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For the differently-abled, the promise of fun

By Our Staff Reporter



FUN ALL THE WAY: S. Nagarajan enjoys the ease of using the Fun Bus specially designed for differently-abled persons. — Photo: R. Ragu

CHENNAI, NOV. 14. S. Nagarajan was ecstatic on Sunday forenoon.

As the wheelchair-bound 12-year-old was lowered from the `Fun Bus' on a hydraulic lift, cameras went off in a flurry. Suddenly Nagarajan found himself the cynosure of all eyes. His mother, S. Bhanumathi, cheered him on. So did 30 other physically challenged persons who were on the maiden run of the bus specially designed for the disabled.

Once the photojournalists had captured the mood of the occasion, Nagarajan was taken back to his seat. The Fun Bus was waiting to be flagged off on its first journey — from Ashok Leyland's marketing office on Anna Salai to the Chennai airport. For a few moments after the cameras had stopped clicking, a visibly excited Nagarajan could not sit still and let out a squeal of joy. "He is always happy. Of course, today is extra special," his mother said. Nagarajan is a student of Greenhouse level four at Vidya Sagar and is quite an expert at computer games.

The Fun Bus is modelled on the "Magic Bus" project in Mumbai. An Ashok Leyland representative said they got the idea when they were requested to donate a bus for the Magic Bus charity programme. The charity, founded by Matthew Spacie, former chief executive officer of Cox and Kings, works with more than 3,500 street children. Founded in 1999, the central theme of the project is of course the bus, which brings together underprivileged people from around the city.

J.N. Amrolia, executive director, human resources, Ashok Leyland, said the company was inspired to give Chennai its own Magic Bus; only it would be called a Fun Bus. Apart from the hydraulic lift and special seating arrangements, the chassis carries artwork dealing with children and freedom.

The bus will ply free of cost for organisations working for poor, physically challenged children. Ashok Leyland will provide the fuel and also provide a driver. Advance booking of the bus will be allowed but not bulk booking.

The vehicle can be taken for one day at a time.

The project took off with the help of Dr. Mathangi Ramakrishnan of Childs Trust Hospital, N.S. Shankar, District Governor 324-A1, Lions Club, and R. Benjamin Cherian, District Governor, Rotary Club of Madras.

The project coordinators hope that the project will be a stepping-stone for people to recognise the need for specialised transport for the physically challenged. The Ambattur-based Brij Associates built the chassis of the bus and Van Jax manufactured the hydraulic lift. The lift cost around Rs. 1 lakh and it can be fitted on any bus.

Organisations that want to book the Fun Bus for a day can call Govindasamy Thangaraj at 2433 1149 or S.L. Omprakash at 98410 97970.

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