The Patna man who can’t abandon the abandoned

Soul food: Gurmeet Singh with a patient at the Patna Medical College and Hospital.   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar;Ranjeet Kumar -

: As Patna celebrated the three-day International Sikh Conclave, Gurmeet Singh was getting a cotton shirt and trousers stitched, his first in six years. The sexagenarian Sikh, who hasn’t stepped out of Patna for 13 years, is preparing to receive this year’s World Sikh Award in London, having been picked out of 100 entries from all over the world in the category “Sikhs in Seva” by a London based organization, The Sikh Directory. For over 20 years Gurmeet Singh has been visiting the abandoned patients’ ward of Bihar’s biggest government hospital every night with food, medicine and compassion for patients who have no one to turn to. At the lawaris ward patients wait for this Good Samaritan Sikh.

On Wednesday night when The Hindu accompanied Gurmeet Singh to the ward in Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) there were 11 patients waiting for him. There were no signs of a doctor or nurse in the stinking ward, with streams of urine and pale blood on the floor. A fetid smell of untouched, stale food given free by the hospital filled the air.

In the dimly-lit ward with lime-green walls, the faces of the patients light up when Gurmeet Singh steps in at 9 every night. “He is like God for us,” says Shanti Devi in a white, loose dress. She has been in the ward with her infected leg for the last 15 days. “If Sardarji would not have been coming with food and medicine every night, many of us have died,” she says, wolfing down fresh bread, vegetables and a sweet Gurmeet Singh has brought. It is her first meal of the day.

In another room Chandra Bhushan Kumar, Dev Prakash Mishra, Bhola Prasad and a mute old man who can’t get up, are waiting for him.

Every night riding on his white Scooty Gurmeet Singh leaves his small garment shop in the busy Chiraiyatand, buys food packets from a roadside “Radhe Krishna” eatery, near Gandhi Maidan, sweets from a cart and sometimes eggs for a “change of taste”.

With his bag full, he enters the PMCH’s “abandoned” ward, washes his hands in the wash basin, takes out the steel plates he has kept there and serves food to the waiting patients.

Then he goes through the patients’ prescriptions and jots down the medicines, which he will buy. Gurmeet has lost count of the number of times he has donated blood.

“Now, the doctors have told me not to donate blood any more as it will be dangerous for my health…my son and other relatives donate. But sometimes when emergency comes, how can I not?” he says simply. Asked if anything had changed in this hospital in the last 20 years, he says, “Nothing.”

But as November 19, the day he will receive the award nears, Gurmeet is worried. Who will take care of the patients when he is gone to London? And how will he speak. As he puts it, “I do not know English, sir!”

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 10:09:26 PM |

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