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Choti Si Asha: Old age home makes space for the disabled 28 June 2001 The Asian Age

It's a warm Sunday afternoon. A couple walks into Asha Jeevan. "My father-in-law is diabetic. He had a stroke and is partially bedridden. He needs physiotherapy every week. We are moving to Coimbatore and won't be able to take care of him. Will you'll take him in?" the man asks anxiously. The reply is comforting: "Just tell us when you will be bringing him in."

Admitting a loved one to an old age home is probably the last resort. And till sometime ago, finding an old age home for a disabled person was probably an arduous, if not impossible task.

This is where the founders of Asha Jeevan decided to make a difference. Asha Jeevan is unlike other old age homes, for the simple reason that it not only welcomes healthy senior citizens, but also those who are partially disabled and bedridden.

The project began a little over a year ago, thanks to the concerted efforts of Sujatha R Bhat and Kalpana Mallya. "We realized that there were homes which cared for orphans, destitute and old people, but none for the elderly who were bedridden or disabled," says Kalpana, asked how the idea came about. The home was conceived with the purpose of providing the aged with comfort and care during the last years of their lives.

The first Asha Jeevan home was set up in April 2001 at Hulimavu, in a rented house, with just two inmates and a small staff. Gradually, in the span of a year, the number of inmates increased and this forced the duo to rent another house. At present, there are about 22 inmates, housed at three Asha Jeevan homes.

Asha Jeevan has its own list of celebrity residents, including tennis player Vijay Amritraj's aunt, Gracy and well-known violinist Krishnamachar who says "I have veen here for three months and still practice my violine for an hour-and-a-half everyday." Then there are others like Zubaida Bi, 70, who hails from Coimbatore and is mentally ill. She believes she has been at the home for just four months, but in reality, has lived there for the past 11 months. And Janakamma, 74, who has been bedridden from almost 3 years now.

The rooms are fully furnished, equipped with single, double and triple beds. "The nurses who look after the inmates come from economically backward sections. We inform them in advance about what to expect and give them complete practical training. We then offer them a job, with a respectable salary," explains Sujatha.

The residents are given free check ups twice a month by a visiting doctor. A television set and various books and magazines make up the simple library to keep the inmates entertained. Asha Jeevan is also attached to Shanti Polyclinic, where seriously ill residents can be admitted.

"We cannot offer free service as we do not have adequate funds. The rent and other expenditure, which amounts to Rs 22,000 per month, is borne by us. The only support we have received is from corporate bodies like Hyundai and BPL, both companies have sponsored a person each. The State Bank of India has donated an ambulance," Sujatha explains.

Asha Jeevan plans to start an orphanage in the near future. "We need land though and are not asking the government for free land, just a concession," says Sujatha.

Those interested in contributing can contact: Asha Jeevan Home for the Aged, M-21, LIC Housing Colony, 25th Main, 5th Cross, 1st Phase, J.P. Nagar, Bangalore - 560078 or phone 6638154.