The 23rd of April 2018 was a ‘Red Letter Day’ for an institution that came into existence with one simple objective ‘Serving mankind and alleviating suffering of the masses through quality eye care’ it was the day the institution made an auspicious and blessed step towards fulfilling a long time dream, a most cherished dream and also a very ambitious dream. The institution started on the principle of serving eye care totally cost free and with a personal touch to poor patients, had over the 4 decades of its service reached a position of pride wherein it treated 50% of its out patients and performed 35% of its surgeries totally cost free, its cost free eye care initiatives had also recorded magnificent outreach, with quality eye care being dispensed to poor patients in inaccessible, remote regions like the deep interiors of the Sunderbans in West Bengal, Vellimalai Hills in Tamil Nadu and more recently in the tribal regions of Singhbum in the State of Jharkand. Building and operating a large, well equipped and easily accessible community hospital, dedicated exclusively to cost free treatment to indigent patients remained a collective dream of the institution. The idea was to have a State of the Art facility which would cater to a large number of walk-in patients, serve as a referral base hospital to patients screened at the outdoor camps, where they could be brought provided boarding, lodging and free treatment, a place where the institution’s community outreach vehicle including the MESU (MOBILE EYE SURGICAL UNIT) could be parked between their trips.
The biggest and first challenge in starting such a large facility, the availability of a large tract of land, in an accessible part of the city was solved when in a most generous and thoughtful gesture Mrs Kausalya Appukutty, Volunteer- Sankara Nethralaya Auxiliary Services (SWAN) made available the same totally cost free at the Dr VG. Appukutty Campus, named in honour of her late husband and generous supporter of Sankara Nethralaya, from where the CU Shah Sankara Nethralaya and the Elite School of Optometry function. The Bhumi puja for the facility was held with traditional piety with the chanting of mantras, vedic hymns and Homam at the proposed site, in the presence of a large number of friends, well wishers and employees. Srimathi Anuradha Narayan, lecturer at the ESO extended a warm welcome to the attendees and expressed the institution’s deep gratitude to Ms Voltas, Ms Infosys, Ms Trent Ltd, the Rahm Sitaraman family, USA and long time friend and supporter Shri Iravatham Mahadevan for their generous donation which would serve as the critical ‘Seed’ capital for the new initiative. Speaking on the occasion Col Raghavan, Director-Projects and chief architect of the initiative observed that the institution was able to embark on a ‘not for profit’ facility with such a high capital outlay only because corporate houses and individual donors open their purses generously when Dr SS.Badrinath the institution’s founder makes an appeal for support.
In a moment that captured the spirit of the day, special guest of the event Shri Iravatham Mahadevan expressed that if only he had been 10 years younger he would have visited every home in the locality to mobilize funds for the noble endeavour, the fact that the octogenarian had already made an appeal to the families in his apartment complex became apparent when a co-resident from the complex expressed that every family in the complex would donate towards this noble cause. This was followed by presenting of donation cheques by Srimathi Surekha Mehta, on behalf of SWAN and by Mr Sanjay who operates the staff canteen at the VG Appukutty campus.
Greeting the gathering on the occasion well known Litterateur and Editor of popular Tamil magazine ‘Amudhasurabhi’ Shri Thirupur Krishnan, a friend and well wisher recalled the glorious days when he served under Shri Iravatham Mahadevan, a highly principled civil servant, he observed that as a hospital which would be serving the masses it would only be appropriate that it is funded by donations from the common man, he drew a parallel of the same by narrating how Swami Vivekaanda wanted his trip to the World Congress of Religions in Chicago, to be funded by small donations from the common man and not by a few wealthy donors, as he was representing the entire nation.
Speakng on the occasion Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus and Founder, Sankara Nethralaya expressed his thanks to all who had assembled and the team working on the project, he had a special word of thanks to Srimathi Kausalya Appukutty, member SWAN for making available the land, without which the project could not have been envisaged. He welcomed and expressed his thanks to special guests Shri Iravatham Mahadevan and Brigadier VS.Joon, Station Commander and President Cantonment Board, for his critical role in obtaining the necessary sanctions and permits for the proposed building, from the Army authorities.