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Wikisource For A Social Justice:Story of Gujarati Wikimedians Helping the Visually Impaired

Story of Gujarati Wikimedians Helping the Visually Impaired

Gujarati Wikimedians have been working on the Audio Book project on Wikisource to help the visually impaired people. An Interview with the lead contributor Mr Modern Bhatt by Abhinav Srivastava with inputs from Sushant Savla. 

Gujurati Wikisource logo – image by Dsvyas CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

Q.1) It is always said Indians love Wikisource, but, Audio Books ? That isn’t a routine. How did the idea come up ?

I am a regular visitor to a blind school in Bhavnagar which also happens to be my hometown. I help students with English and Mathematics and quite often on request by students, I used to narrate stories to them. It was then that the school director, who is also blind himself, proposed an idea of having pre-recorded books. 

The audio recording then started and there is no looking back. 

Q.2) Is there a specific thematic area where you work upon say a specific Gujarati author ? 

If I have to name just one, then it has to be Jhaverchand Meghani. Ever since my childhood till today, have fondness and admire his contribution to the Gujarati literature. He wrote on the history of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat from where I belong. He travelled from one village to another discovering facts and evidences. 

Q.3 ) The Open Knowledge Movement is for a better society, however, its end-merit remain incidental. Your initiative directly helps the visually imparied. What motivates you ?

Obviously those students from the blind school however it is also encouraging to know that normal people like you and me busy in daily routine for bread and butter are also the beneficiary. Audio books saves time. 

Q.4) Did peers from your community also join you in the initiative? Tell us how they read this? What kind of conversations happen around Audio Books ?

I am humbled with the support I receive from my fellow Gujarati Wikimedians like User:sushant_savla and others. We have an active Whatsapp Group where we regularly debate and discuss Audio books project. To share a more precise and latest update, we are sampling voice for Women authors and also selected few, to name,  Bharti Chavda.

Q5.) Unheard and unfound, there are a lot of challenges, efforts and struggle that go in with passionate Wikimedians ? Tell us something in brief

I was working on a book, ‘Saurashtra ma Rasdar’ which has 28 Chapters and roughly 350 pages. While working on that book, I was a victim of sore throat and had to consult a doctor. The doctor gave me a few medicines and I recovered my voice. 

That’s all. Otherwise, as they say in Gujarati, I have been in, ‘Majama’.

[laughs]……[laughs]

Q6.) Back in your mind, you would have done the maths on number of books which you wish to complete. There would a rational maths to say the number of books that are practically possible but there would also be a dream number. Tell us about that dream number and more. 

I would like to answer this differently. The Audio Books Projects still happens to be very new and we are learning and gaining experience everyday. Not quoting any number but having as many number of books is the aim. I retire from my job this July 2019  and would devote much more time to the project and make the maximum possible.

Q7.) India has Wikisource active in so many languages? Any message for them on Audio books ?

Gujarati Wikimedians have the highest regard for each and every Indian language , they show the diverse Indian culture. We all are always there to assist to the best of our potential.  A learning to share would be, struggle in finding volunteers. That’s an important area that needs to be contemplated. 

Q8.) Gujarati language has a very close connection with Kutchi language. Kutchi does not have a Wikimedia project and remain in incubation. Do you believe something like Audio books could provide a stimulus in their growth ?

Well, that needs to be seen but Yes there is a possibility. I can say there are a lot of material for Kutchi language to be worked on Wikisource. Necessary we find a group committed volunteers to take it up. Also, I would like to mention, Blind people association have shown support to host activities in the Kutch area of Gujarat.   

Q9.) Tell us something more, do you also edit on other Wikimedia Projects ? Briefly share your experience. 

At the moment, I devote all my time and energy to Wikisource. However, someday maybe definitely. All Wikimedia Projects are public goods for welfare. 

Q10.) Tell us something about your personal life? Where do you belong ? What do you do in your personal life etc ?

I stay in Bhavnagar, city of Gujarat and I am a banker with The Bank of India. India is a developing world and there are so many unbanked. My professional life deals with developing saving habits and promoting financial inclusion for a better India.