On the Hope
1: Mohammed Farouque 4, has brain tumour. His father Sayyad Hussain earns Rs 1,800 per month polishing brass on utensils in a factory in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. The child was six months old when the lump was discovered behind his ear. Two operations in Bareilly and Rs 15,000 later, the tumour would not subside. After a private hospital gave an estimate of Rs 1.5 lakh for treatment, Hussain got the child to AIIMS, Delhi, for chemotherapy. He has to get Farouque to Delhi every week. They have no relations in the city and cannot afford paid accommodation. So, the nights are spent on the railway platforms. The total expense on treatment till now is Rs 32,000, which has been arranged by selling all valuables and jewellery. Doctors say he would need another Rs 25,000. Hussain says he will have to borrow it.
2: Sadhu Das is 14, but looks 9. He used to work at a sweet shop in an industrial area of Surat, Gujarat, where he found out that he had brain tumour. His parents brought him to AIIMS, New Delhi, where surgeons removed the tumour. Now he is undergoing radiotherapy. His parents, Mangal Das, 50, and Samtoliya Devi, 45, work as landless labourers in Darbhanga district of Bihar. They earn Rs 20 or four kg of rice for a day's labour. In Delhi, they stay with some relatives in a tent house godown of Amrit Nagar. They take turns to carry Sadhu on their shoulders to go to AIIMS. They cannot afford the autorickshaw fare. Their debt stands at Rs 30,000. Sadhu has three siblings back home. Neighbours look after them. "We have to give all our attention to the one who needs us most,' says the mother.
3: Puran Singh 50, used to smoke heavily and now struggles to drink water. This resident of Shajapur village of Alwar, Rajasthan, has cancer of the larynx. His wife was treated for cervical cancer six years ago. The meagre landholding does not produce enough for his joint family of 16, and certainly not enough for cancer treatment. Adding up the loan he took for his daughter's wedding, the total debt stands at Rs 80,000. The monthly interest is Rs 2,400. He comes to Delhi for treatment with his third son Mukesh, who works as an industrial labourer for Rs 1,200 per month. They cannot afford to stay in Delhi. They take a bus in the morning and return in the night. Rs 200 only on bus fare per trip. The son tried to get the government concession on bus fare for cancer patients, but is tired of shuttling between the the local bus depot and the hospital. It is a nightmare for the old man to travel in the ramshackle buses of the state transport corporations. Sometimes, he doesn't even get a place to sit.
4: Ramesh (name changed), 21, used to work as a conductor in a Blue Line bus plying on route 280 in Delhi. He is known in the neighbourhood as the boy who fell ill. In 1997, his neighbours took him to a physician after he rapidly lost weight. He had leukaemia. He thinks he has tuberculosis. Doctors advised his family to refrain from telling him about cancer after he temporarily lost his mental balance. He lives with his mother, who works as a housemaid, and unemployed brother. The father deserted the family when Ramesh was a child. They live in a small room in Sunder Nagri slums of eastern Delhi. Ramesh's sister died a few years ago after a stove accident in the same room. The family's debt stands at Rs 15,000. Ramesh has no friends left. He used to enjoy sprinting. Now, he just sits. And stares.
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