Milinda Ghosh Roy
W ith no cutting-edge medical equipment, air-conditioning or critical care unit in place, the under-construction building in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district hardly matches the popular notion of a modern medical care facility. Yet, the hospital has become a national landmark as it tells the story of a grieving brother turning his droplets of tears into an ocean of determination that helped establish it.
Taxi driver Saidul Lashkar set out on what then seemed a near impossible journey in 2004 after his sister Marufa died of chest infection as he did not have the means to get her treated in a hospital. Marufa was only 17. Though shattered and inconsolable, Saidul took a pledge not to let anyone else in his neighbourhood die without treatment. “I felt I needed to do something so that no impoverished person dies like she did, without getting treatment. I wish no brother loses his sister like I did,” Saidul said, leaning quietly on a wall of the newly constructed patients’ waiting hall of Marufa Smriti Welfare Foundation in Punri village near Baruipur, about 55 km from Kolkata.
Twelve years were spent chasing the dream, as the cabbie criss-crossed the streets of Kolkata, never veering for a moment from his single-minded pursuit to make the project happen. It was not at all a walk in the park, he recalled. Saidul would talk at length about his mission to the passengers while driving and show them the documents and receipts of the donations he had received so far. But a majority refused to lend him a helping hand.
As strangers came in ones and twos, helping him gradually raise the funds for the hospital, back home, Saidul’s wife Shamima stood by her husband like a rock.
Finally, Saidul’s dream came true on February 17 as the hospital started functioning, albeit partially, by opening its outdoor unit to patients. In a touching gesture, Saidul got his new-found “sister” Srishti to inaugurate the hospital. The response from the locals has been overwhelming, as the nearest hospital in the area is almost 11 km away.
“There is a buzz all around. Everybody in the area is talking about the hospital,” said Sojol Das, while driving this correspondent in his e-rickshaw to the hospital premises. Work is now on to make it a full-fledged 50-bed hospital with other necessary facilities like X-Ray and Electrocardiography (ECG). (IANS)
(Milinda Ghosh Roy can be contacted at [email protected])