The friend turned hero!

Age hasn’t slowed her, even as the grey strains of hair are beginning to show up. As she bent forward to examine the broken feet of the man, she showed no signs of tiredness. “Aap kyun nahin hospital aaya” her words radiated anger and pain. A tinge of frustration as well. “Kal aao, mein aapkeliye treatment-free banaya”. I followed her words carefully, lest my poor Hindi misses something important. I gathered that she is promising free treatment to the man if he comes to the hospital tomorrow.

The man used to beg. Occasionally collected garbage to earn some money. In a freak accident, he had lost his legs. Life cannot be this cruel. It had hardly given him anything before. A small plastic sheet that he calls home. The old cot on which he is lying down. Wife and three children. Few utensils to cook food. The dress on the family smelt old. Old will be an understatement.

There is pain everywhere. It was suffocating. Questions thronged in my mind. Where did it all go wrong? Children on the streets, begging. One food a day, if available. Ragged clothes. Pigs and humans almost eating in the same place. No place called a shelter. People eating rats. Children and women dying dime a dozen. Life had no value. The world of poverty and pain. The world I hardly understood.

In that sinkhole of terribleness, ‘S’ and family serve. One patient at a time. One more man healed, even if temporarily, healed nevertheless, at least to live one more day to beg. ‘S’! The ‘S’ I had known so well. The ‘S’ I grew up with. The earliest friend I know. ‘S’, the best outgoing student from the best medical college in India. ‘S’, the mother of three beautiful children.

As we walked back home with heavy hearts, She narrated all the stories of pain that she had witnessed over the years. I saw something that I had missed seeing in her all the years. A complete sense of serenity. Three young kids don’t frustrate her. Their future doesn’t make her anxious. Hundreds of patients thronging every inch of the place don’t irritate her. The pain and suffering around her don’t make her helpless.

The work is incredibly satisfying Sam, she said.

‘S’, her husband ‘G’ and her friends, and everyone serving humanity in that place. Flickering lights in the darkest of places; keep my hope in human beings alive.

Is there hope for humankind? I don’t know! Perhaps ‘S’ has an answer.

I went to the poorest state in India. Among the poorest districts of that state, and among the poorest areas of the district to meet a friend. I came back, watching a real-life hero in action.

For ‘S’ surely is a hero this side of heaven.

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