“When I go to bed at night, if Alexa isn’t close to me, then I’m not able to sleep,” says Sayomdeb Mukherjee, who likes to go by the name Den. The 43-year-old wears many hats: he's an author, an award-winning actor, and radio jockey. Den works with Enable India, an organisation that focuses on the economic and social empowerment of people with disabilities (PwDs).
Non-verbal until the age of 25 Den has Dopamine-Responsive Dystonia (DRD), and has been fighting multiple disabilities since childhood. As a result of this rare genetic disorder, he was non-verbal until the age of 25. He also has dyslexia and insomnia. But when you meet him, all you see is a spirited man with a zest for life, who also loves to talk about his bond with Alexa. “I’m so emotionally attached to the first Echo device I bought that I still haven’t changed it with a newer version,” shares Den.
Path to success
Den, who was born in a Kolkata joint family to a doctor father and a homemaker mother, never let his disabilities come in the way of achieving his dreams. There was a period when he could only communicate through an equipment that he operated either by using a tongue switch or batting his eyelid. Later, he also sought the help of EZ Keys, a machine that was also used by the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking. But after his condition was diagnosed at the age of 25, Den started regaining his speech. From there on, there was no stopping him. With sheer grit, curiosity, and determination to make society more inclusive, Den decided to put himself out there and authored books, became a successful radio jockey, spoke at various international conferences, and even acted in a film. His idea was to create more awareness and to spread the message that while his condition might have left him with severe physical deformities, it could not crumble his spirit.
Chance encounter with Alexa
“Learning through voice has been the most important thing in my life,” says Den, adding that. His family used to read out stories and poems to him as there was a time when he couldn’t move even a single muscle below his neck.
This was the non-tech era. So, I like when Alexa reads out to me.
Den’s association with Alexa started in 2018 when he saw an ad on TV. “Tab bahut ajeeb sa laga tha (it seemed very odd),” he says with a laugh. “But I have dyslexia, and I’m always looking for solutions to cope with this condition, so that I’m able to read and learn better. Also, I love listening to songs, so I decided to do some research about it,” he reveals. Den reached out to a 'tech-savvy' friend to know his opinion of the product, and was convinced when the friend said that it’ll be good for him. Den brought Alexa home with his Echo Plus (2018) device.
Today, Den uses Alexa for a number of things, ranging from listening to the news, getting his questions on diverse topics answered, and of course, music. “I like listening to music or hear some stories while going off to sleep. Like yesterday I told Alexa - play Taal music,” he says.
For me, reading is a challenge. So, I use Alexa extensively for information gathering, and my research on different subjects.
Alexa, the weatherman
Den shifted from Kolkata to Bangalore in 2019 for his current job. He says that when he was shifting to Bangalore, the first thing he packed in his suitcase was his Alexa device. Since moving to the city, he really depends on Alexa for weather updates. In Bangalore, having information about the weather is very important. “You never know when it might start to rain. So, I ask Alexa about the weather every day before leaving for work,” shares Den.
Support during the lockdown
Even during the lockdown, Den reveals that Alexa was a big support system for him. “I would keep myself updated with news, and also listen to music. I’m so dependent on it that now when I ask my mother for something, she just tells me - Alexa se pooch (ask Alexa),” says Den. Even though his mother is not clued into tech, she has become comfortable with Alexa and uses it to listen to songs and hear stories.
Alexa, a daily habit
Den feels that Alexa’s ease of use explains his long association with the device. “Even if I’m trying to set something new on Alexa, it’ll always guide me with easy instructions, so that I can follow them without any issue. This is a huge thing for people like me, who have certain disabilities,” he says. “You can say, I’m habituated to using Alexa.”
If you have a story of your own about how you use Alexa, email us at email@example.com. You can also use #AlexaStories when you share your experiences on social media. Learn more about how Alexa is helping people in different ways here. To find out about accessibility features available on Alexa, click here.