Lighting Up Lives
N Madhavan  and  Harjot Kaur 08 September 2012

Blindness has not prevented Bhavesh Bhatia from setting up Sunrise Candles which allows  him to light up lives of handicapped people employed by him

Going from partial blindness at birth to complete blindness, Bhavesh Bhatia experienced the slow and painful process of watching the light go out of his life. It was in 1997 that the retinal macular degeneration that he suffered from, finally, led to complete blindness. But, he had studied hotel management after graduating in economics and was working as a hotel manager for over 13 years at Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra’s best-known hill-station. He was also married, had a young son and a very encouraging wife who was determined to support his effort at rebuilding his life. It was then that he was struck with the idea of spreading light in the lives of others. He learnt that NAB (National Association of the Blind, Worli, Mumbai) has a rehabilitation division to help people who turn blind after the age of 16. From among the various training options offered by NAB, Bhavesh chose to learn candle-making. 
But it wasn’t easy. Niraj Chandan, who helped him in the early days, says, “I met Bhavesh Bhatia five years ago. He had put up a stall to sell candles near a church in Mahabaleshwar.” Niraj went to Bhavesh’s house where he made the candles. “I could not believe my eyes. He was doing it so well. I took photographs with my digital camera and put up a small website— We advertised on Google and started getting lot of orders.” Then things began to change. A couple of years ago, Bhavesh got a piece of land from a friend and another friend, a contractor, built a small candle-making centre there.” That is how Sunrise Candles manages to operate on a commercial scale producing over 6,000 candles in a month. These include pillar candles, floating candles, unique novelty candles, gel candles, toy-shaped candles and interesting gift basket candles which are all displayed on the website. 
Having to face the daily ordeals of life, on 
26 May 2012, Bhavesh decided to start a coaching centre called the ‘Wax Museum’ on a 4,000sq-ft space at Moleshwar village, 7km from Mahabaleshwar. Here, he trains physically-challenged persons in the art of candle-making, free of cost. Depending on their aptitude and nature of disability, they are trained in finishing, packaging or marketing. Sunrise also has 65 blind and handicapped employees.  
Over time, the good work has been recognised and rewarded in many ways. Bhavesh has participated in several exhibitions, including one at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School, and won several awards. He has been working actively with NAB. He has received several prestigious awards for his entrepreneurship and social work. He represents issues pertaining to the blind on a number of state committees. Interestingly, Bhatia’s life is not about candle-making alone. What is unique about him is his keen interest and excellence in sports. At the National Para-Olympics held at Bengaluru recently, he won the gold medal for shot-put and the silver medal for discus throw. He is also a keen swimmer and has innumerable sporting achievements at the district and state level as well. Bhavesh lives with his wife Neeta and son Kunal in Mahabaleshwar. If you want to support his work, order his candles or help with outreach, you can contact him through Sunrise Candles at the address given on the left. 
(Sunrise Candles, C/o RK Wadi, Mahabaleshwar, District Satara, Maharashtra
Mobile: +91 9850600634 / +91 9422034729)
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