There is still hope in the city. And the Railway Protection Force provided ample proof of it, when they utilised a forgotten, shabby rest house to provide beds and accommodation to needy cancer patients. The 10-room house, located in Parel, was known to be dirty and had not been maintained properly. But officers decided to put it to good use and turned it into a home for cancer patients.
The transformation happened three months ago and the home has ten beds for patients and their relatives. “This has been made by collecting contributions from many staff members of the RPF and their friends,” said an RPF staffer. The patients who are now here were earlier on the roads and footpaths. For instance, Alok Kumar and Lalsa Kumari, a couple from Patna, who have been here for the past four months, came to stay when the house was still being cleaned.
Their one-and-half-year-old daughter Dhaniya Gargee was diagnosed with a tumor in her back, near the spinal chord, four months ago. “We didn’t have money for treatment and we also couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel. We are surviving and getting medical help for our baby because of this place (the rest house). We are thankful to the staff who have made it available to us,” said 31-year-old Alok Kumar.
Blessing in disguise
Doctors had referred them to Tata Memorial. “We were broken on hearing the news of the disease. We were very scared, as neither did we have money, nor did we know anyone in the city. But, now, my daughter is 70 per cent cured and we have a peaceful house to stay in,” narrated the baby’s mother.
The couple had slept on the footpath near Byculla Hospital, before they were told of the rest house. The family has been hit by tragedy after tragedy. Days after the couple came to the city, Alok was admitted to a hospital due to dengue and Lalsa contracted malaria. While the two were recuperating in hospitals, RPF staff and relatives of other patients in the rest house took care of the baby.
Sona Kumari Paswan (41) has been sharing a room with her husband and son in the home for the last two months. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer few months back and had thought that I won’t be alive. We came to Mumbai and slept outside Kurla and Parel stations for 10 days before we came here. During chemotherapy, the place should be neat and clean and we are thankful to the RPF for giving us this place.”
Garbage piling up
Yet, an RPF staffer complained that garbage piled up outside the building and the BMC had done nothing about it. “Our patients and even their relatives are getting affected due to this garbage. It stinks and causes them to fall ill. We have complained to the BMC authorities, but we have got no response from them,” said a staffer from RPF, who is involved in the maintenance and care of the rest house. The rest house is officially meant for RPF staff, who are patients. But, after verification and proper authorisation, the rest house can be given to the common man on humanitarian grounds.
“This has been started by our staff with a noble cause and clean motive. We have not demanded money, nor has any official contributed officially. Anyone who wishes to lend a helping hand can always contribute, and do something for patients who come from far-off villages for cancer treatment,” said a senior RPF official who didn’t want to be quoted on this issue. Though higher authorities confirmed the existence of the facility, none of them came on record. Atul Rane, chief PRO, Central Railway, said, “Any help or happiness that is given by a railway staff to staff who are cancer patients is a welcome move on such a festive day.”
The number of rooms in the Parel shelter