HIV…………………………

Radha is squatting on the floor – something about her catches your eye. Is she a beautiful woman?? Well nothing extraordinary – one would notice her, but nothing beyond that.

The rays of the sun hit her face and if you really took a look at her, you would probably notice something special about her, something strange and ethereal. She looks like she has gone beyond what is the present. But where can she go ? What could the past have had that holds her from the present, or what on earth could the future hold in store for her? There she sits facing her husband Srinivas who is on a chair. A tube through his chest catches your attention. He looks emaciated. He is ill. Srinivas is HIV positive.

Well Radha is positive too. They are sitting at the Asha Kirana hospital outside the in-patient ward sharing a moment in the sun. It is a timeless moment. In that time, one can believe that they are no different from thousands of young Indian couples – yet they are different. They are different and the same…………..

Radha and Srinivas represent something beyond themselves. Why is Srinivas positive? Has he been to a Commercial sex worker? Was it before or after marriage? Does one get angry with him? What is it that makes his young wife sit so serenely beside him – unquestioning? Is it love? Isn’t the concept of love too big for an average Indian family? Is it duty? Is it obligation? It seems more like acceptance. An acceptance of one’s existence without question.

 When Balanna died, all his wife screamed was ‘What will my child and I do now? We have no one? We have no where to go!’ She didn’t say that he was the man she loved or respected or admired. She cried for her own helplessness in his absence.

What is that helplessness all about – is it physical, is it social, or cultural, is it financial?

How does the woman cope with her husband’s positive state? Which possibility does she respond to – his past infidelity, or of his death and debility, or her own positive state? The possibilities are endless……………

 The disease is relentless – it attempts not only to destroy one’s body cells ….. it can effortlessly take away one’s hope and reason for living. The disease can kill – not just one’s body – it can convert an adult into a mass of fear and pain. It can take away self-respect, family support, economic stability, respect. It can break a stable family unit into a mess – the double whammy of infidelity with a life threatening disease – like a cancer with adultery………….

But through all this one sees something that redefines our concepts of life and hope and the meaning of one’s place in the world. What does Srinivas feel as he sits facing his wife? Does he worry about the tube in his chest and show his anger on his wife? Does he feel guilty about his wife and about his children? What does Radha feel as she sits facing her husband? Does she accept his and her and possibly her children’s positivity as a part of her life of compromise and acceptance? Does she feel angry? Is she aware of the magnitude and impact of the disease?

 Does one not have a lesson to learn from this simple woman? – acceptance of things that cannot be changed, changing things that can be changed and being wise enough to know the difference.

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