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This retired BSNL official & his wife have used all their savings to change people’s lives

Before retiring, K Janardhanan served as an Assistant Director at state-run BSNL and his wife R Jalaja was with the Customs & Central Excise Department
New Delhi: At the fag end of your work life, would you think of blowing up your savings for charity? No, right? Because you need it for yourself. However, this couple from Thirunagar in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai seem to think differently and have made a mark for themselves in society because of what they have done. They not only took voluntary retirement sooner but also used all their savings to buy a property where they run a shelter home for the elderly at an age when most people would be thinking of securing themselves financially.

Who are they?

Before retiring, K Janardhanan served as an Assistant Director at state-run Bharatiya Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and his wife R Jalaja was with the Customs & Central Excise Department. According to a report by The Better India, the plight of the homeless, old people was something that the two were deeply affected by. More so, when they would see 10 beggars knocking their door everyday for food. “But because we were both working at the time, our commitment towards the cause would be hard-pressed. So we contemplated over one of us taking voluntary retirement. As Jalaja had reached the eligibility for the same, she decided to take the call. That’s how it started. We decided to keep aside 25 per cent of our salaries and use our own home,” said Janardhanan.

The beginning

After serving in the Customs & Central Excise Department or 20 years, Jalaja decided to opt for voluntary retirement first in 1994. The couple vacated the ground floor of their two-storey house in Madurai and moved to the first floor. With an area of 600 square feet, the couple figured that they will be able to accommodate 8-10 people at least. After the accommodation and sanitation issues were addressed, the other worry that remained was that of feeding the people Janardhanan and Jalaja took in. Since Jalaja used to cook for the two, the couple decided that she would take over cooking for the time being. “So, initially she would prepare the food for the inmates. As time passed and the health of the inmates improved, they began to help her out with the kitchen chores. Since we were sure of the people in the house and their consumption, we knew the exact amount of time it would take to cook—the kitchen wasn’t occupied 24×7,” he explains. When they finally opened the doors of their old age home, they could only bring two individuals. It took them another two years to fill the facility to its full capacity.

The other property

In 1998, a property that was just next door went up for sale. With a view to accommodate more people, the couple used their savings and EPF to purchase the house for Rs 3.5 lakh. Janardhanan also took voluntary retirement in 2000, five years before he was supposed to retire and joined his wife in running the shelter home. They have since led a frugal life and used most of their pension to run the facility. As the word spread, many people came forward and helped the trust. The old age home is being run by the Aishwaryam Trust.