After crossing the Islamabad Highway at Rawal Chowk, he paused for a minute to control his breath. Walking with crutches, this man in mid-50s wiped his sweaty forehead. Humidity with disability seemed too much to handle.
A passing car stopped a few yards ahead to offer him a drop. The medium-sized man did not hurry. The car waited for him and the door was opened as he came closer. With a little assistance, he boarded the car and his folded walking aide was rested on the back seat. “Six months ago, I fell from the stair of a local three-star hotel,” he replied to his new curious companion. “I have been working there for over 11 years but the owner sent me home without providing any due medical assistance.”
The 54-year-old hesitated sharing his name except saying that he works as a telephone operator. Father to four children, the eldest being 19 and the youngest 14, he lives in his brother’s home in Lane 6 along the Park Road. “I was taken to the PIMS for operation where they estimated that implants will cost Rs 450,000,” he recalled, adding that the family had only a few thousands in savings. “I was in sheer pain and the family was in a desperate situation. My very old, close friends stopped taking my calls.” Two months, he could arrange Rs 400,000 to get operated in a private hospital.
“Considering my dire situation, the hospital gave me discount which made the operation possible.” His wife and children, meanwhile, have been cutting corners to minimise the expenses. The food intake has since been reduced to one meal a day. “Even nowadays, my children are living on roasted black chickpeas and water. For Sehr and Iftar, the menu has remained the same since the first day of Ramazan,” he said in a sombre voice, but still thanking the Almighty for keeping him alive.
Born in Quetta to a Pakistan Railways’ employee, the man is a true representative of the lower-middle class. “The dilemma of our class is self-respect. You can neither beg nor make both ends meet.” Against the surgeon’s advice for bed rest, he crawls around eight-kilometre distance daily at 2.30pm to join his shift in the hotel. At 11pm, he heads home the same way. He walks slow, takes pauses of rest and stands up again with the walking aide. He has done for the last two months.
The hotel has pick-and-drop service but not for him. Like the past, he has not missed this Ramazan a single fast too. “We are saving money in every possible way we can. None of my kids uses public transport. We walk no matter how far we have to go,” he explained. Though the office did not bear his medical cost while the accident happened at work, he feels lucky that the hotel did not fire him. His application and referees could not melt any heart in the Baitul Mal office while he did not know if there are other NGOs or donors who could help.
Heartfile, an internationally acclaimed Pakistani NGO, could have borne his medical expenses had he reached them in time. Now that he has gotten treatment from a private hospital, there auditors and transparency standards may not allow assisting the patient the same way. He is optimistically waiting for the Heartfile’s response. “I know there’ll be some limited assistance but every drop matters for me and my family now.” The debt-ridden capitali’ite is fast running out of time to pay the debt amounting to Rs 400,000. “I can’t feed my family with the salary what to talk of returning loan,” he exclaimed. “I feel so alone sometimes.” The car dropped him near his abode and sped away too!
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