Calcutta, Aug. 19: A month after Nadim Sheikh walked out of the hospital carrying his dead baby son in his arms, the handcart puller returned to pay the bill ' Rs 1,125.
In July, Sheikh entered the emergency ward of SSKM Hospital, holding his 11-month-old bleeding son who had sustained a severe head injury in an accident. Tears streamed down his cheeks and his shirt was soaked in blood.
“When he came to us we knew at once that it was impossible for him to foot the hospital bill but the child needed immediate medical attention and we decided to admit him immediately,” said Santanu Tripathi, the hospital superintendent.
The doctors tried, but little Adil’s condition worsened and on July 15 the doctors informed Sheikh his son was sinking.
“In an hour, it was all over. I watched my son die,” recalled Sheikh.
When Sheikh, who lives in a slum, asked for the body the hospital said he would have to pay Rs 1,125 as charges.
“How can I pay' I don’t have a paisa with me. If you give me some time I will surely pay back the dues,” pleaded Sheikh.
Hospital officials had heard this promise many times and seen it violated every time.
“Every other day we have patients fleeing the hospital without paying for the services and in some cases they even threaten us and take dead bodies away. But this man somehow seemed different,” said Tripathi.
After repeated appeals, the hospital relented, allowing Sheikh to take his son’s body away. He gave a written undertaking ' described as a routine affair by the hospital ' that he would pay the money in a month.
“Let me bury my son and pray for his soul and I will surely come back with the money” ' those were his last words, according to the hospital authorities.
On Friday evening, Sheikh, who pulls handcarts at times and hawks at others, walked into the hospital and said he wanted to pay up.
“We were completely surprised. This man who had lost his son and was extremely poor had not forgotten his dues which we thought were lost forever,” Tripathi added.