At the iconic Hotel Lakshmi in Bengaluru’s Gandhinagar, refurbishment and redecorating work is underway. New lights are being installed, repairs are being done, and the kitchen upgraded. When it re-opens its doors, however, it will no longer be a hotel but a temporary home for children with cancer.
Meera Naidu, whose late husband Srinivasalu Naidu opened the hotel in 1977, donated the 42-room property worth about ₹300 crore, to Shankara Cancer Hospital last year.
“It will not be a hospital in itself. It will be a boarding facility for paediatric cancer patients and their attendants," said managing trustee of Shankara Cancer Hospital Dr B S Srinath. “A year’s treatment for a child costs a family about ₹6 lakh, and half of this would be the cost of staying in Bengaluru. Many drop out of the treatment cycle due to the cost," he said. “This facility will bring down the cost of cancer treatment by 50%."
The hospital also provides free treatment to patients from poor and marginalised backgrounds. The state health department estimates that 500-600 children are diagnosed with cancer in Karnataka every year.
Shankara hospital is now refurbishing the building and constructing a community kitchen. There are 42 rooms that will be provided free of cost to the families of the patients. “We have initiated civil and electrical works with new fittings in Lakshmi Hotel building with safety as a primary objective. The total cost has been estimated at Rs. 2 crore," Dr Srinath said.
Hotel Lakshmi, located close to the studios of the Kannada film industry, once welcomed film stars such as Rajkumar, Vishnuvardhan and Ambareesh as regular guests.
Meera Naidu, 79, said she put a lot of thought into choosing the organisation to which she decided to donate the property. “My husband built this hotel and I did not want it to be destroyed by a new buyer. I conferred with many people about the problems of families with children with cancer, and understood that many struggled with the cost of treatment," she said. “I wanted to provide help in some lasting way."
Dr Srinath said the new facility would allow them to care for at least 300 patients a year.