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Opening the mind to art - My Take by Chintamani Hasabnis, on why he makes paintings the blind can see

Pune International Airport has become India's first airport to display artwork for the blind. In My Take this week, Chintamani Hasabnis, the man behind that painting, talks to NewzHook about why he has made it a mission to ensure that all his works are accessible to the blind. Hasabnis is not vision impaired but is passionate about accessible art.

After I finished my degree in art, I was determined not to go down the path that most artists do, which is to hold exhibitions where they display their paintings and sell them. I wanted to use my skills for social good, but I was not sure how.

When I did find out, it was 25 years later and by accident. Five years ago, I was at a very crowded road in Pune, when I saw a young woman crossing the street. She was a picture of calm and confidence as she negotiated such a busy street, and when I saw a white cane in her hand I realised she was blind.

Hasabnis' paintings have tactile outlines & borders, scripts in Braille

That was when I thought to myself that I paint so many pictures but can I show any of them to her? That night I kept thinking of her courage. After a few days, I decided to make such a painting. That's when I started working in this direction. I was 48 years old then.

It took a lot of effort before I could make my art accessible to the blind. I realised that I had to make something they could feel. The main elements of a painting are point, line, shape, colour and texture and I kept thinking how to do it. I started going to blind schools to watch the children there. Once I saw a child reading in Braille and that was when it all came together.

Hasabnis has made a painting on the life of an Indian soldier

I spent six months learning Braille but it took me almost a year before I could bring that to my art. My first painting was a portrait of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma. I got two blind friends to the studio after I finished the painting and when they touched the braille lettering, they were stunned. They were happy and excited when they recognised that it was about Pandit Sharma.

Today I have made 30 paintings that are accessible, most of them portraits. My painting at the Pune International Airport is a tribute to that young woman who started this journey for me. People have loved the painting, both the blind and sighted.

The girl in the painting is describing how India looks to her and how she wants it to look like. The words on the painting are - "I agree I cannot see, but I can feel. But you have eyes and yet cannot see. Why is that?"

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