Aishwarya Pillai’s inspiring journey from darkness to empowerment

Aishwarya Pillai’s inspiring journey from darkness to empowerment

TV Aishwarya, a filmmaker who lost her eyesight in 2008 while pursuing a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication. She aimed to work in editing and directing...

TV Aishwarya, a filmmaker who lost her eyesight in 2008 while pursuing a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication. She aimed to work in editing and directing documentaries, but a brain tumor led to her sight loss. In 2014, as a Rehabilitation Counselor at LV Prasad Eye Institute, she conceived the idea of an audio movie. With the institute’s recording system, she scripted and recorded ‘I’m Possible,’ an audio movie about a visually impaired girl aspiring to swim. She focused on awareness videos related to disabilities for LVPEI’s Institute for Vision Rehabilitation. In 2018, she applied for the Holman Prize from Light House for the blind and visually impaired. Among 108 global participants, Aishwarya became a finalist for her ‘Film Academy’ project.

Aishwarya Pillai’s life represents an odyssey from the depths of darkness to the pinnacle of empowerment. Her story is a testament to the indomitable human spirit, illustrating how triumph can emerge from the most profound adversity. Her journey, marked by unwavering determination and boundless creativity, is a beacon of hope and inspiration for individuals facing life’s most formidable challenges. As we sit down with Aishwarya, she shares the remarkable tale of her discovery of passion, her battle with a life-threatening diagnosis, and her transformation into an advocate for empowerment and inclusion, all while emerging as a triumphant force.

A Childhood Ignited with Artistic Passion

Aishwarya’s love for art and storytelling was ignited during her earliest years, thanks to the influence of her artistically gifted mother and grandfather. She would watch in awe as they painted vibrant canvases, weaving stories through brushstrokes. At the tender age of 4 or 5, Aishwarya embarked on her own artistic journey, diving into pencil sketching. Her classwork notebooks soon became filled with her sketches, reflecting her unwavering dedication to the craft. As she explored her creative side through art, her flair for storytelling began to take shape, planting the seeds of her future in filmmaking.

While her classmates were preparing for traditional career paths, Aishwarya stumbled upon the Mass Communication course at Loyola Degree College during her 12th grade. This discovery marked the turning point that propelled her into the world of filmmaking.

A Fateful Diagnosis and a New Perspective

In a cruel twist of fate, Aishwarya’s life took an unexpected turn when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008. Within a month, she lost her eyesight, hearing, sense of smell, taste, and memory. The doctor’s grim prognosis that she might have only three months left to live plunged her into a surreal and heartbreaking reality. Already struggling with the profound loss of her parents due to cancer, she found her new reality even more difficult to come to terms with. Yet, Aishwarya’s innate determination refused to be overshadowed by despair.

As Aishwarya grappled with anger and frustration, she eventually found clarity. She resolved to live her remaining days to the fullest. Remarkably, 15 years later, she is a testament to the incredible power of resilience and the human spirit.

A New Dawn: Aishwarya’s Remarkable Career Shift

After her diagnosis, Aishwarya embarked on a path that would ultimately lead her to a career in rehabilitation counseling. Her journey to recovery had been successful, as her senses gradually returned, memory improved, and paralysis began to recede. Determined to put her life back together and find a reliable source of income, Aishwarya sought help at the LV Prasad Eye Institute, where she underwent a computer training program in 2011. Here, her consultant referred her to the Institute for Vision Rehabilitation where she underwent a transformative training program in Assistive Technology. This training equipped her with the skills and tools to navigate the digital world independently despite her visual impairment. The following year brought an unexpected opportunity when she received a call from the institute asking if she would be interested in joining them as a Rehabilitation Counselor.

Aishwarya fondly recalls one particularly memorable case where a client, who had tragically lost his eyesight just a month prior, found himself at a crossroads, compounded by the recent loss of his father in a road accident. His family’s financial struggles, with a meager monthly income of INR 1000 earned from selling tobacco, had left him in a bleak state of mind, contemplating suicide. Aishwarya encouraged him to consider computer training and connect with others facing similar challenges. Initially hesitant, he eventually found the courage to enroll in the training program, where he gradually excelled in his classes, forming bonds with fellow participants and experiencing a resurgence of positivity. With the diligent efforts of hisPlacement Officer, he secured a job at an IT company, marking a transformative turning point in his life. To this day he updates Aishwarya over the phone, proudly sharing his achievements, including the purchase of a phone, laptop, being recognized as the best employee at his workplace and finding happiness in marriage and parenthood.

A Remarkable Journey of Empowerment: Aishwarya’s Art and Tactile Painting

Despite her challenges, Aishwarya’s passion for art and filmmaking never waned. In fact, her journey inspired her to explore new avenues of creative expression. She delved into filmmaking, collaborating with others who had faced similar challenges, creating an audio movie called “I’m Possible,” designed to be accessible to individuals with vision loss. This project showcased her unwavering commitment to making art inclusive and accessible to all.

Aishwarya also ventured into the world of tactile painting, aiming to create art that individuals with visual impairments could both appreciate and build themselves. Her innovative techniques, such as using aluminum foil and incorporating QR labels for color identification, opened up a new realm of artistic possibilities. She has since trained numerous individuals with vision loss in tactile painting, fostering a sense of empowerment and inclusion within the art world. As we look ahead, Aishwarya remains focused on living each day to the fullest. Her steadfast determination, creativity, and passion inspire us all, reminding us that the only true obstacles in life are the ones we allow to hinder our aspirations. Aishwarya will grace the TEDxHyderabad 2023 stage to tell her incredible story as a living testament to the power of the human spirit to triumph over adversity.

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