Atulyakala is a lifestyle brand and a design house run by deaf artists which gives back. A large part of the proceeds from sales go towards the education of deaf and mute students at our training centre. Atulyakala aims to empower the 18 million deaf and mute people of India by providing employment, educating deaf students and spreading awareness about Indian Sign Language.
Atulyakala came into existence in 2013 as a result of a chance meeting between founder Smriti Nagpal and an artist at an exhibition. He asked her for a job as he was doing manual labour at an NGO even though he had a master's degree in Arts. This left Smriti disturbed and she brainstormed ways to find employment opportunities for the deaf and mute community. Smriti knew that deaf and mute people were really good at expressing themselves through art and hence she decided to sell products created by deaf artists to enable their livelihood. When she was faced with making a choice between a non-profit and for-profit model, she chose the for-profit one as she believed that businesses can do so much more than just making money. Understanding the difficulty that most non-profits face trying to obtain funding, Smriti set out to start a business based on sustainable giving. By directly tying charitable donations to the sale of an everyday product, Atulyakala is able to provide academic education and life-skills training to deaf and mute students in need and improve lives without depending on donations.
India has the largest population of deaf and mute people in the world and yet there is no awareness about deaf culture. It is estimated that the number of deaf people could vary from 5 million to 18 million. Hence, it becomes shocking to uncover that teachers at special schools for deaf do not even know what Sign Language is. Deaf community still faces isolation as the communication barrier is coupled with certain taboos. A deaf child is unable to receive the same kind of social immersion or education at home and school as there is no one to teach them in a language they would understand. Atulyakala is working towards fulfilling this lack by providing free of cost education to deaf and mute students in Indian Sign Language. To spread awareness about ISL, Atulyakala offers ISL classes for hearing people taught by a deaf teacher. Apart from providing classes, they also try to bridge the gap between hearing and deaf communities by creating engaging events and workshops.
What started as a goal to create India's first design house run by deaf artists has become a lifelong mission to empower deaf community across the globe. Currently, Atulyakala has branches in Denmark and Portugal. Smriti wishes that one day, every cafe, airport, theatre, embassy and other public places would have a sign language interpreter to make deaf people feel welcomed everywhere.
As you wade your way through the bustling lanes of Shahpurjat, you are greeted with sights to behold your breath away and you stop right in your tracks to capture the essence of this tinsel town. Admist the splash of different hues contrasting with one another on houses that await the common man’s attention, there nestled in the backdrop of an atmosphere from a favourite tea stall where one can satiate his/her longings for a freshly brewed cup of tea to shops lined with fashion clothing, lies a building rooted in its old-fashioned charm with the yellow stairs adding to the fabric of the street.
What sets this place apart is as one enters inside, the hubbub of activity is centered on the language of signs, signs that speak the language of love, friendship and acceptance. An air of eerie silence pervades the room except for the hum of the air-conditioner which sits stacked in one corner of the room. While the place is teeming with people mostly young bunch of creativity, many of whom show the knack of learning the common language spoken here.. One can See all the elements of an office type setting with ample working space making their way in the centre of the room with a large rectangular table stewn with laptops, enough chairs and sofas to make you comfortable and on some tedious days these sofas serve as resting beds. As you make your way further, you will find a storage room, where Pintoo bhaiya usually works. Here, one can See Atulyakala's pride and joy made by our talented artists in the form of notebooks, tote bags, fridge magnets , wallets stored in the cupboard or mostly laid out in the open for curious eyes to get a closer look at them. And not to forget a tiny pantry is to be Seen at the entrance of storage room.
Sign Language has come to be Seen as the fulcrum of our new office. Whosoever comes here whether for work or for other purposes, makes it a point to learn some basic aspects of Sign Language in order to communicate with two hearing-impaired artists,Sunny and Pintoo bhaiya. Gradually, even conversations begin to resonate the essence of Sign Language in today's fast-paced world, where we hardly know how to use silence. One can See colours of silence making their way into your hearts, with the colours black and white also making a raging statement. There is more to this place, for not even words can do justice to this one of its kind setting. The vibe that greets us straight from the door is double the vibes we go back with. Atulyakala has opened the mind, heart and soul in more ways than one and one can only visualize what besotted this place has turned out to be not just by sight but virtually too.