Bajhera (Rajasthan), May 1 - A maggot infested wound in the head, a chopped hand, a smashed nose, a paralysed body...Life was hellish for many destitute, disabled people before they were brought to an ashram here and given new hope.
Run by homoeopath couple Madhuri and B.M. Bhardwaj, Apna Ghar in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan has been home to many such people since 2000. Located around 40 km from Agra, it currently houses 500 people.
'Right now, there are many women, elderly people and children at the ashram,' a functionary at the ashram told IANS. 'Nearly 40 percent of these people are dependent on others for their needs and almost all are undergoing medical treatment or medication,' he said.
Now these wretched of the earth have found a way to regain confidence and a better life. Some come to Apna Ghar on their own while many are brought here after the ashram authorities are informed about them.
'They are the people who spend their last days in pain at railway platforms, religious places, or public spaces with no one giving them even water, let alone medicines or clothes,' said B.M. Bhardwaj, founder of the Ma Madhuri Brajvaris Sewa Sadan, which runs Apna Ghar in Bajhera village, told IANS.
So how did the ashram come about?
'In 1980, as a child studying in Class 6 in an Aligarh village, I saw an 85-year-old man lying infested with wounds and parasites. In great suffering, he breathed his last under a tree in a forest. The incident had a deep impact on me. While studying for homoeopathy, I met my future wife Madhuri who too shared the passion to help those in suffering,' he said.
'Twelve years ago, we started this institution from scratch and slowly started providing all amenities to inmates,' he said.
Apna Ghar treats their wounds, gives them food and shelter and hygienic living conditions.
'Those whose relatives can be reached are contacted and persuaded to take them back home. Volunteers feed them, trim their hair and help them change clothes. We get 50 new inmates every month. We try to rehabilitate many after they get better. However, over 60 inmates have passed away,' he said.
The inmates here are from Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Punjab.
The ashram has a network and a helpline through which it gets to know about such destitute people in need of help. It also has a website, www.apnagharbharatpur.org.
'We bring them to the ashram,' he said.
Last year, a young woman, Ummedi, kept in chains in Karauli, Rajasthan, was brought to the ashram after a newspaper published her story.
Then there are elderly people such as 72-year-old Raj Kiran Tiwari, who are undergoing treatment.
Due to the ashram's efforts, many people, thought to be lost forever or dead, have returned to their homes.
There is no dearth of donors who contribute to the ashram. 'But the need is much more as the number of inmates keeps increasing,' said Madhuri Bhardwaj.
The Rajasthan government also supports the ashram by sending in medical teams and medicines. Public sector banks and industries too have donated vehicles and solar lights. But still, the ashram needs exhaust fans, pedestal fans, bedsheets, slippers, medicines and TV sets.
(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)