The Merit of ONE Life...
Updated: May 31, 2019
I've always found that word...'merit', extremely ambiguous.
Who gets to decide what is excellent, or good, or worth mentioning or like here... worth saving? Who gets to rate the calibre or quality of something or as in this story...someone's life?
It was work as usual for us.
We were returning to Dungarda village, last Sunday night (~9:00PM), after completing some work at the ASK Trust Office at Valsad, when crossing through the Chikhli By-pass, we suddenly noticed something lying on the road in the opposite lane. It was extremely dark in that lane (I guess, a street-bulb had blown out), that it was hard to even make out what the form was - human or animal or even a sack!!!
As we reached parallel, across the barrier, I could make out a leg stretched out. I said tersely, "It's a man, Azar..."
Parking the car beside the road immediately, with our parking lights flashing, we quickly made our way across the road and over the barrier.
We just were reaching the spot, when a white Swift came speeding towards us. I screamed at him to stop, and with literally screeching brakes the driver brought the vehicle to a stop, just inches from the prostrate form. I shouted at him, "Aadmi che (It's a man!)"... Without even lowering his windows, the driver swiftly manoeuvred his Swift (Pun intended!) around the fallen body and sped off.
I didn't have time to marvel at the levels of apathy, as Azar standing at a far distance from the body, had started to divert the vehicles and was dialling 108. I immediately fell onto my knees beside the prone man & checked for his carotid, then his radial pulse. It was there...faint...Blood was seeping onto the road, near his head and had already formed a small, thick puddle.
A crowd had formed around me by now. I asked the people to step back and spoke in a firm, loud voice, "Zinda che, shift karu padse" (He's alive, we have to shift him). I wasn't getting any volunteers, and so decided to flip him myself. I grasped his arm & leg, and was slowly turning him over, when a well-built man asked whether it was safe to do so. I told him that we had to, as he was on the main road & wasn't safe here.
He immediately helped me, and with the help of a few other people, carried him to the well-lit porch of a shuttered shop beside the road.
As we gently laid him down, the man slowly started moaning and flickering his eyelids.
It was then, under the bright tube-light, I noticed his attire. He was wearing faded, tattered pants (the colour could've been anything from black, brown or dark blue), a torn dirty, light-blue shirt with a frayed collar, missing buttons and no chappals on his callused feet. His hair was like matted grey wool. The stink of alcohol he emitted was so strong... the surrounding people slightly shifted back. Someone had brought his worldly possessions from the road where he'd fallen - two round bags, one of cloth & the other of plastic, and his long walking stick. He was homeless...a wanderer...
I gently tapped him between his eyes, and he slowly opened his eyes - they were hollow, rheumy black, deep-set eyes. He gingerly tried to sit, and I helped him up, all the while examining him, checking his joints for any deformity or injury, checking his pupils with my mobile light. He spoke his name clearly (*Bholu Bhai) and answered that he hadn't see the Tempo-van (that info was provided by another by-stander) that hit him. I then asked him whether he remembered the name of his village, to which he gave me a bemused look. The look deepened when I asked him whether he was drunk. He then replied, "Of course!!!", with a twinkle in his eyes. I chuckled, so did a few people around us.
The story was slowly trickling in from among the bystanders. It seemed that the old man had been lying on the road for a little while now, maybe 5 minutes or so. As he had the looks of a beggar, none bothered to rush to his aid. A few vehicles had slowed down, before deftly driving their vehicles around him. It was just God's Grace, that no big vehicles had come along the lane.
I stood up, and noticed that most of the crowd had dispersed by now. It was just a few of us left. As I enquiringly looked around for my husband, the well-built man who had helped me said, "It's just a drunk, homeless guy; if it had been anybody else, people would've taken selfies and hung around."
True... this old man was another number in the 1.8 million men and women who are homeless in our country today; and if he had died, he would have just been another statistic in the increasing traffic fatality rate of our country. (One person dies, every 5 minutes in our country in RTAs, according to the latest WHO reports)
Finally, there were only 5 of us left - the homeless man sitting on the floor, the well-built man in a skull-cap and short pants, a young man waiting on his bike and the two of us.
The 108 Ambulance driver called and said that it would take him a minimum of 30 minutes to reach us. The two men told us that we could leave, and that they would stay with the old man. Then the young motorcyclist said, "But it would be nice if you would stay, Sir, as you're doctors. They may sometimes refuse to take a single injured person without a bystander!"
We didn't have any plans to leave, without making sure that the old man was taken care of, and the young man's words just confirmed other impressions we had got regarding the 108 services in some parts of our state.
The old man soon lapsed into silence, and sat staring ahead, not exactly focussed on anything. The alcohol would have numbed the pain of the deep gash on his fore-head...the pain of living...maybe that too...
As Azar stood talking with the men, I just leaned on the wall, gazing at the old man.
This wasn't the first time we'd seen an accident, or the first time we had stopped by, but this was the first time we had helped out a homeless person... ...maybe I was too harsh and swift (Again pun intended!) in judging that Swift driver, and the many other vehicle-drivers who just went ahead with their lives, despite seeing a person lying injured in an obvious hit-and-run accident...maybe they thought someone else was helping or would help...or maybe they just couldn't be bothered by it all...
The thought then crossed my mind, "What if it was...Papa or Azar or Boby lying there?" Would I just leave to return to my life, trusting someone else would do the needful? Wouldn't I have stopped then-and-there, stood trying to help in ANY way possible, praying hard for that person's life, for the Ambulance to reach on time...???
Yes, I would do so!!! In a heartbeat!!!
And so...even this old homeless man's life is invaluable - if not for me, for his family. If not for his family, for the Creator who made him and me.
25 minutes later, the Ambulance arrived. The attender was visibly reluctant to take him and kept repeating,"He doesn't have anybody? Nobody?" Azar then stepped up and told him firmly, "We are doctors, he needs observation and first-aid for his head-injury. He is all alone and you need to take him NOW, to the Government facility nearby." The Ambulance driver was more willing, and the men then gently lifted him onto the stretcher. I took up his bags, his stick and with a small prayer, placed them at the back of the Ambulance.
When I turned to see, the old man had closed his eyes, and was resting, as they closed the back door of the Ambulance.
The well-built man was a chef at a street-joint nearby, and insisted that we have dinner with him and his family. We politely declined and thanked him and the other young motor-cyclist, and made way to our car.
After going a little way ahead, Azar turned to me and said smilingly, "It feels good to help save a life, doesn't it?"
The merit of ONE life...how much is it? How does a person rate one's own life or that of others? Who are we to judge? And why do we?
And then slowly this verse arose... "Truly, I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me." (from the Holy Bible, Book of Matthew, Chapter 25, Verse 40)
Well then, THAT's decided...I'm not anybody to decide on the merit of life...it's His to decree and mine to endeavour...in this life of mine... :)