Saturday, September 5, 2015

Life Spent At The Service Of Others – A Life Spent Well

People die everyday. But all deaths are not the same, some leave larger vacuum than others. Dr Edric Baker’s was one such , who left indelible memory in the minds of thousands of people far away from his own home.

In his death came people from the neighboring villages, teary eyes, to pay their last respect to a person who had dedicated his life to the service of the downtrodden. Half the globe away was his mother, four brothers and two sisters in New Zealand to join the poor patients in Madhupur, Tangail to mourn his death.

For over three decades, a lifelong bachelor, he lived among the poor villagers in a nondescript Tangail village, treating patients for TK 5 (6 US cents). People who couldn’t afford a standard physician’s fee that ran in three digits, affectionately called him Daktar Bhai.

Born in 1941, Baker got his MBBS degree from Otego Medical College at Dunedin in New Zealand in 1965. He joined a government medical team and that took him to the war-ravaged Vietnam, where he lived till 1975. His desire to serve the people who can’t afford health service brought him to Bangladesh in 1979, where he joined a Christian mission hospital in Meherpur.

In 1983, he set up a healthcare centre at Kailakuri village and since then he had been giving treatment and medicine to the locals. His patients would get medicine from the centre whether they could pay or not. The nominal fee the doctor charged was hardly enough to meet expenses for his clinics. Money came from donors, friends and family members around the world including his home country.

In an interview with The Daily Star in September 2011, the Daktar Bhai had said that he chose Bangladesh because the people there were “really good and they did not get healthcare due to poverty.” “I've chosen this country in order to give them a little health support,” he added.

At the time of the interview his health was already failing, but he continued to provide service to others. “Many students get MBBS degrees in the country every year. I’m waiting for one of them to come and take the responsibility to provide treatment to the poor in the area,” the good doctor had said.

Four years later when he died on September 4th, 2015 at the age of 75, he was still waiting.