//Despite cruel neglect, he finds reason to live

Despite cruel neglect, he finds reason to live

Friday March 24 2006 11:38 IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Unnikrishna Menon is 54. He has a mother, four younger sisters, an equal number of brothers – in – law and lots of nephews and nieces.

But even 12 years after he has been completely cured of TB, no one has come for him and Unnikrishnan continues to live in the TB Sanatorium at Pulayanarkotta here.

For the patients, a majority of them spent not more than two years at the sanatorium, Unnikrishnan is as much part of the place as the telephone booth on the premises.

He carries their sputum samples to the labs near the Medical College here and gets them what they need from the city. Whether he gets paid or not, Menon never turns down a request.

If he is short of money, he goes about collecting raw cashew nuts from the lands surrounding the sanatorium and sells them to contractors.

“There were days when I got up to Rs 200 a day,” he says.

He has his food from the canteen and pays promptly. “I don’t want to be a liability to anyone.”

Unnikrishnan Menon was admitted on March 5, 1993, and discharged on April 25, 1994.

“No one was ready to accompany me to the hospital. So it was not a big surprise when no one came to collect me when I was discharged.”

Still, he left straight for his home at Chadayamangalam in Kollam the moment he was discharged. Initially, he thought he was welcome.

“My mother served me lunch. After I finished, my youngest sister carried my plate and kept it along with that of the dogs. I didn’t react. But when she gave me the same plate for dinner, I lost control. I left my house forever,” Menon reminisces.

He contracted TB while working as a storekeeper in a construction firm in Ahmedabad.

“Doctors told it was pneumonia. But in spite of all the treatment, my condition worsened. When I started spitting blood I knew what it was and came straight to the sanatorium,” he says. Earlier, he was a male nurse in Air Force.

Sitting in the shade of a prayer hall near the sanatorium, Menon says he has no plans to leave the place.

“I don’t have the mental strength to move out of here. I no longer possess the skills to earn a living.”

But a number of times he has taken a bus to Chadayamanglam, just to have a glimpse of his mother.