“Meeting Acharya Vinoba Bhave was an eye-opener for me. That was the moment I decided to work for the betterment of society and help those who need it the most.”
Sudhir Goyal started Sewadham Ashram in Ujjain in 1986. Now 61, Sudhir remains just as passionate and empathetic towards those who are disadvantaged and in distress.
These seeds of empathy were sown early. Sudhir grew up seeing his mentally unsound grandmother suffer and his own uncle ridiculed because he was mentally ill.
Sudhir was also deeply influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. We, at The Better India, spoke to Sudhir to understand why he started this home and what it entails to provide for and care for more than 500 destitute people.
“I can say with certainty that my life changed in 1976 when I had the good fortune of meeting Acharya Vinoba Bhave. Until then, like many others, my ambition was to become a doctor. Meeting Acharya was an eye-opener for me. That was the moment I decided to work for the betterment of society and help those who need it the most.”
Sudhir was born into a household of plenty and never knew what it meant to go to bed hungry.
“As I started my journey I found so many helpless people; men, women, children. It changed me in ways that I cannot even describe in words,” he says.
Remembering the first inmate of the ashram he says, “95-year-old Gulabi Ma was the first woman who we cared for. Those days we had acute water scarcity, no electricity and the lurking danger of wild animals. We have come a long way since then.”
Ujjain, the place where the ashram is situated, is a temple town and many visit with their aged parents to seek the blessings of the Almighty. What Sudhir describes leaves me in tears.
He says, “Families come here together only to leave behind their aged parents on the steps of the temple.”
“They are just abandoned there, with no money, no food, and no means of finding their way back. I have personally brought so many elders left behind to the ashram.”
“We do not discriminate at all at the ashram. We have people infected with HIV/AIDS, TB, mental illnesses, physical deformities and disabilities as well. For us, they are all the same.”
Sudhir stays with his family within the ashram premises and finds peace in caring and loving his ashram residents. The ashram receives inmates through the police, NGO’s, political bodies, courts, and even jails. Sewadham is the only one of its kind not only in Madhya Pradesh but also in neighbouring states where such abandoned sufferers get entry 24 hours a day.
At the ashram, the inmates are not just provided with shelter but also given all meals. Those who need medical assistance are provided with that too.
“Sometimes we have the elders passing away at the ashram. Even then, none of the family members come by to claim the body and conduct the last rites. In such cases we conduct the last rites as well in accordance with their religious beliefs,” he says.
While Sudhir has been running this place on his own with the help of his immediate family and friends he now seeks the support of others as well. “It is not just monetary support we need; we would be happy to have people come and volunteer their time as well.”
“Looking after 500 people is no mean feat, we welcome all the help we can get,” he says.
“It has been a fulfilling experience to serve these people and I urge others to come forward and experience this,” he says.
If you wish to make a donation to this ashram you can visit their Milaap page here, and if you would like to volunteer your time please contact Sudhir Goyal on +91-9425092505.