Mumbai, March 23 It has made it to the bestsellers' list among the visually impaired in India. And now, several manuscripts from Jain literature are all set to be translated into English and then put on the Braille system for blind people living abroad and harbouring an interest in Jainism.
Four years ago, the Blind Graduate Forum of India, a body comprising 700 membersall graduates and all visually impairedwho assist blind students get through their graduation, had discussed an idea. Considering the population of students learning about Jainism though various courses, including certificate courses, diploma courses as well as the MA or PhD level courses, the number of Braille books available on the subject was abysmal.
"When I was a kid, I had read a Braille book on Jainism. So, when the idea struck us at the forum, we approached a social group comprising doctors," says Hasmukh Shah, president of the Blind Graduate Forum of India.
At the forefront of this silent effort is Dr Bipin Doshi, a doctor with a flourishing practice as a private physician in Borivali. His love for Jainism, however, forced him to also take on the mantle of a full-time professor of Jainism at Mumbai University. When contacted by the Blind Graduate Forum who had zeroed down on the idea of converting Jain literature into Braille form, Doshi and the others had to decide on what texts should be converted first. "We consulted an 87-year-old Jain scholar at Navsari near Ahmedabad. We then decided to convert two of the oldest books, the Panch Pratikaman Sutra and 24 Jinvandana," says Dr Doshi.
Four years ago, it was merely an idea. Today, Jainism has reached 500 visually impaired individuals across India, both Jain and non-Jain, for academic purposes, through the efforts of this group.
"The big challenge was to translate the original Ardhmaghdhi language into Hindi. After all, students are taught only the commercially viable languages. Then we had to get everything dotted into Braille," he adds.
This year alone, the demand for literature on Jainism from blind students has increased to 1,200 copies in Braille, from across the country. "It is a no-profit-no-loss venture; we deliver books on demand. Last year, we delivered 500 copies to various institutes in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, etc," says Dr Doshi.
The two books are creating immense interest not only among blind academicians in India but those abroad as well. "We have got three letters from visually impaired individuals from the United States and from Europe, all people interested in learning Jainism. We have already started translating the literature into English now," says Dr Doshi..
"Our ultimate goal is to prepare a rich database for blind individuals interested in studying Jain literature," he adds.