I would like to tell you a story. I have been inspired to share this story with you because of my work on Accessibility. I have been thinking deeply about a few things that I have been working on, things that have been keeping me up at night. These are ideas, thoughts that want to come to life. In that thought process, this story kept leaping at me in the distance, as if to say,
‘Hey, remember me? You need to apply what you have learned from this story.”
So here it is.
Summers in Udupi with Mamama
As a young girl, I spent many summers with my maternal grandmom in a small town called Udupi in Southern India. My grandmom (I called her Mamama) would take me to the Krishna temple every Sunday evening. It was my favorite part of the week. I really enjoyed visiting this temple as it has a unique charm to it. You can google Udupi Krishna Temple to view pictures and read about the temple’s history. It will be a fascinating read. But that’s not what the story is about.
My fascination with the Udupi Krishna Temple
I absolutely love the Krishna temple and my most favorite part is ‘Kanakana Kindi’ meaning ‘Kanaka’s Window’. There is a legendary story behind this small window that I am compelled to tell you. Kanaka das was a devotee of Lord Krishna. He journeyed to Udupi to visit the temple but was not allowed to enter due to his lower caste status. There was no way for him to see Krishna so he chose to sit at the back of the temple, singing his songs of devotion, visualizing Krishna with the eyes of his heart. Then one day, an earthquake cracked open the back wall of the temple giving him a small view of the inside of the temple through the crack in the wall. Eventually, the King caught wind of Kanaka’s devotion and had a small window built into the back wall. Through this window, he would sing his songs with great devotion every day without fail.
Why does Krishna face west?
All Hindu temples and the idols face East with the exception of the Udupi temple. At the Udupi temple, the idol of Krishna faces West. How did this happen? This is my favorite part of the story. There are many versions of the story but I love this version told to me by my mom and my mamama. It is said that even with the small window in the back wall, Kanaka could not see the idol of Krishna. He was looking in from the west side when the idol is facing east towards the temple entrance. One day, a miracle happened. The devotees found that the idol of Lord Krishna had turned around to face west. It is said that Lord Krishna was so impressed by Kanaka’s devotion and dedication to him that he turned around to face the window. Lord Krishna turned his back on all his devotees to appease ONE special devotee. I was fascinated by this story. Thousands of devotees flock to see Lord Krishna. They wait in long lines, for hours just to see a glimpse of him. Krishna turned around for just one devotee. That is the power of one.
Why is this relevant to my work today?
In my work on accessibility, the most common questions I run into are the following – Why should I care about accessibility? How many of my users will benefit from the investment in making my site accessible? Why should I invest my limited resources in doing something that only a small group will benefit from? What is the business case for accessibility?
Each time I hear this, I think about Kanaka. There is a very powerful lesson in the story of Kanaka. The lesson is that – All it takes to make a big shift is – One person. One customer, One employee, One leader, One person with a disability, One advocate, One ally.
It starts with ONE.
– One customer not being able to access your experience because you haven’t thought about basic accessibility requirements – Matters.
– One employee strongly advocating for accessibility within your team, your org, your company – Matters.
– One person with a disability going after what they believe is a basic human right – Matters.
– One advocate who works tirelessly to create awareness – Matters.
– One leader who believes accessibility is part of the company culture – Matters.
– One ally who consistently uses every opportunity to educate, build awareness, pave the path to action – Matters.
Don’t underestimate the power of ONE.
Today, it is customary to visit Kanaka’s window before you enter the Krishna temple. It all started with one person. Everyone is welcome!
Are you going to be THE ONE?
And if you are THE ONE then keep doing what you are doing! Keep at it, don’t give up, Krishna will turn around!