During meal distribution every day, Sneha Kumari hopes that the volunteers will dole out khichdi rather than any other dish. The semi-solid rice and lentil stew is the only food she can swallow without having to chew, for the comfort of her dislocated jaw.
“My jaw hurts due to which I can’t eat food. Because of the pain, I only prefer something light like juice,” said the 16-year-old, who has been staying in a tent outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, along with her father since the lockdown began.
The father-daughter duo came to the national capital from Nepal’s Parsa district in February for Kumari’s jaw surgery at the premier medical institution.
She had a tumour in her jaw which doctors at the AIIMS surgically removed around two years ago along with her jawbone, which they had replaced with metal plates.
“In February 2018, we came to Delhi after the Cancer Hospital in Nepal referred my daughter to AIIMS. The doctors here took out the jawbone and placed a metal plate. They said that after one year, they will take a bone from her leg and place it in her jaw,” said Nand Kishore, Kumari’s father.
Kishore, 39, himself cannot walk without support from a stick due to a backbone injury for which he underwent surgery in Nepal around four years ago.
Kumari’s surgery, initially scheduled for February 25, was postponed several times, finally being rescheduled for March 24.
“But the Prime Minister imposed a lockdown in the country after the Janta Curfew on March 22. We spoke to the doctors and they said nothing can be done about my daughters condition till the lockdown is in place,” Kishore said.
The metal plates in Kumari’s jaw have now dislocated. In need of an urgent surgery, she is mostly under enormous pain.
“I had ₹15,000 when I left Nepal and thought it would be enough for us to sustain for around 15 days. But we are stuck here for so long and have run out of money. We can’t even return to our country,” said Kishore, who worked for an NGO in Nepal.
Unable to travel back to their country because of restrictions in peoples movement, they now live in a tent outside the hospital and depend on food distributed by the Delhi government, police and NGOs.
Kumari feels lucky on the days when khichdi is on the menu as otherwise she has to stay hungry.
“If I try to eat dal-rice, my jaw hurts because of the effort made to chew,” she said.
Not having any idea about if and when his daughters surgery will take place, Kishore longs to return home.
“When the lockdown will be removed, I will ask someone in Nepal to put some money in my account so that we can go back,” he said.