(25 August 3:05 pm)

I count the days. It has been a week here. I am struggling, literally. I can’t go inside the ward save for giving food or water or taking blood samples to different departments or talking to a doctor. Only one attendant can stay with the patient and two or three during the visiting hours in the evening. Of course I am in and out most times but I don’t stay too long inside because I don’t want to break the rules. The doctors and nurses have been kind, they have allowed me access most times and I don’t want to take advantage of their niceness.

The August heat is bearable, thank God. Still, I am coming from the height of winters in Australia and my body is in every bit of shock. Lack of sleep, heat, people, noise, traffic. Outside the ward, there are just three benches and they are never empty. There is no waiting room in the building, I am told there is one outside next to the main gate but that is apparently packed beyond capacity. I once asked the guard about it and he quipped, “woh aap ke layak nahi hai” (it is not meant for you). I guess he saw my lack of fortitude to fight through a crowd.

So what happens to the sea of people that throng the fifth floor of this paediatric section? Well, they all sit along the corridors near the lifts and for those who have their children at the ICU, that is the place they are stationed as often the microphones blare out names of the patients for any exigencies.  We also had to get a mat and find a place. But over time you become friends with everyone and it is not a picnic spot where you vie for the best place. Everyone just needs a small space to sit and wait. The place also became my repository for stories and news. There were friends I made there, our intimacy built by our meetings everyday but none whose names I knew. And when we shared our stories, our only reprieve were the four fans above our heads.

AIIMs, for all its non-commercial but knowledge driven reputation, great research and hardworking doctors, sadly lacks infrastructure. There are no public toilets too. Where we sit stinky smell wafts into the air. A couple sits in front of me and open their lunch pack. Just then a green uniformed man pushes a bin full of stained sheets to the lifts. From another lift is pushed a patient surrounded by doctors on a stretcher. The child seems to have just had an operation. From inside the ICU, someone just took an open pan of shit to empty, my sister narrates. I feel I am in a hell hole but that thought is overpowered by the feeling of trust that the doctors will look after the best interest of my child. That thought sustains my being.

It is not that this premier hospital of India located at the heart of the capital has not made use of human resources. From security guards to cooks and cleaners, everything has been privatised but there seems to be no accountability. The workers go about their jobs in a lackadaisical manner. The guards want money for tea and coffee. Often the few bins inside the buildings are overflowing with trash. Someone said infections keep up with the speed of diagnosis and cure. 

I worry further.   

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