My name is Jagdish. I am now close to 40. Until a few months back I used to work at SantRam Dhaba on the outskirts of Pushkar city in Rajasthan. My day began at 7am every morning. I started out by helping in the kitchens, and then waited tables, and served food to the travelers passing by, and ended often at 3am by serving the late night travellers -all the while listening to interesting anecdotes from their many travels. I had many friends, some colleagues, some loyal customers who expected their favourite food to be served to them piping hot within minutes of their arrival. I made an adequate amount of money for my sustenance and always had enough leftover to send to my family back in Bikaner. I had made a good life for myself.In fact, living away from my loved ones was the only struggle I endured. I missed them everyday but being the eldest son it was upon me to keep the family going after my fathers passing. We needed money- for my mothers medication, for my brothers physical therapy, for the school fees of my sisters’ children, for food and for other necessities. And since jobs were scarce in our village I had to move 250km away from home. It all seemed worth it though. The thought of the happy faces back home helped me conquer it all- the long hours, the exhaustion, the loneliness.
But that was until I got sick.
I now found myself feeling tired, drained out from only half a days work. I had no appetite. Then came the tight feeling in my chest. Some days It felt as though someone had placed a heavy boulder on my ribcage. Soon it became hard for me to catch my breath just after walking a few steps. And the cough-it just didn’t stop. “You look like a walking skeleton” my colleagues at the dhaba commented. The doctor prescribed some medicines which were costly, but gave me no respite. Eventually I was fired from my job and labeled a “diseased” creature, capable of inflicting misery. My family suffered under the burden of my illness. My nieces had to leave school because there was a shortage of money. I thought my life was ending. I lay awake at night, unable to breathe, conquered by the visions of my fast approaching death. There was only darkness all around.
I prayed everyday for God to save me, for what would happen to my family if I were to die? Maybe it was as an answer to those prayers that a friend heard of a nearby free clinic who claimed to help people with problems similar to mine. That was how I was introduced to Operation ASHA’s workers. They were kind people. They told me I had a disease called Tuberculosis. It was very common, they said. But I was terrified. I kept asking God “why me”? I had never harmed a soul in my entire life, I had fulfilled my duties, been a good son, a good brother to the best of my capabilities. So why was this curse upon me then? While I searched for these answers, and fought my inner demons, the counselor at OpASHA- Manoj started me on the treatment regimen. The medicine made me sicker. I felt nauseous every day. My whole body itched. My muscles were sore even after lying in bed the whole day. I stopped visiting the centre. But Manoj showed up at my house. He made me watch a video explaining how dangerous it is to stop treatment, and even though the medicine might make me feel sicker initially it will cure me completely in the long run. It took a lot of convincing. “Don’t lose hope” he said. I decided he was right, especially since no pill could make me feel worse than I felt right then.
It has now been 4 months. My chest pain is gone. So has the cough and so has that feeling of impending doom. I now feel well enough to start working again. Operation ASHA gave me my life back. I feel like I have been saved for a greater purpose. I will now help others just as OpASHA helped me.
After all, isn’t that what life is all about? To help others in their time of need? And that’s what I want to be- a friend to help in dreadful times ..the shelter in a storm , the oasis in a desert.