When 40-year-old Shankar Mugalkhod’s phone rang last Monday notifying him of an emergency, the ambulance driver did not think twice, before rushing to Khetwadi to help a 55-year-old HIV positive woman who was breathless and required immediate medical help.
Picking the double-amputee right from her doorstep, he dropped her to the nearest civic hospital in the neighbourhood in his ambulance. In fact, he paid for her medicines too.
While most of us might laud the young man for his selfless service, not many know that he has been carrying on his good samaritan work since the last 18 years.
He has helped numerous homeless and abandoned persons without families in the past, say doctors from across the city who treat patients admitted by him in a Hindustan Times report.
What sets the man apart from many social workers is how he has been helping a host of people without claiming credit or attracting attention from the media for a long time.
“He gets the poorest patients to the hospital, who are abandoned by their families and live on the streets in miserable conditions,” Dr Lalit Anande, chief medical officer, TB Sewri Hospital told the publication.
Apart from rushing many to the hospitals, Shankar has also taken upon himself to perform final rites for those that lose the battle to their ailments.
“He stays back till the treatment is initiated. An in case a patient dies, he performs the final rites.” Sachin Mayekar, a mortuary assistant at Sir JJ Hospital in Byculla, told HT. He expresses how Shankar has also admitted over 60 patients to JJ in the last five years.
When asked about the fuel that keeps him going in life to carry on his work, Shankar says his childhood marred by poverty pushed him to aid the destitute.
Talking about his difficult formative life, he states how he would go to bed empty stomach and live on clothes and footwear from garbage bins.
While he first started rushing patients to hospitals in cabs and auto-rickshaws, NGO Bombay Teen Challenge, donated him an ambulance to carry on his work.
“I pick up patients from the streets and slums. Some of them have wounds full of maggots. Some of the patients are amputates and have gone for months without a bath,” he told HT.
Many times, cops reach out to Shankar to help homeless and abandoned people reach hospitals and shelter homes.
Just one phone call away, Shankar is always on duty armed with his ambulance and stretcher and a road map of nearest civic hospitals memorised in his head.
“At times there is unbearable stench emanating from these patients, but it doesn’t deter him from helping them,” inspector Taliram Patil from Nagpada police station says.
Feature image credit: Hindustan Times.