Monday, 7 April 2014

Building a monument of love

How do you build a monument of love?

Well, you start with a single brick...  after you have sorted out all the 5922 odd bricks that are said to be in the Lego Taj Mahal set that is!

We were given this set last month - and we started building on the 19th of March Anno Domini 2014.

Enoch put in the first bit on that day - and since then we have tried to grab little bits of time to work steadily through the three books of instructions to make our masterpiece.

Our dear friends Kumar and Shanti Vedanayagam and their 5 kids Jeevan, Anand, Karuna, Kirti and Nitya gave us this massive gift.  And now just under a month later the master-piece is finished!

There were of course a huge number of white pieces.  Which we first stored in a large plastic tub and kept pouring out on our blue dhurrie to get enough contrast to find the little pieces needed for a particular part of the building.

In my growing up years lego was by far my favourite toy (hmm... it still is ... am I grown up yet?).

But the sets we got were very much on the small size (due of course to the monstrous costs the good folks at the lego company have always charged for their products).

So to have this flood of pieces - and to be building this one big building was phenomenal.  It really was a three dimensional puzzle.  The same joy of seeing piece fit with piece and make something beautiful, the same delight in seeing the jumbled chaos of random bits at the beginning slowing whittle itself down to nothing - and instead form a complete whole.

Enoch was in his element (as was his dad too).   As the days went by we managed to squeeze in the odd building session - and were always thrilled to see another big step forward.

 The ingenuity of the plans were a source of marvel.  On one hand the ability to render curves of domes through layers of small white pieces.

On the other hand the way that certain pieces were marshalled into ways that I had never thought of.

And all along the gradual development of the familiar lines of the Taj Mahal.

As we came nearer to the end we started running out of some of the pieces.  Not many - considering the huge number in the set - but enough to be seen 'from the outside.'

This brought us to dip into the lego hoard that we have built up over the years.

Some pieces were found - exactly like the missing ones.  Others were the same but a slightly different colour.

And in a few cases we had to engineer a slightly different way forward.

 And then we came to today.

The main structure was ready yesterday - we just needed to rejig the little cupolas on the top.

Dig, dig, dig... can you find me a flat 2x4 white piece?   Dig, dig, dig.  The sound of lego pieces tumbling over each other.

And finally it was finished.  We had summitted.  There were clear skies and views all around us!

Many a person has taken a picture with the Taj in the back-ground - acting like they are picking up the Taj by their fingers.  Well - how about a shot of a giant of a boy actually touching the top of this august building!

The building is just a thrill to look at.

Hats off to the lego designers who have so elegantly minituarised this beautiful structure - and given it such a royal look!

And being lego - you don't just build something, you play with it.

Lunch break was over for me - and I had to go back to work - so Enoch took over.

Apparently some tourists showed up with their cameras.

Pictures have to be taken of course - I mean - what's the use of going to someplace if you can't have a shot of yourself their to prove that you have been there and been seen!

We just got over with the building and had to clean up stuff - but I am pretty sure that there will be a whole gang of 'good guys' and 'robbers' that will probably be living out their chases and other exciting events in and around the Taj in the coming days.

We have started talking about seeing if we can recreate the famous gardens and ponds in front of the Taj too.

Let's see... but till then, we savour the outcome of 3 weeks of building (albeit in a quantum way).

The Taj is finished!

And since my darling bride and I actually went to Agra for part of our honey-moon (the other part at Ranthambhore National Park), I think that we need to have one more shot.

Not a full moon-light picture, but here is the Taj at night!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Exciting days

A few posts ago we said that we had some exciting news... well here it is:

After years of praying, and praying, and praying for more medical staff to join Sheba ... we have not one doctor joining us at Jeevan Sahara Kendra... but two!  And they are married to each other!  And the most lovely folks too!

And after years of praying for more nurses to join our faithful Agnes... we are getting a nurse next week with Natasha Chopra due to join on Monday, and then Jerusha - the soon to be bride of our dear Daniel - is expected to join us in early May.  And in addition we have had Lydia - an amazing volunteer nurse who comes 4 days a week with a 1.5 hour bus ride each way!

So... after almost two years of renovation at the Lok Hospital building we have a sparkling 10 bedded hospital ready to care for people with HIV who are very sick... but over the past 2 months we had the painful process of having to tell people who were really ill that we could not admit them - because we did not have the nursing staff to care for them.

But this month we hope to have turned the corner.  With the team in place we have the opportunities not only to care for multiple sick people and their families at once at our JSK Centre... but to even think of expanding and reaching out to other parts of the city (tomorrow morning Sheba and I will be going over to Virar to see whether we should start a weekly clinic there)....

And the spark to all of this has been the amazing meeting up with Dr. Emmanuel Isukuru and his lovely wife Dr. Mokshaa Mohan and their lively son 'Wo-way!'

Three weeks ago we got a call from a 'Dr. Emmanuel' saying that a local pastor had told him and his wife about us.  Could they meet us?  Sure we said.  The next day they spent the day with us at JSK.

Things clicked beautifully ever since.

Emmanuel is from Nigeria.  Mokshaa is from Chennai.  They met as medical students at St. Petersburg in Russia.   They have been married for two years now and had moved to Nigeria after their marriage.  But then their local church in Nigeria challenged them to come to India.  And so they did.

When we met them we were just bowled over by their sincerity and joy in the Lord.

We had been able to introduce them to Dr. Stephen Alfred, and two days later an SMS came from him - telling that a flat was available for rent and would our friends be interested in it?  Would they ever! 

In what seemed like a dream - just over under two weeks later they had moved into their new digs.  Emmanuel and Mokshaa have been on the bad end of a number of ugly racialist behaviour by members of our so-called cosmopolitan city of Mumbai - especially when they tried to rent a place.  But here they are - within walking distance of us and the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

Emmanuel had told me that he secretly hoped he could move out of the difficult place that they were in before Mokshaa's birthday.  Well, her birthday was today (we celebrated at JSK as a trio by the JSK staff this afternoon as my birthday was yesterday and Sheba's is tomorrow).   They moved their things in on Saturday night - and after staying the night with us - and having a posse of angels from our church clean up the place after the land-lord had done a quick and blessed paint job too - they moved into their home on Sunday night.

God is good.

These are exciting days for us - we need to pinch ourselves a bit and ask is it actually happening...

And now the joy of moving forward together.

Emmanuel and Mokshaa are already part of our family.  They have committed themselves to working with us for the next two years.  Sheba has started teaching them and getting them into the harness for caring for people with HIV the way we do it here.  We are hoping to enroll them in the Masters in Family Medicine course from Vellore.   Emmanuel is jumping into Hindi studies.  They have a lovely jumpy baby - and great expectations for another bundle of joy too...

Big gulp of air.  Be brave.  Trust and don't doubt.  Change has come - let's move forward and embrace the amazing possibilities all around us!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Living Legends: Hans and Ruth Strom

Many years ago I had a magical summer.  We were in Europe - spending time with Oma Fischer.  It was 1978.  Opa Fischer died in 1975.   Oma Fischer was living in the 'German Democratic Republic' - also known as 'East Germany.'

Mum and Dad took us 3 kids with them to the OM International Conference - I think it was in Holland.  After that, Dad was invited to go to Sweden and Finland.  Mum and Dad decided that Mum would return to East Germany with Stefan and Premi - and that I would go along with Dad on his trip.

We drove along with a Finnish brother up through Denmark, on to a ferry, and then over to Sweden.

In Sweden we visited Hans and Ruth Strom - who had been with OM in India in the late 1960s - and whose son Stefan was born here.  They had helped run OM Sweden and were living in the countryside.

Their house was like heaven to me.  There son Stefan - two years older to me - took me in as a friend and we went on bicycles into the forests, gathering blue berries.  In his front-yard, Stefan had rigged up a pole vault pit - and with the aid of bamboo poles was making a go at the big time.  Never having been much of a sports-boy, let alone a sports-man, my attempts at pole-vaulting stopped there.  But what fun to have a go with this boy who later has become a sports-teacher.

At 11 AM there was a meal.  Sandwiches. Hot drinks. Ice cream.   I thought this was lunch.  But at 1 PM another large meal awaited us.  And then something at 4 PM.  And then a supper.   Whether they were trying to fatten up a thin Indian boy or whether this was just the way it was in Sweden I never found out - but having grown up with more than a faint wiff of austerity, this was all quite delightful.

After 2 days it was time to go with Dad to Finland.  But I had found the place where I wanted to be.  It was decided that I could stay the week there and Dad would pick me up on the way back.
And so my Swedish summer continued.

I knew very little about tennis.  But that week on a Sunday afternoon I went over with the Strom's to a neighbour to watch the finals of the Wimbeldon Men's finals.  Having been in the US for a year previously, my sympathies (carefully concealed) were with a certain Jimmy Connors.   Unsurprisingly, the room full of Swedes were baying for their own favourite - the great Bjorn Borg.  I still remember the black and white images of Borg doing what he did best - winning at Wimbledon - to the delighted shouts of all and sundry present (except yours truly).

This month - a good 36 years after that week in Sweden - we had the joy of hosting uncle Hans and Ruth Strom at our place here in Thane.

They have weathered the years very well.  Now in their 70s, they were on a tour of India, meeting many of their old friends (not a few of which have lost their spouses) as well as a number of the schools that they have been supporting over the last few years.

As a young married couple, they both had good teaching jobs when they decided to go to mainland Europe with OM to share the love of Jesus with others.   After praying about it, they extended that one summer to a life-time of service.   A few years of this time were in India, and when they were asked to return to Sweden to set up the work there - they were returning to nothing of substance as they had 'sold off' most of their belongings when they left for India.   One of the things that they asked God was for a fully furnised house - at no rent.  And the Lord provided.

That was the house in the countryside where I had spent my magical week.  A local farmer allowed them to stay there for many years without taking a penny (or a krona is it were).
Over time, God give them a place of their own - in the near-by town, and their son and daughter now have families of their own and are following God in their own way too.

Before coming to India this time, Ruth had been wondering about the rigors of travelling for 2 months across the country.  One night she woke up and read about how Peter had been imprisoned and an angel had come and woken him and told him to get up.  When he did so, the chains fell off - and the angel then led him out.

Ruth felt God telling her that this was a message for her.  "But what chains do I have Lord?  I am not in jail." she spoke out to God in prayer.  Then God spoke to her through a thought: "Your fears about India are shackeling you."  And Ruth realised that her fears had been hemming her in.  She felt a tremendous peace as she took the step of faith and put her fears in the Lord's hands.
What a blessing for us to be visited by such living legends.  The years hang lightly on these saints.

The Bible tells us to consider the outcome of the lives of those who have shared the faith with us.  And to imitate their faith.   Here's a couple whose faith is worth imitating - at whatever stage of life we may be in!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Steel frame

What has two back bones and thousands of ribs?

This 'old chestnut' of a riddle has a simple solution: a railway track.

I am writing this on board the Maharashtra Sankranti Express.   My destination is Delhi - where my friend Danny and I are due for a board meeting tomorrow.  We are travelling through ripening wheat fields in rural western UP, having passed the holy city of Mathura.  Our travelling companions are a father with his teenaged son, both watching a movie on a laptop and sharing a set of ear-buds, a man who seems to be a contracter of some sort - on his way to Kashmir, a young woman computer engineer - on her way to an interview, another man with a copy of Popular Science (borrowed by yours truly of course) and an India Today with Narendra Modi on the cover - and 3 commandoes on their way back to Delhi after doing VIP security in Mumbai for some pretty well known folks.

I was talking to one of them.  A man my age - from a farming community in Hariyana.  He has travelled the country and sees his wife and children a month out of the year.  The train had stopped for a long time at a signal so we got down for a stretch.  He looked at he fields near-by and pointed out the fields which were ready for harvest - and which fields needed 2 more weeks of clear skies to reach their potential.  I told him about the work we do - and how medications for HIV are making a huge difference in people's lives - but that pills will never cure hearts.  He nodded, saying that at the armed forces medical centres in Delhi there were a number of service-men who had HIV.

And so we roll on.  Phone calls are coming in now and my fellow passengers are telling family members and business colleagues about when they hope to arrive.  Our train seems about an hour late - but we are clipping along at a wonderful pace, the steady rumble of the aircon is matched by a low vibration and the muffled sound of our coach clicking over rails at a fine speed.  Electricity posts nip by outside at a regular rate as the flat disc of rurality becomes punctuated with odd hamlet and criss-crossed by power lines snaking away to the horizon.  Now we segue through a cluster of buildings, then we barrel past a rail crossing.  

If we went up and looked down at us, we would be a small metal worm, making its way up north along the main rail corridor between Mumbai and Delhi.  Look further behind us and you will see another such worm, also making its way north.  Look ahead of us and there is another.  A set of worms moving ahead at safe intervals between each other.  And look across the nation and you see hundreds of trains taking thousands and thousands of people across the land.  

This is the steel frame on which our country moves.  With all the advances on road, and all the metal birds that fly through the sky - its our rail that is still the medium on which India moves.
While waiting for the train in Borivali I over heard a young couple asking people when the train to Ahmedabad would come.  There was something in the way the young woman asked it that marked her out as a person who had not done much train travel before.  But there she and the young man (brother? lover?) she was with were on the platform - waiting to be taken away.


And so it goes.  I have since arrived hale and hearty in Delhi.  After seeing a wild hare in a rural part, and the inevitable shacks and garbage that announce the onset of a city, we ended up at Nizamuddin Station in Delhi, a mere 5 minutes behind time.

Across the darkness of the night other trains are leaving from stations, ploughing through the night, halting at signals.  Their human cargoes living out another strand of life - woven together for a season - as their steel caterpillars whisk them onwards, onwards.
Meanwhile, I am about to book tickets for 2 months from tonight - when we as a family should be leaving New Delhi station for Dehra Dun on the 11.45 PM AC Express.   Bharaitya Rel - jai ho!

Monday, 24 March 2014

Stock out

Stock out

Two words that don't mean much to most of us.

Because most of us do not have to take medication each day to keep our resident HIV at bay - and let our immune system still function close to how God intended it to be.

Taking the medications has its own challenges.  The sobering truth is that unless the meds are taken at a 95% adherence level the chances of viral resistance are high.  This means that you could 'afford' to miss 3 doses a month if you are taking the pills twice a day.  Across the world - in both 'rich' and 'poor' countries - adherence rates for long-term medications are a sobering 50-80% on average.  

Unsurprisingly, we know that most of our Positive Friends who are taking the medicines long-term face similar challenges.  A lot of our work with JSK right now is focused on helping them take their medications regularly.  We aim at 100% - and so if a person does miss the odd pill in the month it will still work.   Our real challenge are our friends who have a pattern of being irregular with their meds.

But now we have a new challenge.  And its a very serious one.

A number of our long-term HIV Positive Friends are at a point where their virus has become resistant to the basic Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) drugs.  The government, which gives the ART free, also provides free 'second-line' ART medications.  But since these are far more expensive, these drugs are only given at a few select centres.  In Mumbai the main govt. centre for second-line ART is at the JJ Hospital in Byculla.  It has in the past been hard to 'get on' the second-line therapy - but most of those who have needed it have received it.  The problem for them has been the long travel to the JJ hospital in south Mumbai once a month to get their monthly-supply.

Over the past few months we have had disturbing stories.

The stocks of 2nd line medications are low.  So instead of giving a month's worth of medications - those who need these life-saving meds are given just 10 days' worth and told to come back.   That means 3 visits a month.  

And it gets worse.  We have some of our Positive Friends who were only given 4 days worth and told to come back.  And that too - the medications are given loose.  One of our long-term patients came to our Jeevan Sahara Kendra clinic with this:

He is showing 4 days of second-line medications - which he was given in an old box of a 'first-line' medication.  

Now we all know that once you start giving drugs loose the immediate question about quality comes to mind.  And if a patient doubts the quality of her medications - then their efficacy will suffer.

And then there is the issue of going every 4 days to get medications.  Who has the luxury of doing a Mumbai Darshan every week?   We know of Positive People losing their jobs because of their frequent absences to get medications.  We have people coming from outside the city to get their meds too.

The Mumbai AIDS Forum has been taking up this issue and held a rally last month to protest these shortages.

The press covered the story and the officials said that the issue will be taken care of 'at the earliest' - but the damage is being done.

When drugs are not there - it is inevitable that adherence rates will drop.

And after the 'second-line' medications stop working...  then what?

A basic fact of HIV drug treatment is that once a drug stops working, you have to replace it with a completely different kind of drug.  You cannot just amp up the dosage (like some of the diabetes drugs) and hope for a better outcome.   Each new set of meds is a quantum more expensive - and usually more side-effects to boot.

So here is the grist of it - People living with HIV need to have their medications.  It needs to be free and life-long.   We have to see that they get the support and encouragement to take the pills daily - without fail - in order for the effectiveness of the meds to keep their resident HIV at bay.

But in order to do so, they need the drugs.  And they need access to the meds in such a way that they don't lose their jobs because of repeated visits a month to the government centres.  That they don't lose their health because of the strain of long travel.  That they don't lose their adherence because of the challenge of even getting the meds regularly, let alone taking them on time.

We are glad that our National AIDS Control Organisation is providing ART medications free - even the second-line ART drugs.  But we know for a fact that the situation in Mumbai is clearly one where the system has to improve.

Besides the issues of logistics which clearly need to be sorted out - how about letting Jeevan Sahara Kendra partner in providing the medications at our centre here in Thane?

Your thoughts and prayers on this are most appreciated.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Happy Days

A month can seem an eternity.  A month can be the blink of an eye.

Enoch is already a month past his 11th birthday.   His cake made it onto the blog - but the rest of our celebration with him did not.  As did many other things.

Suffice it to say - there is much of our lives that does not show up here - but then that's how it should be isn't it?  It would be pretty creepy if every single part of our lives were documented and sliced and diced and served up for public consumption.

So if we rewind (remember doing that with cassette tapes?  esp. using a pen?)

Enoch, shares his Feb 19th birthday with none other than the great Maratha king Shivaji himself.    This means that our mornings are a little less hectic as the kids don't have to be at school at their usual 6.50 AM.

After getting the household together we had a time of prayer with Enoch - with Appa praying for his first grandson who had been born 11 years ago on that day.  It was especially appropriate as Amma and Appa had come to be with us at that time.

Then it was time for gifts.  In good Eicher tradition - we had hidden them around the room.  And so Asha and Enoch went on a treasure hunt.  And found a number of goodies for Enoch (with the odd one for Asha too).

On some years the kids get something 'big.'

This was one such year for Enoch.

After everything had been opened, we told him that there was something else which was 'hiding in plain sight.'

We had slipped a new key onto our key holder - and asked Enoch if he could identify the new key.  He did and we had him open the front door - and bring in what was 'parked' outside, waiting to be seen:

Later in the day, Enoch's friends came over for a birthday party.

We had a football theme going - starting out with a game of 'straw blowing' football in a small lego football pitch that Enoch had made.

And then of course there was the cake.

Now past experience has told us that some kids come who are strict vegetarians - so this year we had an alternative for them too - we decorated some eggless muffins for them as an ersatz cake.

 We are so happy for Enoch to have friends - and pray that this year he will be an even better friend to them in every way.

Drumil - whose sister is in Asha's year - had to go early.   I was wondering why he showed up so very punctually at even before the party's 'starting time.  Like so many others, Drumil has tuition classes to attend - and a reminder call came to our place to get him out the door.

And then there were Enoch's friends Nikita and Jasper - who weren't able to come on the big day...

... so they helped Enoch extend his birthday to the weekend when the showed up - parents in tow - and decked Enoch in a Barca kit - and made him a lego football card to boot (punintended)!

What a kick to see a card like this!

Enoch looks a bit like he is being drafted himself into the dream team.

How lovely to have an extended family to be with us on these happy days - both through direct parentage - as well as those like John and Nalini Gabriel (Nikita and Jasper's parents) who have been such a joy over the years!

With so much fun you would imagine that we would put off the birthday thing for another year and declare a moratorium on B-day festivities for at least a few months to allow us to catch our breath again given Asha being a Jan-baby and Enoch showing up in February.

But the happy days continued!

As a family we were so blessed to have Appa and Amma with us for a month.

Appa and Amma had been with Sheba's older sister Daisy and Ramesh and their kids Frankie and Shofar for half a year.  They flew in to Chennai and spent another 3 weeks with Peter and Yashmeet and Anmol before coming here on February 6th.  They were thus able to celebrate Enoch's birthday with us....

... and we were able to celebrate Appa's 76th birthday with them on March the 2nd!

No, we did not light 76 candles for Appa - we had them in a '7' and a '6' on top of his cake.

Before we were married - when we were just starting the process of praying about what God wanted of us - Appa suffered a terrible heart-attack.

Sheba said that it was the kind that usually had a 5 year life-expectancy after suffering such an attack.

Appa is very good with his medicines - and we pray daily for him as well.  And it has now been 15 years since that attack.

How grateful we are to the Lord for His gift of such a good father to Sheba.

Each additional year added to our lives is an absolute gift.

We really do not know where the next steps of any of us are - but are glad when we look back and see God's wonderful faithfulness in so many ways.

For Appa - God has protected him and guided him even before Appa acknowledged who God was.  In his youth Appa had been part of a 'rationalistic' political party among other things - and all along God continued to draw him nearer and nearer to him.

It was very appropriate that Appa's birthday was on a Sunday - the Lord's day.  After our family celebration - we continued to celebrate with our family of faith.  Being the first Sunday of the month, both our house-fellowships met at Rolly's home for worship, breaking bread, teaching and sharing, and then we had a meal together.  Asha is able to play by ear and so even our small fellowship's singing (which is not always the most harmonious) is sweetend by that heavenly instrument.

 Later in the evening, Appa was able to share at the Gospel meeting we hold at the centre every Sunday evening.  It was good that on his physical birthday Appa was also able to share the story of his spiritual birthday in Rourkela, Odisha more than 40 years ago!

As we wind down March 2014 - we just have to say how glad we have been for these happy days.  They days of celebration because of God's great love and kindness to us individually and to us as a family.

May we (and you too gentle reader!) experience many more happy days in the days to come!

Thursday, 20 March 2014


We have some pretty exciting things that may bear fruit in the next few weeks at Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

My lips are sealed - at this point at least.  Do stay tuned!

But whatever the developments may be - one thing is sure:  HIV as we know it has not gone away. 

Though it has dropped off the funding priorities of most international agencies, and though the press has a 'ho-hum' approach to the whole matter - we are still seeing lives that have been devastated by the disease in various ways.

Let me count some of them:

1.  A man who has worked in the gulf - amassing a small fortune for his family - is now alone in a room in his appartment.  He has HIV and has hardly any CD4 cells left (his last count was only 8 per cubic cm - a healthy person has between 900-1200 or so).  But more than the sickness - he is starved for love as his wife and three daughters want very little to do with him.  And so he is alone in his room.

2.  Another man is under psychiatric care in a large hospital.  He had not been doing well on his medication and went to a 'prophetess' - a young girl who told him to throw away his medicines and believe that God would heal him.   Needless to say, the hoped-for-healing remained just that.   When he started back on his meds, his mind started to unhinge.   His wife is now with him in the hospital - trying to stabilize him.

3.  A woman recently found out that she was HIV positive when she started falling sick.  Her husband had died many years ago - but she did not think she had it.  Now she knows she does.

4.  A man called up asking for help as his mother needs further hospitalisation.  She is at a place where most of their money has been spent on the treatment and she is not getting better.

5.  A young man was just about to go to the gulf.  The routine medical check-up found out something that neither he nor his family expected.  He is HIV positive.  They are floored and wondering what to do for his future - and what to do with their shattered dreams.

6.  A man called me up today worried because he may have HIV.  He told me that he had a sexual contact a month ago and had been using two condoms and wanted to know whether he may have the disease.   It was surreal for me to be talking to him - not knowing where he was calling from.   Last month I talked to a man who was on a ship off the coast of Nigeria.

7.  Our team did two testing camps along with organisations who reach out to women in prostitution (yes I am using the old-fashioned word).   Sadly of 8 the 29 women tested were HIV positive.  This is 28% - much higher than the 6% figure that the government has for women who sell sex in India.

8.  A young teenage girl found out last year that she was also HIV positive.  Her alcoholic father has not been taking his medicines regularly - preferring to self-medicate with his bottle.  The girl has manifested a variety of abnormal behaviour - though the last few weeks have seen her come back to some kind of normalcy.

9.  A veteran HIV activist came to the clinic today - she is on 'second-line' therapy from the government - but the main Government site in Mumbai where these medicines are given to people with HIV who are not responding to the basic meds anymore have been in severe medication shortages over the last 3 months.  So the 'answer' is to give patients only 4-10 days of medications - and then have them come back again.  It is hard enough to go all the way there once a month - now they have to do so multiple times - taking leave - missing work and family responsibilities.  But most cannot buy the medications on their own because of the high cost.

10.  A little boy comes everyday with his mother to our JSK clinic.  He is 11 years old - but looks like he is 6.  He comes because he has multi-drug TB along with his HIV.  We are giving him medications every day for his 2 year course of MDRTB meds, which our friends from Mediecines Sans Frontieres have alloted for this boy.  His father is unstable, so it is the mother who bravely brings this little boy every day for his treatment.

And so the stories go on. 

Every person precious. 

Often in situations that defy a simple solution.

Where are all the people that I have mentioned above?

Well, they are all around us.    But hidden - because of the stigma that is still spiralled around the disease. 

And because of something else - I think that in India we have now moved from the scare-mongering days of the early 1990s (HIV is everywhere - we will soon overtake Africa etc) to a point today where we have slipped into some kind of underground of apathy tinged with the same-old-same-old fear and loathing of the disease.   "Another topic please?  This one is too morbid for me"

There is clearly still work to be done.  We at Jeevan Sahara Kendra are part of it - and will remain part of it for the foreseeable future it seems.

So we press on.

With God's help change is possible. 

Every single person affected by this disease, every family that is going through the wringer, every seemingly impossible situation (and there are so many of them) - each one is also an opportunity for grace.  And mercy.  And change.