Hotel turns into charity home

The owner of Lakshmi Hotel in Gandhinagar gives away building worth about Rs 300 crore to a trust working with children affected by cancer

In the heart of bustling Gandhinagar, just across the Kempegowda bus terminus, stands a 44-year-old mansion once known as Lakshmi Hotel. The 33-room place is now dedicated to providing free accommodation for cancer-affected children and their guardians.


Hotel Lakshmi, which is donated to Shankara Cancer Foundation at B B Naidu Road, Gandhi Nagar in Bengaluru. Photo by S K Dinesh

Owned by R S Naidu and his wife Meera Srinivasalu, the hotel was built in 1976 under his watchful eye. “He bought this piece of land from his savings. Although his father owned large tracts of land in Gandhinagar, he insisted my husband work hard and earn his living,” Meera tells Metrolife.

Naidu hired an architect and a contractor to oversee the design and build the hotel. “He would wake up at 4 am and wait for the sand lorries, and ensure no material was wasted. He always wanted the building to be retained in the original form,” explains Meera.

The hotel ran well. It was a favourite among movie stars such as Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan. In 2015, after running the hotel for 39 years, Naidu died of a heart attack.

Meera decided she would donate the building for a worthy cause. “We had no children and I felt strongly about doing something for children,” says Meera.

Offered a fortune

Since the building is in an area with the highest footfalls in the city, many saw a business and real estate opportunity, and they made her offers that others might have found irresistible.

“A big business house offered me Rs 300 crore, but I turned them down,” she says.

Potential buyers wanted to raze the building and put up something new, and that was part of the reason she didn’t want to sell.

Around the same time, many charitable organisations came asking if she would donate the building to them.

“My nephew C D Balakrishna Naidu, who worked overseas for most of his life, suggested we look at Sri Shankara Cancer Hospital  and Research Centre in Basavanagudi. He came down from Chikkamagaluru just to help us. I am grateful to him,” she says.

The hospital, run by the Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation,  was looking for a place where child cancer patients and their families could stay.

“After much discussion, I was convinced about the cause and decided to donate the building to them,” says Meera.

Meera’s nephew Arun Babu Naidu quit a lucrative IT job to assist her.

He is the manager and handles administrative responsibilities of Lakshmi Children’s Health Centre, a unit of Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation.

Arun says that the decision to donate the building was not taken overnight.

“The idea was first pitched to the family and after a lot of discussion, we decided to donate the building. Visiting Shankara centres convinced us about their honesty, openness and philanthropy. This helped us arrive at a decision,” says Arun.

Help for families 

Many families come to Bengaluru from the northern parts of Karnataka for cancer treatment. “They need to stay here for at least two or three months. After the first course, most families don’t return to complete the treatment because they find it expensive to stay here,” says Arun.

That’s where Lakshmi Children’s Health Centre steps in. “We provide free accommodation. We give out kitchen equipment so that families who stay here can cook their own food. We buy the provisions from donations,” he says.

While children undergo treatment, parents can volunteer for odd jobs at the hospital. That earns them Rs 150 a day.

Meera (71) is relieved the hotel will be part of a deserving cause, “The Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation has spent Rs 2 crore to renovate the building. The tiles, earlier mosaic, are now vitrified, and the rooms and the structure have been repainted. We have covered the terrace and renovated it to include a dining, kitchen and wash area,” explains Arun.

The building will be ready for children to occupy in a few months, he says.

 

Popular with film stars

Rajkumar and Vishnuvardhan are among those who have visited the hotel. The cast and crew of Kannada film ‘Driver Hanumanthu,’ starring Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh and Shivaram, used to come to Lakshmi Hotel to rest between their shots. The room rent in 1976, when the film was shot, was Rs 32. Just before it was handed over to charity, the hotel was charging Rs 1,300 for a room with three beds, and Rs 999 for a room with two beds.

Patients mainly from rural areas

Dr B S Srinath, managing trustee and cancer surgeon of Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation tells Metrolife that the children who are referred to the Shankara Cancer Hospital and Research Centre for treatment are mainly from rural areas. “The treatment normally lasts from three to six months, depending on the extent of the illness. The children and their families are then provided free accomodation and food at the Lakshmi Children’s Health Centre for the entire duration of the treatment,” explains Dr Srinath. How are the patients selected?

“Anybody who requires treatment in paediatric cancer may come to us,” says Srinath. How many patients can the Centre accommodate? “It can accommodate about 35 families at a time,” he adds. Dr Srinath also informs that an ambulance is permanently stationed at the Centre in case of any emergency.

How it works

Arun explains that patients who come to Lakshmi Children’s Health Centre for accommodation are routed through the Sri Shankara Cancer Foundation. “The hospital will first examine the patient and assess the duration of the treatment and accordingly send them to us. Thereafter, accommodation and food are free,” explains Arun.  

 

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