Unlike in the West, audio libraries are rare in India, and “talking books” are rarely available in shops. And in such a situation, 46-year-old Madhu Singhal, herself visually impaired, runs an audio library of 16,000 works in the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
Madhu's library has audio books in English and two Indian languages, Hindi and Kannada. It started when her brother-in-law bought her a tape recorder and encouraged her to do something for the blind. She depends entirely on volunteers to help with the recordings, who is also a founder of the Mitra Jyothi (Friendly Light), a city-based non-governmental organisation. Two recording rooms at Mitra Jyothi's office are the hub of the library. Volunteers – from young students to housewives and the retired – lend their time and voices to record for the blind. For a nominal sum of 10 rupees, the visually impaired can enrol as members. With word about the library spreading, students from neighbouring southern states have begun demanding audio books in their native languages. The library's success has motivated Madhu to start a computer centre and an employment centre for the disabled. Her efforts to get government aid have not yet yielded results.