She sits in a dimly-lit room, surrounded by scores of trophies covered with dust. The only thing shining in the dusky room is a heavy roll of white cloth, which she uses for cremating and burying bodies of the unknown and poor dying in the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER). Amarjit […]
She sits in a dimly-lit room, surrounded by scores of trophies covered with dust. The only thing shining in the dusky room is a heavy roll of white cloth, which she uses for cremating and burying bodies of the unknown and poor dying in the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER).
Amarjit Kaur Dhillon, 61, has dedicated her life to giving dignity to the dead.
At the last count in December 2005, she had conducted the last rites of 100 bodies. “I stopped counting after that,” she sighs, pointing to a big heap of files.
Born and bought up in Patiala, Dhillon moved to Chandigarh in 1980 when she got a job in the Punjab and Sind Bank. After working for 20 long years, she took voluntary retirement in 2000 to serve the needy.
Her journey of social service started in 1991, when she and her bank colleagues collected 2.5 lakh to fund the kidney transplant of a gunman’s son.
“It was then I realised the importance of money in saving human lives. In fund raising, I found a way to save lives,” says Dhillon.
She started raising funds for Red Cross, which used to organise medical camps. In 2000, she surprised everyone by arranging a lakh in less than a month.
Pointing to a cobweb-covered award, she says, “On May 8, 2000 I got my first state award by then Punjab health minister, who called me ‘Alladin ka Chirag’.”
She also started helping the poor patients at PGIMER. “It was in 1998 that I first visited PGIMER with my mother and found so many patients in need of help,” remembers Dhillon.
As she started dedicating more time to poor patients, work became a drag.
Finally, in 2000, she decided to quit her job to pay full attention to fund raising. Ask her if it is difficult to convince people to donate money and she says, “Many people want to help the poor, but don’t know how. Many want to donate money, but don’t know whom to trust. I am just a link between patients and donors,” she says, adding, “I have never faced any difficulty in arranging funds, it’s as if the divine is with me.”
On days, when she could not help people financially, she would lend them moral support.
How it started
Once, she found herself drawn to three children playing outside an operation theatre. “Their father from Bihar had undergone a heart surgery and their mother was inside looking after him,” recounts Dhillon, who started visiting them every day, bringing food and clothes.
“On May 3, 2000, a nurse came running to me for help, saying their father had passed away and their mother had lost consciousness.”
That was the first time she dealt with a body.
“I took the children to the gurudwara inside PGIMER and their mother to Red Cross for booking a funeral van,” she recounts.
The next morning, the two women cremated the body in Sector 25. Eighteen years on, she has lost count of the number of bodies she has cremated or buried.
“Kaam karne waalon ko sochnaa nahi padta, bas icha honi chahiye aur kaam aapko khud dhoondh lega (Those who really want to work don’t need to think much. All they need is a strong desire to do good),” ”she says.
Impressed by her services, Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited gave her some funds to which she added some more to purchase a mini-ambulance.
– Hindustan Times