A man with HIV has just been shifted from the ICU of a big city hospital to the general ward. His parents own a flat a stone's throw from where the big cats of Mumbai hold their largest rallies - deep in the city. An aunty of his lives on a certain hill in Bandra where the film stars are clustered.
He is basically alone in his bed. Years of drug and alcohol abuse have frayed the nerves of his families. He is scared and says that he will not be accepted back to his home since he now knows that he has HIV - and so do they. He says he does not want to live on the streets.
His family members tell a different story. They claim he has been on the streets for the past decade. They say his parents want to take him home - but he does not.
Where does the truth lie?
Many years ago, while working in southern Manipur we held a meeting for parents of injecting drug users. One man stood up and said memorably: "My son has stolen Rs. 2 lakh from me. Over the years 1 lakh Rs. was shot up one arm, and the other lakh up the other arm."
Where to even start with this man. 42 years old. Educated. Articulate. HIV positive.
We were contacted by someone who saw us on the net. The hospital in question is on the other side of Mumbai. We called friends of ours who have worked with people who inject drugs and are enslaved to alcohol. A young man from the team met this man and made the first steps of friendship with him. He is now looking to try and find a residential facility to serve as a half-way home. Very very few and far between.
Meanwhile, every day we have and estimated 38,000 plus people (mainly men) service their injecting drug use addiction. For a first hand account of a group of - please click: here. Be sure to see the photos Govind has taken - eye-openers of one more hidden population who live in our midst.