Rendered homeless by his own family in 2010, a septuagenarian’s plight caught the attention of the police and healthcare authorities only after he contracted Covid-19.
Joe Diminieux, 75, has been living in the basement of Cosmos Society in Bhavani Nagar, Andheri East, due to differences with his two sons and wife; she owns the flat and resides on the first floor. Restricted to 6X6 ft space to sleep, his neighbours take turns to provide him food and look after his needs. A week ago, when he started feeling breathless, it was this adoptive family that was alarmed and got him tested.
As soon as the test result arrived positive on Thursday, Diminieux’s neighbours called in the police. Donning PPE suits, Powai police officials ensured he was admitted to Cooper Hospital’s Covid ward.
Police inspector Vijay Dalvi, in charge of Powai station, said three members from his team approached the family – his sons live in a nearby building with their families – but they refused to help. “In such a situation, it was our responsibility to get him medical help,” Dalvi said, adding that the police can’t act in a personal matter unless someone lodges a complaint.
A resident of Cosmos Society, Arbaz Ansari said apart from being worried for Diminieux, everyone was worried about the health risk such a situation could pose for the residents of the building’s 72 flats. “We therefore decided to call the police and BMC officials,” he said.
Another neighbour, Intekhab Farooqui said Diminieux had also sustained injuries from a fall recently. “A resident noticed him limping and took him to a nearby hospital, where doctors said he had sustained a hairline fracture in his foot and injured a vertebra. A doctor from the neighbourhood was going to get him operated for this,” he said.
When the Covid test report came, Diminieux’s neighbours first approached his wife and sons. “They refused to take him in or help in any way. In fact, they screamed at us for disturbing them and slammed the door on us,” said Ansari.
“Joe uncle never asked for anything from anyone. As a young man, he worked hard and has had stints in the Gulf countries. Someone or the other in the neighbourhood helps him with his needs,” said Farooqui, adding that the family has lived in the building for the past 40 years. He added that Diminieux has been the most jovial companion to children in the society.
Police inspector Dalvi said he will coordinate with Diminieux’s neighbours to ensure he gets proper shelter in an old age home after being discharged from the hospital.