As you see them sitting in this photograph, everything seems fine. This feeling of comfort just ends here.
- It ends when you come to know they met an accident November last year while going somewhere by an auto-rickshaw.
- It ends when you come to know the lady was hospitalized in AIIMS. A doctor treating her was not able to find out that the accident had damaged her knee-cap. Another doctor discharged her against her will and that, too, when pus was flowing out from her left had where a steel plate was implanted. That was January 2011.
- It ends when you come to know her left hand and right leg with another steel plate implanted are still not working. She is still bed-ridden.
- It ends when you come to know this elderly couple’s snap was taken while they were in their single room accommodation of an old-age home in Eastern Delhi.
- It ends when you come to know this couple in 70’s has no one to look after.
- It ends when you sit with them for an hour and see a dignified couple crying on worsening condition of their life. During that period, all the consoling words lose their meaning.
Around a month ago, my friend Rupendra from Varanasi called me and asked if I could accompany the elderly couple, Mr & Mrs Mehta to the Saket District Court for Mrs Mehta’s deposition. I went with them and there, for the first time, I saw their plight. Mrs Mehta and my friend’s brother were in the same ward of the AIIMS Trauma Centre. As Mehtas had no one from their family except few occasional visits by some relatives, it was spontaneous that my friend offered them help in their small needs like bringing eatables, talking to doctors, talking to them in free time and slowly they developed a human bondage that continued even after their returned to Varanasi.
All through the ride to the court, both of them kept crying cursing their life and fate that had put them in such a pathetic condition and the fact that there was no one close to look after them was adding to their thoughts. We had hired an ambulance and Mrs Mehta was taken on stretcher. Her evidence was recorded and hearing was postponed for the next date. But by then, words have already lost their meaning and I felt so ashamed after I realized their misery and growing insensitivity towards everything that can be tagged in the category ‘human’ – the insensitivity and negligence of the old-age home, the insensitivity of the administrative machinery (and you can find big hoardings claiming facilities extended to the senior citizens under it’s ‘Bhagidari’ scheme by the Delhi govt – another lip service!), the insensitivity of the doctors at the AIIMS Trauma Centre.
Meet Mr & Mrs AD Mehta: Mr AD Mehta’s family migrated from Pakistan during the partition. They were eight siblings. Mr Mehta is the only surviving member now. Mehtas have no children. Mr Mehta started his career as an accountant with some govt outfit in Delhi but soon left the job and went to Iran with Somdutt Builders during the 70’s. But he could not adapt to the situations there and came back to India. Here, he started some business of moulded plastic and continued with similar occupations for livelihood. As a result, they do not have any steady source of income like pension other than small savings that earn them some interest to meet their monthly needs. Before the accident, Mrs Mehta was earning an irregular income of around Rs 6,000 by doing stitching work.
They have one nephew here in Delhi staying at Munirka but he has visited them just once since they met the accident. Only one relative, daughter-in-law of Mr Mehta’s maternal aunt, who is staying at Prithviraj Road, is in regular touch with them and has been helping them with sending food items and other stuff regularly. Apart from this there has been occasional helps like a nephew living in the US offering them an air-conditioner though accounting for its monthly usage bill is another bothering head. On the whole, they have a solitary life confined to a room of the old-age home.
They never owned a house. They had land in Noida that they sold around 20 years ago. In Dec 2006, they took the membership of the old-age home, Bhagwat Dham (near Uttara Guruvayurappan temple, Pocket III, Chilla Road, Mayur Vihar Phase-1). Earlier, they were staying in the house of Mr Mehta’s elder brother at Pusa Road. Mr Mehta’s elder brother arranged for the required sum (Rs 1,22,000 then) to be paid for the membership.
Their medical history: Mrs Mehta had a knee-cap replacement done in 2005. She was doing fine until she met this accident. Mr Mehta has suffered from heart attack in the past and had undergone the treatment for the same. He is suffering from hearing impairment as well as from a neurological problem that makes his legs feel heavy during walking.
Their past medical problems have taken away their almost of the savings apart from the bare minimum what they need to maintain to carry on with recurring expenses like ongoing medication, electricity bill, communication bill, domestic help as Mrs Mehta is bed ridden now. Mrs Mehta needs a physiotherapist that they cannot afford now.
On Nov 8, 2010, they were going to Munirka by three-wheeler when they met the accident near Moolchand under-pass. Both of them lost the conscious and were subsequently taken to the AIIMS Trauma Centre by the police.
Post accident, at AIIMS: Mr Mehta had minor injuries and he was discharged the same day but Mrs Mehta was serious. Mrs Mehta’s left hand and right leg were affected. Steel plates were implanted in her left hand and right leg on the line of the required treatment.
She would ask doctors why she was not taken for physiotherapy as others were. Doctor would say there was some problem with her knee-cap which they had straightened out and it would take three months for that to heel. Before that she would not be able to walk on her own. The day she was discharged pus was flowing from her left hand but she said the doctor would not listen to her. She requested the doctor to let her be in the hospital till her hand starts moving but she was not allowed to. And this is the day; her hand is still not functioning, right leg is not movable at all.
Post AIIMS: Once back to old-age home, Mehtas consulted another doctor. She had some physiotherapy sessions but as she tried to stand on her own with some ortho-equipment support that she was advised to use, she fell down. After X-ray, it was revealed that her replaced knee-cap got damaged post-accident which the AIIMS doctor thought to have straightened out. They contacted AIIMS, where after examination, she was advised to be admitted for knee-cap replacement surgery. But due to their earlier unpleasant experience, they decided to consult Dr Vinod Sharma from the Holy Family hospital. Dr Sharma had done her earlier knee-cap replacement and doesn’t charge Mehtas his consultancy fee. After examination he agreed to do it again.
The estimate submitted by the hospital for the knee-cap replacement system is of Rs 2,57,250. Additional Rs 1,50,000 is needed towards the hospital expenses. Here we need to keep in mind the post-hospitalization expenses, too, like the required physiotherapy session at their place of stay and continued medication.
Trial of the case to the insurance claim is currently going on in the court of Justice KS Mohi at the Saket District Court. They say they did not know their lawyer. She was contacted by the police. Till date, they have received no claim amount though it is said that a sum of Rs 50,000 has been cleared in the name of Mr AD Mehta but there is no word on its arrival. During last hearing, the judge scheduled the next hearing on May 31 and asked the doctor to come and confirm about her medical condition, the estimate amount required and to testify that her knee-cap got damaged due to the accident on Nov 8, 2010.
The case is bound to get delayed as the doctor is out of India and would return only on June 6. By then the courts will be having their summer vacations. So the next date will be sometime in July. And we can never be sure of timely delivery of justice keeping in mind the huge backlog. The irony is given the old age of the victim, it is not advisable to delay the surgical process for long.
- Can we help them out in a way that restores their faith in life?
- Can we restore their self-dependence while not hurting their sense of dignity?
You can directly reach them or their doctor to know more about them - It is their only chance to have a dignified and self-dependent life in the dusk of their age. She needs to walk on her own to take charge of their lives; to care for her; to look-after her ailing husband.