Babiben’s daughter, Bhumika, barely twenty has already been declared a lost cause. Her lungs are too infected to support any function, so she lies in the second bed in the house, her lifeless eyes staring at the paint peeling off their home in an economically weaker section housing. We don’t know if her days are numbered, we were told the doctors just asked her to take her home and provide hospice care. For how long, we don’t know. At an age when she should be out with her friends, breaking rules, she is taking 8 tablets a day, twice a day, just to survive. She wants to work in a beauty salon one day, she tells us. She still has pain in her spine from the places where she is pricked to do draw fluid for the many tests she undergoes regularly. She is now on a life-sentence, we don’t know how much time she has, but we are hoping she can at least be healthy in that time. For a girl of twenty, she weighs less than 40 kgs.
There are bills, X-rays, discharge cards, mixed with legal and police documents, passport photographs of her children, Aadhar card photocopies, diagnosis documents of different hospitals and so on. We actually spent considerable time sorting these documents into bundles for each child, and year wise to trace the history of their illness. Babiben’s other son is off to do daily menial jobs like cleaning homes, or off lifting goods. As we browsed medical documents, we found one where the diagnosis said that his lungs were seriously damaged by what the doctor estimates is a consumption of rat poison.
Babiben, a widow lost her husband to the same lung disease we suspect has infected half the family, some five years ago. She now stays at home taking care of two bed ridden children while two of her sons earn close to Rs 15,000 a month when they can. One works as a cleaning help, and the other drives a tempo around town. We don’t know how they manage food and other essentials on Rs 15,000 a month for a family of six with two bed-ridden patients. When we visited her, she was still peaceful and complied with all our requests to furnish medical records, tell us her story and meet our demands for information to trace together her life. Originally hailing from Patan, her family has been staying in their current location for the last six years. They have a small piece of land in their native village and even had a home, but it fell during the monsoonal rain some three years ago. Out of her six children, two are married. The married son works as a security guard, and the daughter works does petty housework to make ends meet. The daughter’s husband left her a few years ago so she takes care of her three children, who have also now begun to work.
The rent of their tiny one room home is Rs 4,000 a month, the light bill is extra and they get tapped water for two hours everyday. Babiben does most of the housework as happens often in Indian households, and particularly those of the lower income ones where the men of the house spend almost 12 hours outside making ends meet and the women manage the household in the meantime. She cooks, carries water, and takes care of the smallest needs of her sick children. Poverty as Gandhi once famously said, is the worst form of violence.
We are hoping to help her with rations, medical aid and perhaps some livelihood options for the now differently abled son. The progress on this family will be posted regularly on social media and can be followed on our pages. This is the estimated budget of the assistance, your contribution would mean a lot to help the family break this cycle of misfortune.