Tuesday, 21 August 2012


A young man called up asking for help two days ago.  There was a destitute man at the railway station who had been suffering from TB.  Did I know any place where he could be treated.

I gave a name or two - not having their phone numbers I suggested a website address.  Its a tragedy that in a mega-city of 16 million there are so few places that will care for the destitute.

Today the young man called again.  He said that the man was really not feeling well.  What medicine should he take.  He was sweating.  Should he give an oral rehydration solution.

I told him to bring the man to our centre.  He was brought in with the barest hint of a pulse.  Emaciated. Semi-coherent.  The only paper he had on him showed that he had taken some TB treatment from the Thane government civil hospital.  He was from out of town and didn't seem to have people around to help.  The young good samaritan had put the man in an auto-rickshaw with the help of some bystanders and brought him to us.

We could see that the man needed admission at an ICU immediately.  There was very little hope - but we referred him to the nearest hospital for emergency admission.  Giri - one of our JSK staff joined.  The hospital  refused saying that the man did not have anyone ready to take responsibility for him.  So our friend and Giri took the man back to the Civil Hospital to try and get him admitted.

The man died there.

Another unsung death.  Who does this man know.  Are his relatives wondering where he is?  Will they know about his passing away?  What happened to his family in the first place?  Did he fight with them? Has he been away from them for a long time or for a little.

Giri and Santosh (another staff who joined the group at Civil hospital), helped our young friend with the police report.  Another destitute death.  A post-mortem was performed and the body handed over to the authorities for cremation as an unknown person.

All this in the city that never sleeps.  In the place where people fly in from Africa to get surgeries done.

I feel sad and helpless tonight.  To know that a life has slipped by and we were not able to stop its merging into death.

And yet one of the glimmers of hope is the heroic behaviour of the young man whose heart went out for this destitute man.  The youngster is attending college in Mumbai.  Most of his friends are busy zoning out to their private pleasure-lands of music or are honing in on the rough-and-tumble ladder to success.  And here he is, caring for the person whom noone chose to notice.  Holding his hand, encouraging him, talking with him, praying with him.

Its the story that Jesus told of the 'good samaritan' come to life.  It doesn't have a happy ending - the man being helped died this afternoon - but it does shine some sparkles of hope into a melancholy night.

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