A large ground floor hall with 85 double-deck beds arranged neatly in four rows. Belongings kept on the beds show that all of them have been taken. The hall doesn’t belong to any sarai, but a gurdwara, located just 200 m from new PGI sarai on the hospital premises, which has been giving shelter to many patients and attendants this winter.
Not only food, that is available 24X7, is free, stay also is, unlike the sarai.
The gurdwara is being run by 96-year-old Baba Labh Singh of Anandpur Sahib. His grandson Sukhjeet Singh said over 3,000 people stay on the premises every night during this season.
Though the hall provides bed facility to only 170 people, others sleep on carpets spread across the floor.
As this hall cannot accommodate the winter rush, carpets are spread out in the first floor hall as well. The gurdwara also provides a limited number of quilts and bedding.
“People don’t go to the sarais because of their high daily rental. Most of those who come to PGI for their treatment are poor people and can’t afford paid accommodation. Here, it is convenient for them as they get the boarding and lodging free,” Sukhjeet said.
He added for the last one week, the situation is such that they don’t even have place to walk in the halls because people lie down on the floor too.
At the fag end of the open hall on the ground floor, there are six washrooms each for women and men. There is a separate langar enclosure.
Caretaker Sohan Singh who has been working at the gurdwara for the last 20 years said that 36 staff members carry out seva turn-by-turn. Langar is served 24 hours. Attendants can even take away the langar for the patients.
“We have our own ambulance as well to ferry patients in case an emergency arises during night,” he said.
Janak Raj, who is getting his 12-year-old son treated at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) for his knee problem, said he had been staying here for around two months.
“I don’t have enough money. We did go to the new sarai building to see if we could get a place, but we couldn’t afford it. The money I would spend there is better used for medicines required for my son daily,” Raj said.
Rajdeep Kaur, who had come all the way from Jalandhar, said her mother was being treated at the PGI for a kidney problem. “The location of the sarai didn’t suit us. This gurdwara is just near the chemists and food is also available throughout the day,” she said.