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City's angel of Mercy

Courtesy : www.ahmedabadmirror.com

85-year-old Nagindas Shah has made it his life's mission to help provide for treatment of poor patients

Dhwani Pathak Dave
Posted On Wednesday, February 05, 2014 at 02:33:15 AM

    Nagin Shah (2nd from right) visits various hospitals in city identifying         patients who are in need of medicines and funds for treatment

The office of Dardionu Rahat Fund is a hub of activity. Amid old furniture, neatly piled files and milling people you notice an elderly man busy talking into the phone or speaking reassuringly to some poor men sitting in front of him with folded hands.

Meet 85-year-old Nagindas Shah, the founder of Dardionu Rahat Fund, who has made it his life's mission to help the poor and needy patients get treatment. Naginbhai started the organisation in 1964 after he saw a poor woman weeping at her son's bedside, unable to collect the required amount needed for his operation.

He says, "My son Amrish had an asthma attack and had to be admitted to a hospital. I myself was broke and had borrowed Rs 25 from a friend for his treatment. I noticed the woman weep beside her on the adjacent bed. Her son needed a life saving operation but she didn't have enough money to pay for it."

Moved by the widowed mother's plight, Naginbhai gave her whatever money he had on hand. Though the money was enough for the operation, he realised that the boy would need money for aftercare, too. So he set out to raise funds for the boy.

Naginbhai says, "I was already hunting for a job in the city. Two businessmen believed my cause and donated Rs 51 each. In 1967, this was a huge amount. When I went to return the excess money, they asked me to keep it and help other needy people. That is how Dardionu Rahat Fund came into existence."

Naginbhai himself is no stranger to hard times. Having never been interested in studies, he didn't complete his matriculation and was packed off to Madras by his father to assist a relative in his business. Though he had a knack for making money, misfortune struck and Naginbhai went bankrupt. He moved to Bombay to try his luck.
"During this time my father passed away and I returned to Ahmedabad with my family. It was the turning point in my life," he says. With the intention of taking ahead the Dardionu Rahat Fund initiative, he quit his job after earning Rs 1.5 lakh as a stock broker. However, misfortune struck again and the bank managing his funds collapsed. Naginbhai was so dejected that he even contemplated ending his life.

"The people of this city helped me in my hour of need. Three persons in particular -- Ambu Patel, Navnit Choksi and Kshitij Shah -- helped me financially," he says. Since then, the organisation has helped thousands of patients and has donors from every part of the world contributing to its cause. Naginbhai has seen some very heart moving cases while serving the poor which, he claims, has made him more determined than ever to continue his work despite old age.

He says, "Once a father came to me with his ill son for guidance. The boy needed treatment and the father had the money required. When I asked him how he came by such a huge amount, he said that he had pawned his son. His son was to go and work for the money lender after he recovered. I was shocked. We got the boy free of bonded labour and helped in his treatment."

Today, the organisation has an annual income of Rs 1.26 crore of which it spends Rs 1.11 crore on poor patients. It spends a whopping Rs 8 lakh per month on just medicines for the poor. The volunteers visit city hospitals and identify patients in need of help and then go about helping them. Though Naginbhai visits the hospitals too, at his advanced age, he prefers to let the young guns take the lead. He reiterates, "Without the generosity shown by society, I may have never been able to make this initiative a success."
His website: http://www.dardirahatfund.org/