Resident doctors and medical students of AIIMS knew ‘Rahmat uncle’ as the shopkeeper who had been around for as long as they could remember, always ready to help. Their last memory of the store is with closed shutters and a handwritten notice that read: “Tabiyat kharab hai, aaj dukaan band rahegi (I am unwell, the store will be closed today).”
Rahmat Ahsan (49) had fever and restlessness for the last few days. He had high blood pressure and started having difficulty breathing on Wednesday. His family could not get him a bed anywhere. He died early Thursday morning.
A healthcare worker, who requested anonymity, said, “He tried to get a bed in AIIMS but he could not get one… Vacancy is zero at the moment, which means that even if one of us gets sick, we are on our own.”
Rahmat is survived by his wife and two daughters aged 14 and 12.
His brother-in-law Abu Zeeshan (28) said, “He had fever for a few days and on Wednesday it got severe. We tried to get him admitted to the DRDO facility but couldn’t. We knew that there were no beds in AIIMS so we gave up. His antigen test was positive but we could not get an RT-PCR test done. Finally, we arranged for an oxygen cylinder at home through his contacts. But he passed away at 6.30 am on Thursday.”
Rahmat ran a general store, selling everything from chips to notebooks, inside the AIIMS hospital campus for over 20 years.
As the news of his death spread, resident doctors and students revisited their memories of Rahmat.
Dr Pawan Sinhmar, a resident doctor said, “I met him when I first joined as an undergraduate. He was always helpful. He would open the store at 8 am and shut it at 8 pm, sometimes keeping his shop open for an extra hour or two when students needed stationery, particularly around examination time.”
“I remember that when the pandemic started and all other stores were shut, he told us that he is with us in our fight against Covid. He had agreed to keep his store open 24×7 to help us. For some reason, the administration did not allow it… but he was always ready to help,” he said.
Rajan Kumar, a third-year MBBS student, said, “He was always calm and composed. Almost everybody on campus knew him because he was very friendly.”
Students said that when they did not have cash to pay for something, he would tell them to pay later.
On Saturday, the AIIMS students’ association started collecting funds for his family since he does not qualify for any compensation from the state.