Nilesh Bavdhankar,who is partially blind,loves the aroma of chocolate. I like to fill the tray with chocolate mixture. It feels good when I remove the tray from the fridge after it cools down and the mixture is ready to be cut into shapes, he says.
Bavdhankar (21) is one of the 20 visually-challenged who are a part of Choco Niwant,a branch of Niwant Andha Mukta Vikasalaya (NAMV). Chocolate-making,one of the vocational activities at NAMV,was started three years ago. In such little time,chocolates made by the team have found many takers,with the number growing steadily especially around Diwali.
Initially,we supplied chocolates only to two city-based companies. Now,the number has risen to six. We are also taking small orders, says Sandhya S Murkute,manager,Choco Niwant. She adds that the clientele includes C T Pundol,Neilsoft,Geometric Software,SunGard,3DPLM Software Solutions Limited and SAS Research and Development.
When we launched the activity three years ago,our production was 450 kg. This year,it should go up to 700 kg, adds Murkute. The team started working on the orders over a month ago. On an average,the team works for about three to four hours a day. When the delivery date is nearing,we sometimes work for an entire day, she adds.
Made in various shapes and sizes,the chocolates have six flavours butterscotch,strawberry,orange,dark chocolate,cashew,almond and raisin.
A graduate in kathak,22-year-old Samina Sheikh is also partially blind but has mastered the art of decorating chocolates. Apart from the dance,kathak also involves selecting costumes and doing make-up. All this helped me learn the nuances of chocolate decoration. Besides,I loved drawing since childhood, she says.
Depending upon their contribution to the total production,the team members are also paid for their work. Last year,I earned Rs 14,000 during Diwali. This year,I expect to earn more, says Bavdhankar,who is studying at Nowrosjee Wadia College. On the other hand,Sheikh hopes to earn around Rs 8,000 this Diwali.
Murkute adds that Choco Niwant also caters to orders they receive throughout the year and the income of the workers varies. The whole process of chocolate-making is broken into several steps and the tasks are delegated as per the expertise of the workers. Even if the person is totally blind,he/she can do the wrapping and put chocolates into boxes. Others handle chocolate-making and decoration work, she adds.