Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Room in Delhi

It is a fairly typical room; four walls, large open doorway, windows. Nothing out of the ordinary. The floor is tiled and dirty; dust, grime stains of all kinds.There were windows on three of the walls. One looking outside and the other two looking into identical rooms on either side. The windows, like the floors, were dirty. Covered in grime and dried splatter from unknown liquids. The walls were plain… no paintings or art, just years of scuff marks and two silent air conditioners hanging above the windows. The room did not contain much, just 6 beds and 6 rusted out side-tables with locker doors hanging from their hinges. The beds were in equally bad repair. Tubular metal frames which were once painted white but now the paint was bubbled and blistered as rust broke through and stained the frames a dirty beige. On one of the beds the tubular steel leg had rusted right through and the bed sat on a funny angle. Each of the beds had a thin vinyl covered mattress in various states of repair; ripped and stained with various forms of human excrement. Some of the beds had sheets, most of which looked as though they had been slept on many times by, I'd imagine, many different people. The beds had no pillows or blankets. Not enough to go around. Three of the beds on one side of the room were occupied. The first by the window by a man surrounded by many visitors. Funnily he did not know how to use his mobile phone. Whenever it rang he had the screen facing out and struggled to hear what the person on the other end was saying.
The middle bed was occupied by an unconscious man who was hooked up to a very battered looking oxygen tank. He had no visitors and no attendant to help him.
The third person in that room was Murari, the person we were there to visit. He is one of the boys from the ashram that we work with and at 16 he has had one of the hardest lives of anyone I have ever known.
As you have probably guessed by now this room is a hospital room. But not a hospital room as you probably know it. The nature of this room considering it's purpose did not surprise me; nothing much in India surprises me anymore. Even the fact that when the hospital meals are delivered to the patients they do not come with a plate or cup does not surprise me. There are no nurses to look after you and no buzzers to press for help. If you do not have a family member to look after you, you might lie in that bed and not have another person look at you for days let alone attend to your basic needs.
When Murari arrived in emergency he was put in a bed with 2 other people. Astounding isn't it? But sadly this is the nature of public hospitals in India. Another sad fact is that it's not likely Murari will receive a diagnosis for whatever this illness is that is turning him into an emaciated sack of bones and is sucking the life out of him. What do you do?

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