Initially, the parents of these children were sad and often viewed their children as a curse until, the Chinmaya Organisation for Rural Development (CORD), a self-help group based in Himachal Pradesh's Kangra District, recognised the kids hidden talents in 2001.
A group called the 'Chinmaya Prayas' was formed. Twelve hearing impaired youths was given training in the Kangra style of painting. They were trained for a year with the help of the Kangra Art Gallery in Dharamshala.
Out of the 12 youngsters, six are still school going and attend Kangra painting classes after school hours. Four out of the 12 hearing impaired dropped out from the Kangra Painting Group and took up other vocations promoted by CORD, such as welding, carpentry and running a shop.
"At one time their parents were desperate and they refused to send children to painting classes . Today, they (the youngsters) are earning through their art," said CORD National Director Dr. Kshama Metre.
These youngsters continue to paint with due care of delicacy of line, brilliance of colour and minuteness of decorative details, which are unique to the Kangra style of painting. "I like to draw ladies portraits. Most of my paintings depict Gods. My favourite drawings are of Lord Ganesha and Krishna-Radha," said Anita, one of the artists.
Besides painting, many also earn through stitching and other activities. "I do hand-embroidery when I find time from painting. I also help in my home business of dyeing clothes," said Shivank, who has been painting for the last five years.
Depending upon detailing, intricacies, and theme of the paintings, their price range from Rs 600 to Rs 3000. "These eight artists took a loan of Rs 62,000 in 2004 to print 72,000 greeting cards of their paintings. They were able to return their loan by the end of the season," said Metre.
The works of these youth are slowly being recognised on a larger scale. Last Sunday, they displayed their works at Canada House. David M Malone, the Canadian High Commissioner to India, has bought over a dozen paintings. Of these, Malone says he has presented a few in France and to his friends abroad.
"When I visited the CORD centre in Himachal Pradesh, I saw Shivank's (one of the artists) paintings. They were so beautiful, that I decided to do something for the cause of these youth. Today, I know all the eight artists," said Malone.