While most 20 year-olds spend their time balancing studies or work and their next weekend getaway, Smriti Nagpal, all of 23, was already a social entrepreneur. Nagpal is the founder of Atulyakala, who aims to help deaf artists express their creativity while earning a decent living as well as live a life of dignity through this platform.
Who led to the creation of Atulyakala?
With two older siblings who were hearing impaired. Nagpal often served as the ‘voice’ of her brother and sister. Interpreting their sign language and sharing their thoughts and opinions, she bridged the communication gap between them and her parents.
Thanks to her sister taking a course in American Sign Language, Nagpal also picked up fingerspelling, signing and more. She also volunteered at the National Association of Deaf, and worked later as a sign language interpreter for a news program.
It was a chance encounter with Amit Vardhan, a talented deaf and mute artist with a Masters in Visual Arts, but who had no option except to do manual work at an NGO because of his disability, that caused Nagpal to think of launching a platform for deaf artists. “His candid request to help him find a better, meaningful job where he could express his creativity propelled me to launch Atulyakala for artists like him” she tells Kerosene Digital.
What does Atulyakala do?
Atulyakala is not an NGO but a for profit enterprise, that aims to empower deaf creative professionals by selling their work through an online platform. Currently, you’ll find colourful and intriguing bags, journals, wall art, wallets, and mugs on the site. The artists sign every piece they create. Atulyakala has also launched a line of apparel called ‘Signs’.
“Unlike MNCs who employ educated and talented deaf people but do nothing after that to add value to such employees’ lives, we want to help deaf artists live a life with dignity and pride”, Nagpal comments.
Recounting the experiences of a senior visual artist working with Atulyakala who felt very proud to show his visiting card while traveling by Delhi Metro, she says it is such experiences which make her feel she is doing something right.
It’s always inspiring whenever someone takes the initiative to make a change for the better in the lives of those less fortunate, and doubly so when one is so young. And it’s not just us who thinks so. Nagpal was amongst the youngest in the ‘BBC’s 100 inspirational women for 2015’list.
Written by Anisha Kashwani
Featured image credit: Atulyakala