Wednesday, 19 March 2008

12 Standard Pass

"I passed my 12 standard exams today - please have some sweets and celebrate with me!"

Normally such a statement brings a big smile to your face and a hearty round of congratulations for the person who said it.

Not this time.

It was said to Seema and Lata - two of our JSK staff - by Mrs. Harappa - a 35 year old mother of three children.

Mrs. Harappa had been admitted at the Civil hospital because she had intense pain and severe coughing. She has HIV and is the widow of a man who died from HIV. One of her children also has HIV.

"Take this money" Mrs. Harappa told her younger sister who was attending her in the hospital, pushing a 20 rupee note into her hand, "and go and buy them some sweets - we will celebrate now."

The grim reality of HIV - and the horror of having a young woman lose her mental bearings was too much for the sister. When their mother came from the village - having heard her daughter was in the hospital - she broke down crying. What has happened to my daugther she wailed - does she have some dreadful disease.

The curse of HIV is that it does not bear speak its name.

Mrs. Harappa had never told her mother about her condition. Now her mother knows.

We have been meeting Mrs. Harappa regularly - and the JSK staff have poured their lives into her and her children. But most of the time Mrs. Harappa ignored the advice and positive steps suggested - preferring to live in her own fantasy world of denial.

As young students all across the city sit down for their class 10 and class 12 exams - we know that one student - who passed her exams long ago - lies dying in a government hospital still reliving her moment of glory.

"I have passed my exams, come lets celebrate."

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