Temple of charity: A roof over the head, balm for their souls, patients get it all in PGI gurdwara
Bedridden for over a year at the Gurdwara Partakh Darshan on the campus of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Sangeeta Sharma, 32, beams a peaceful smile. The semi-paralysed single mother, who is suffering from kidney ailments and a fractured hip bone, is used to living with illness without any family support, but it’s the thought of her three children that had been driving her insane. Today she is at peace as the gurdwara has agreed to take the custody of her children.
Established in 1980s, the gurdwara is the last hope for many patients like Sangeeta, who come to the PGI for treatment from far-flung areas, and find themselves stranded with little or no resources.
It was a year ago that Sangeeta, a resident of Rishikesh, who had suffered partial paralysis following a brain stroke, came to the PGI for treatment. She did not expect any support from her abusive and alcoholic husband, but to her dismay, her family also slammed their doors on her.
It was then that the gurdwara opened its gates for her and her three children.
“They spend around Rs 15,000 per month on my medicines and take me for tests. They have taken the responsibility of my children as well and are funding their education,” says Sangeeta, who has decided to give their custody to the gurdwara instead of their father. “I can finally die in peace, “she sighs.
Simran, her 10-year-old daughter, is besides herself with excitement as tells you how she will be shifted to a new hostel with her sister. “They will give me new books and bags. It will be fun,” she beams.
Like Simran, Anchal Dhiman, 15, too has been given a reason to smile by the gurdwara. The last two years have been a nightmare for this teenager. “My mother is undergoing spine treatment at PGIMER since 2014. Instead of taking care of her, my father left us. Because of stress, my hemoglobin fell to 3 and I was also shifted to PGI,” she recounts. Anchal had to leave her studies and take care of her mother. “We used to spend the nights at Gol market on the campus. It was a horrifying experience,” she recalls.
But the gurdwara changed all that. “The bad days seem to be over. We have a roof over our heads, and they’ve also got me admitted to a school. My life is back to normal,” Anchal smiles.
They are not the only ones benefiting from the gurdwara’s generosity. The education of several other children of poor patients is being supported by a businessman, Inderpreet Singh Chadha, fondly called baba.
Chadha funds medications worth Rs 10 lakh for around 500 patients every month. They include 90 kidney patients and 250 cancer patients. Chadha has also started a monthly pension of Rs 1200 for 35 renal transplant patients. Around 40 women whose husbands died in PGIMER also get a pension of Rs 1,000 a month.
The businessman first visited the gurdwara with his friend who was undergoing treatment for liver cancer. “I noticed an elderly woman crying and urging her son to leave. She told me that as she could not afford the treatment, she would prefer to die in the gurdwara,” recalls Chadha. “I could not stomach the fact that people were dying for want of medicine. So I decided to provide medicines to the needy from my family Trust,” he said.
Chadha decided to focus on educating the children of patients when he saw them wandering aimlessly. Shikha, a wheelchair-bound teenager suffering from cancer, joined hands with him by starting evening classes for them. “While she would teach them, I would get them to stay on by giving them biscuits,” says Chadha.
Shikha is no more, but the example she set inspired him to get such children admitted to government schools in Sector 15 and 12. At present, more than 70 children are studying in these schools. A few children are also taking professional education from PU and other universities. The evening classes started by Shikha continue, thanks to two teachers hired by Chadha, who is now building dorms for girl students.
There are many other philanthropists like Chadha who are associated with the gurdwara. For instance, Hakim Singh supplies it with milk and vegetables. Owners of Sigma Pharmacy organise a biweekly langar. And owners of Park Plaza donate 36 litres of milk every day.
Gurdwara Partakh Darshan has been coming to the rescue of patients and attendants from far-flung regions for more than two decades now. Large number of these patients are suffering from chronic diseases like cancer and kidney failure, which makes treatment a very expensive affair.
Nearly 2,000 people take shelter at the two serais of the gurdwara and over 4,000 people are served langar every day.
“The gurdwara is running on donations by the people. There are many donors, who are associated with it for years, and then there are anonymous good Samaritans,” says Tarsem Singh, a sewak at the gurdwara.