sumantika Choudhury had visually impaired Kundan Yadav as her navigator and Sananda tackling the calculations. “We are doing it for a noble cause. There is no prize money here,” said Sumantika.

Neepabithi Ghosh had never rallied before, neither had her team member Sudeshna Banerjee. But their navigator Antara Naskar of NGO Premasree proved to be a pro. “I enjoyed it thoroughly,” said Antara finishing the rally at Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys’ Academy.