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Weaving His Way To Independence

30 Jan 2020 / 19:58 H.

PETALING JAYA: Despite being visually impaired, Saravanan Velan sees what most others don’t – that a physical disability is a hindrance only if you let it be so.

Saravanan, 49, was born partially blind, and lost his sight completely in middle age. Yet, he has gone on to take over from his wife as the sole breadwinner of the family, and to share in the care of their four children, three of whom also suffer from the same syndrome – Marfan – that causes visual impairment.

Marfan is a genetic condition that is passed down from one generation to another. Saravanan is the only one of five children who inherited it from his parents.

“I can still be independent. This is not a major disadvantage as I can do most things myself,” he told theSun recently.

“I never let it get in the way of life,” he said, and he has also taught his children never to give up.

In place of sight, he has cultivated a great amount of patience – a quality that is essential in furniture weaving, an art that he has mastered to help him eke out a simple living for his family.

“Weaving furniture is a task with more than meets the eye,” he quipped.

“It requires great patience.”

Saravanan picked up the centuries-old art from a Korean practitioner who taught a class at the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB). He was only 17 then, and was still only partially blind.

“Unlike other teenagers, I paid a lot of attention to detail. I learned to use my other senses as I worked on weaving the raffia strings to make stools, chairs or coffee tables.

He has already mastered a dozen patterns. He has even introduced a specific design for each colour of the raffia, each differentiated by the number of knots at each interval.

“Weaving is like reading in Braille,” he said.

Saravanan at his workshop.
Saravanan at his workshop.
Saravanan working on a stool.
Saravanan working on a stool.
Saravanan creates his own light through his woven products.
Saravanan creates his own light through his woven products.
It takes Saravanan four to nine hours to complete each stool. “Weaving is like reading in Braille,” he said.
It takes Saravanan four to nine hours to complete each stool. “Weaving is like reading in Braille,” he said.
Saravana on his way to his workshop.
Saravana on his way to his workshop.
Saravanan and a friend celebrate Ponggal.
Saravanan and a friend celebrate Ponggal.
Despite being visually impaired, Saravanan sees what others dont.
Despite being visually impaired, Saravanan sees what others dont.
I am still independent... I can do most things myself: Saravanan.
I am still independent... I can do most things myself: Saravanan.
Saravanan's family portraits before he lost his sight.
Saravanan's family portraits before he lost his sight.
Saravanan spending time with his family.
Saravanan spending time with his family.

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