Its Vday again. Tomorrow we will have our annual ritual of cards being bought, flowers given, the odd protest by "guardians of Indian culture" and the odder counter-protest (if you are particularly energetic you can google "pink chaddi campaign").
But beyond these epiphenomena we have the vast swelling ocean of relationships - and lack of relationships that make up our lives around us.
Two examples came our way this week.
The negative one first:
Mr. Naresh (all names changed of course) is a young man who has HIV. He came to us last time in an inebriated state and with sores on his genitals. He was unwilling to have our staff visit him at his home. He has not told his wife yet about his condition. Highly doubtful whether he takes any precautions with his wife or other partners. We did not hear from him for some time.
Today he showed up again. Same status. Inebriation. Sores. Barely there. Some V-day.
A positive one now:
Mrs. Mira is a widow whose husband who died a decade ago. She got his job in the railways. Over the last few months she has been losing weight and after doing the rounds with doctors was advised an HIV test. It came back positive.
Mrs. Mira has grown children. The shame was too much for her. She could not think what to do and contemplated suicide. Her days were dark.
Then a local lady who had been treated for TB met her. Mrs. Mira had noticed this lady kept reading the Bible. She told Mrs. Mira about Jesus. And suggested that Mrs. Mira pray. This she did and felt such a peace.
Then someone gave Mrs. Mira our address. She does not even remember who it was. Mrs. Mira lives far away in the middle of Mumbai. She made the journey out to Thane to meet us by train. Then she lost her way and looked for the JSK centre for ages. Finally she found the place and was so grateful to tell her story. To be heard and loved and prayed for. She had come home.
We have been able to link her up with a church in her own area whose pastor was trained by us in HIV care. She still has many challenges - but Mrs. Mira is full of hope. Out of a poverty of relationships - she is slowly growing into a family.
Long after the trite cards and roses and little teddy-bears bearing hearts have been thrown away - and after the various actors in the set-pieces about western culture vs. Indian culture have moved on to other sound-bites - it is the quiet web of relationships based on giving-love that will endure. We see so many opportunities for this among our HIV positive friends. May there be many more!