You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
They call him Medicine-Baba but he calls himself a beggar. Omkar Nath Sharma begs for old and unused medicine to help those people who can’t afford to buy them. Society had a soulful conversation with the man who is on a mission to help the helpless.
Omkar Nath Sharma lives in one room with his wife and son’s family in Manglapuri near Palam in Delhi. He has no proper income nor is his son earning. He can’t walk properly, met an accident when he was twelve years old and lack of proper treatment made both legs deformed. But that didn’t stop him to take up a mission which will changes and save many lives. “It all started in 2008, when the metro pillar at Laxmi Nagar fell down. It was Sunday morning and I was travelling in the bus near by. I got down seeing the situation, 4-5 people died on the spot. Those who were injured were taken to the hospital and to get away from media scrutiny they were send off with some basic treatment. And some were asked to bring medicine which they could not afford, as most of them were laborer working in metro construction site. Then I realize that I should do something to help them, for those who cannot buy medicines.”
This 75 years old crusader for the poor says, “Have you ever seen a beggar? I am just like them. I go around and ask people to give medicine which they are not going to use and throw away. See, for them it’s just like throwing away their garbage but I am trying to help other with that. Everybody is not like Yuvraj Singh (cricketer) who can afford to go abroad for cancer treatment, on that he got rich BCCI to look after him.” What it must be like when he goes door to door and that’s also for something which he is not going to use. “Initially people used to look at me with suspicion and ask many questions like, what I am going to do with, am I going to resell it and all. Sometimes they even scold me and shoo me off. But I have to bear it all, as I am on a mission to help the needy. But now things are changing, people are calling me and giving appointments. As media is giving me coverage and I have been working on this for four years. Medicines are coming from all over India and from abroad also, like I receive a package from Dubai. People are collecting medicine and giving it to me. In Janki Devi College they have kept a box to collect medicine for me and I have seen boxes in front of temples. App dhireh dhireh train patri mei aah rahi hai (now slowly and gradually my train is coming on track),” with a smile.
“But that doesn’t mean that I give away medicines just like that, I first see doctor’s prescription. There are lots of people who have prescription but can’t afford to buy them. And then there is where my work starts. I keep the photocopy of the prescription and give them the medicine. I have written down everything, I maintain record of everything. How much and in what amount I collected from which area. In what quantity I have given or donated to hospitals or to which health centers.” As he himself has worked as medical assistant in a hospital in Noida he knows the medical ethics. “There were some occasions when people come and tell me that I need to have certificate to do all these things. That’s true and I will try getting it.” He started looking for his bag and took out some medicines. “Please have a look at these tablets, they are for cancer. It cost Rs.30, 000 per strip of ten tablets. If I want to, then I could have easily sold it for Rs.10, 000 or something, who will not buy it? But that’s not what I want. “
And then he turns towards his son (Jagmohan, 32 years) and wife (Sheila, 60 years) who are sitting around him and listening proudly. “Initially they thought I am crazy but without their support it was not possible. They are like the wheels of my gari (vehicle). Just think if I come home dead tired and she doesn’t serve me food. How will I continue my work?” He tells us more about his family, knowing that one must be thinking how he sustains his family. “We are from Udaipur, Rajasthan. We used to have everything but something happen and lost everything. We had to start it all over again. I have two children, one son and daughter; both are married and have children. Son used to work as electrician but he fell down from second floor while working and lost memory for a while. Now, he is ok and helps me out in my work. I get around Rs.10, 000 from people who supports me financially. But that’s not enough at all to run a family. On that, I have taken another room to store the medicines. As I said I am a beggar, I go around and ask people around to finance me. ” Pointing at the red refrigerator, “that also has been given to me by a NGO, to keep medicine. I don’t have that much money to afford that. People need to understand that I need their support. I am getting old and disable by both legs but I am doing this. They need to come forward and help me out in whatever manner they can. I can’t do it alone. Though government has not done much yet but I don’t expect much also. All I am asking from them is to give me some space in hospitals so that I can open my medicine bank there,” with little desperation in his expression.
But in a moment he gains himself and continues excitedly, “Please make sure that you mention my telephone numbers and address in your story. I want people to know about it and reach out as much as I can and government has to wake up now.” He writes down the details in a piece of paper.
Mob: 9250243298, 9971926518
Lastly he says, “I am not going to stop now. I might not be able to walk as I am getting old but I will do it on tri-cycles. All I want is to make the medicine bank, that’s it nothing else.”
(Published in Society May ’12, Page No.82)