Delhi's chilly winters: tales of despair, debt and hope on the streets

New Delhi:  Eight-year-old Govind is busy helping his father cook food on a makeshift hearth on the pavement, when he suddenly gets up and runs across the street. There are at least 20 others like him, who make a dash as a little van stops outside the hospital. They know that if they don't get to it in time, they may not get a hot cup of tea or a blanket that may keep them warm at night.

Uday Foundation, an NGO, is on one of its rounds to distribute blankets, woolens, even cups of tea for the many who are out in the cold in Delhi's unforgiving weather.

Govind has spent the last two months, sleeping, cooking and living outside the government's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in South Delhi as his mother Urmila Devi waits for her tuberculosis treatment.

School is now a distant memory as he helps his father cook and take care of his three other siblings, sometimes even protecting his food from stray dogs in the vicinity.

His mother's tuberculosis treatment brought them to the national capital from Ferozabad in Uttar Pradesh.

For a daily wage earner like his father, the wait for the treatment has not only meant loss of livelihood, but also living on donations and alms; just to sustain his family of six.

"We are out in the cold. Every time we keep getting new dates from the doctors. We have nowhere else to go. What else can we do? We eat here, cook here and sleep in the open in the cold," Hridesh, Govind's father tells NDTV.

Like Govind and his family, 34-year-old Sunaina Devi and her husband also came to the national capital two months ago. She's been treated for cancer in Benares for a year before she was referred to AIIMS. Their five children aged between 2.5 years to 17 years live in Chhapra, Bihar.

Geeta Parasher, first came to Delhi three years ago for her son Pradeep's treatment. The 19-year-old is suffering from a urine retention problem and is confined to a stretcher outside the hospital, for want of space. Already burdened with a bank loan of Rs 50,000 and a private loan of another Rs. 40,000, the family has sold off their land to make the repeated trips from Gwalior to Delhi.

Out on the pavement, patient after patient has a poignant story to tell; a tale of despair, debt and fragile hope.

Urmila Devi,  Sunaina Devi and Pradeep Parasher are just a few of the many desperate patients who have no roof over their head, no snug place to sleep and no guarantee of where their next meal will come from. In the chilly winters of Delhi, they simply soldier on in the hope of getting better battling not just their medical conditions but even the unforgiving weather.

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