These blind massage therapists can heal your knots with their touch
As Lata Sadashiv gently strokes the base of your neck, the phrase 'healing touch' starts to make perfect sense.
A blind massage therapist at Sparsh Foot Spa in Mumbai, her fingers seem to know exactly which spot to hit.
It is a skill that speaks volumes not only about Lata's years of experience, but also the strong desire to help and heal people.
Sparsh is an initiative of NGO Trinayani. Since it was founded in 2006, the NGO has been working towards creating awareness about disabilities and equal opportunities for disabled people.
The Sparsh Foot Spa spa is self-sustaining and managed and run by trained blind therapists.
The idea of starting such an initiative was to change perceptions and attitudes towards people who are blind and visually impaired, says Ritika Sahni, founder of Trinayani.
Blind people are perhaps the most empowered among the disabled community in India, but there are many who do not get the opportunities. People also have so many misconceptions about the blind. So, here we also train them on how to speak to clients. I tell them to self-advocate - Ritika Sahni, Founder, Trinayani
The spa started off with six therapists, all of them trained at the National Association for the Blind. The spa is located at Kandivali, a bustling suburb in Mumbai. It is managed by Lata and Ramesh Mangilal Chauhan, who joined the spa two years ago.
Ramesh, 29 years old, also underwent a six-month training in massage therapy from the Victoria School for the Blind in Mumbai.
I am visually impaired since birth and can only distinguish between light and dark. After completing Class 12 in Nagpur, I was seriously worried about career options. A friend told me about massage therapy training in Mumbai and that is now I came to this city and found a job - Ramesh Mangilal Chauhan, Blind massage therapist, Sparsh Foot Spa
The Sparsh Foot Spa is open six days a week, Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 am to 7 pm. The range of services offered in quite extensive, from a full body massage, foot reflexology, acupressure, and a back and shoulder massage. The costs are kept nominal. Home visits are offered too, but only to known clients or through references.
This is a different community to work with in some ways. We gauge so much with our eyes so there is some mistrust, which is understandable. We conduct motivational sessions every day here. At times, they have been cheated, but we tell them it is not because they are blind. The person concerned would have cheated anyway - Ritika Sahni, Founder, Trinayani
28-year-old Lata, who commutes nearly two hours to work every day, says working at Trinayani has exposed her to a range of experiences. Sparsh Foot Spa stalls have now become a familiar site across malls, marathons, and corporate offices in Mumbai.
I have many regular clients who come to me for various services which feels really good. People call us for functions to their homes. When clients praise us, it feels really good. I feel happy that I am able to help them - Lata Sadashiv, Blind massage therapist, Sparsh Foot Spa
However, there are the odd clients who are superstitious and refuse to get their feet massaged by a blind person because they think it a sin. There are also insensitive statements at times that question their ability to travel by public transport or to do the job at all.
Comments that Lata handles by staying mentally strong.
I never get defeated. Because if you get beaten, then there is no life, no future. You cannot live that way - Lata Sadashiv, Blind massage therapist, Sparsh Foot Spa
A truly inspiring attitude that will go a long way towards changing attitudes towards people with disabilities!
To find out more about Sparsh Foot Spa or to check out their services, call 022-28697390.