The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospital hearth for abandoned orphans

Siliguri, Sept. 6: It’s a parental role doctors and nurses at Siliguri Sadar Hospital don’t mind playing.

Ever since Bappa and Bunty, two abandoned children picked up by the police, checked into the hospital with tuberculosis and cardiac problems, the hospital staff have collectively become their “ma” and “baba”, wrapping the four-year-old boy and the five-year-old girl in a quilt of comfort.

Bappa’s mother, deserted by her husband, had abandoned him on the roadside in Mallaguri on a misty January morning this year, unable to bear the burden of her sick son. Residents had found the little boy crying and coughing violently and turned him over to the police, who had in turn deposited him in the hospital. Bappa was found to have been suffering from tuberculosis, which doctors suspect might have prompted his mother, homeless and penniless, to abandon him.

Bunty came in six months later. She had similarly been left on the side of a road on the outskirts of Siliguri. The skinny, malnourished five-year-old was shivering when a police patrol picked her up on July 17. She was taken to the hospital immediately. Ever since, she has been in the paediatric ward of the hospital, lying on a cot next to Bappa, with whom she has bonded well.

The hospital’s acting superintendent, T.K. Kaur, said the hospital staff had embraced the children as if they were their own. “We all feel for these unfortunate children,” Kaur said.

In the last seven months, Bappa has undergone treatment for tuberculosis. “He responded well to the treatment and is now almost cured,” a doctor said.

Bunty had “mild” cardiac problems when she came in. She, too, is on the road to recovery.

But, for the hospital staff down to the sweepers, Bappa and Bunty are not just two patients. Kaur said the entire staff has pooled in to provide the children with nutritious food and fruit that were certainly not on the hospital’s menu. “This has definitely helped the children. A good diet and medicines work wonders on children essentially suffering from malnutrition,” Kaur said.

When nurses are not attending to serious patients, they carry the two children, who look much younger than their age because of malnutrition, on their arms. “They are so cute,” a nurse exclaimed.

Bappa and Bunty do not talk about their parents or homes they were wrenched away from. Nor do the staff remind them of their past.

But numbed by the cruelty of their parents, neither child talks much. “They are very quiet, unlike children their age,” a nurse said. At times, the boy and the girl walk to the windows and look out at the milling patients in the yard, possibly trying to pick out their lost parents in the crowd.

The hospital staff, aware of their shortcomings as foster parents, said they could not play the role for long and the children needed the care of an orphanage in the long run.

“We are already talking with an orphanage in Jalpaiguri. It would be in the interest of the children. But we would be sad to see them go,” said a doctor.

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