Thursday, 20 January 2011

Life... from a death certificate

In 2002 Mrs. Reshmi's husband died.

He had AIDS.

She was illiterate and had 4 children. The oldest was 8. The youngest 1.5 years.

She ended up trying to eke out a living selling vegetables. When we met Mrs. Reshmi around early 2004 she was suffering from tuberculosis - from her own HIV infection - courtesy of her dead husband. Her children were neglected and malnourished. Her lungs already pretty scarred from her long-term TB treatment.

Over these 7 years we have seen some amazing changes in this family. Thanks to the sterling work of OASIS in the Purnatha Bhavan programme (sadly just closed down due to lack of long-term staff and funding) Mrs. Reshmi was stabilised on ART and her kids were given a chance to blossom.

They certainly have. A group of gangly teens and pre-teens - the 4 kids are all in school and are being cared for by a local church member who tutors them once a week. Mrs. Reshmi and her kids actively participate in another church - and love to sing songs of hope and joy - many of which have been carefully written down in a diary and brought out whenever a visitor comes to their small slum home.

But as a widow Mrs. Reshmi has had to fight it out. Her husband was previously married and the other woman has demanded their small hut for herself. Mrs. Reshmi does not have a ration card and has not been able to change the water and electricity bills into her name. Numerous other issues of residence and identity are pending - and have hung fire because Mrs. Reshmi did not have a crucial document.

The magic document was her husband's death certificate.

Without proof that he was really dead - the other wheels of bureacracy that Reshmi and her family have to deal with - would just not turn.

And so began (many months ago) the great and challenging task of getting the death certificate made.

Thanks to lots of prayer - and untiring efforts by Carmella D'Souza(a local church member and part-time staff at JSK) - and the help of multiple others - this process went on, and on, and on.

Just when we thought it would 'come through' - another objection was raised - another hurdle was created. Carmella and her merry helpers went to meet the local politicians, met the various govt. officials, talked, cajoled, filled, refilled, submitted, waited, reminded, met, reminded again, refilled - on and on and on.

Yesterday I got an sms from Peter Chettiar: "Praise God v got d death certificate"

This morning the precious green document was in our hands (the illustration in this blog is of a Mumbai Death Certificate - not one from Thane). We will laminate this document and give it to Mrs. Reshmi. It is a small but vital victory in this dear family's work to build a new life.

It all seems so trivial to a world of success that spins around us. But getting this certificate - which seemed so impossible for most of the time - it is a powerful example of the dogged love that our staff and different local church members have for the silent hidden people - who at the end of the day make up the bulk of our beautiful and tragic nation.

The Good Book puts it well: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1.27)

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