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At AIIMS, fire lends comfort

Families and relatives huddle around crackling fires giving birth to warm bonds, reports Vidya Krishnan.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 15:11 IST

On the lawn of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), cold nights are giving birth to warm bonds. Families of patients, who have been waiting for months for that elusive appointment with the doctor or an end to the suffering of a loved one, huddle together every evening around crackling fires to share their woes and fight the cold.

Most have nowhere else to spend the night. The dharamshalas are overflowing with people or inaccessible without a bribe; the alien city outside is hardly inviting. A blanket and the fire are the only defence against the chill.

Dinner is also a ritual that bonds them. Manoj, for example, is responsible for arranging the wood to light the fire. Savita is the cook of the group. Sometimes, her rickety stove needs to be coaxed along but that is the least of her problems.

“We have been living here for months and the doctors just keep giving us dates after dates. My son was scheduled to undergo an operation last week but it got postponed and now I am waiting for my next appointment. If my son does not die of cancer, he will die of the cold,” said Manoj Kumar, who came from Darbanga, Bihar, in November 2006.

Muntyaz, whose 11-year-old son Sonu has been diagnosed with cancer, is waiting for January 23, when his is supposed to report to the doctor.

“The doctors do not know our plight. When we came here, winter had not set in and the two blankets we got are now insufficient. We cannot afford the expensive canteen. I just have Rs 5,000 left. When that is over, I will have to go back home,” he said.

According to the families, the  dharamshala is open only to those who can bribe the staff there. “I showed my son’s file to the dharamshala’s staff but I was told that it is full. I had to return to the hospital, where I while away the entire day dreading the cold night,” said Feroz Qureshi.

Email Vidya Krishnan: vidya.krishnan@hindustantimes.com