The Telegraph
Monday , December 19 , 2011
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A bustling hospital next door goes deathly quiet

- ‘We don’t discuss that day. We are too close’

Susmita Roy has been living in the lane behind AMRI Hospitals Dhakuria for 34 years. Annexe I, barely 50m away, shares a common boundary wall with her home where she lives with her husband, daughter, son and daughter-in-law. She told Metro about Friday the 9th and about living next door to a bustling hospital that has gone deathly quiet.

It was never easy living next to a hospital. From the time the annexe was being constructed, AMRI would give us sleepless nights. We would stay up as hundreds of labourers would work through the night, singing and shouting.

Once the construction was over and the hospital began operating new problems arose. So many shanty shops opened up in the lane beside the building that led to my house. It was always crowded, bustling even late at night. We couldn’t get a moment’s quiet.

Gradually, I got used to the noise. Patients’ families weeping in the middle of the night, ambulances rushing in and out, people screaming out to each other... everything faded into a background score as I went about my daily chores.

We saw the other side too, when people we knew would get admitted to the hospital on our recommendation. We would sit in the waiting room, come home for a quick snack and get back again. Our lives were intertwined with AMRI Hospitals Dhakuria in more ways than one.

Then, one morning, I woke up at 3.30am to the sound of glass being smashed. I looked out of my window and saw a group of men hurling stones at the annexe. I went up to the terrace. All that lit up the dark night were the windows of the hospital. I soon heard people screaming there was a fire in the hospital.

And then it all went black. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw smoke billowing out of the ground floor. I rushed downstairs and called the fire brigade. They said they had been alerted and were on their way. I went back up and stood frozen as day broke and slowly, too slowly, the firefighters arrived.

As the fight for survival went on, I watched, helplessly. Never have I felt so useless.

A week later, I live that moment every day.

Today, there is nobody blocking the lanes. No sounds wafting through my windows at night.

The Children’s Little Theatre, of which I am a governing body member, has for the first time in its 65-year history cancelled its annual function.

No celebrations can happen in this desolate corner of our busy city. All I hear is an eerie silence. All I see is an abandoned mausoleum.

We don’t discuss that day in my house. We are too close.