Dressed in a white kurta and pyjama, Harakhchand Sawla can be seen taking a walk around the premises of Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) in Parel everyday from afternoon till late evening, talking intently to those who are generally overlooked by passers-by, the cancer patients that camp outside TMH.

Sawla has been tending to the patients and their relatives, teeming on roads leading to the hospital. Around 12.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm for dinner, patients queue up outside his tiny office in a nearby chawl with plates and glasses, and are served hot meals — rice, chappatis and vegetables.

"For those who have undergone rigorous chemotherapy sessions or have throat cancer and can't digest salty food, we serve turmeric-infused milk," says Sawla.

Thirty years ago, he left his thriving business and began caring for cancer patients by adopting 25 of them, looking after their nutritional needs. Sawla now has a dedicated army of up to 150 volunteers who assist him. Sawla's trust, Jeevan Jyot, also caters to the need for meals of 700-odd patients or their relatives at state-run hospitals — JJ, St George, Cama and TMH. The trust incurs a daily cost of Rs12,000 in feeding these patients.

"In the vicinity of TMH alone, the number of patients that come to us for meals has risen to 400," he says.

But that hasn't deterred this Mulund resident. From reuniting family members to helping out by providing free medicines or giving an appropriate funeral to the deceased, who have no one to fall back on, Sawla's trust spends up to Rs8 lakh every month towards social work.

"A few of them are so dedicated that once a patient completes his/her treatment, s/he escorts the unattended patients back to their remote villages across India and reunite them with their families," he says.

Fond of children, he says it pains him to see little ones affected by the dreaded disease. He recently took around 400 children for a day's outing. "We have regular activities for children to keep them occupied and distance them from the pain that cancer can inflict. We convince people to collect and submit old medicines, toys, clothes and books for the kids. I appeal to more people to come forward and help us in our endeavour of making the lives of cancer patients a tad better," he adds.

Do your bit

To help cancer patients, send unused medicines of any kind, books, clothes or toys to Jeevan Jyot Cancer Relief and Care Trust, 3/9 Kondaji Chawl, Jerbai Wadia Road, Parel, Mumbai – 400 012. Call on 022-2415 3453 or log on to www.jeevanjyot.in for details.

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