As I spoke I could see the drops of blood dripping.
Small, dark red drops. Falling slowly through the plastic tube.
I was beside a man lying in a bed in the corner room of our Jeevan Sahara Kendra Community Care Centre.
The man – who we will call Madan – was hooked up to a unit of blood. The drops that I saw through the tube were heading for his veins – and then into his heart and to the rest of his body through his arteries.
Madan is HIV positive. He has been getting treatment from the government ART (Anti-Retroviral Therapy) centre. One of these life-giving drugs has caused a severe anaemia.
Madan’s haemoglobin level was only 4. He said that he had difficulty breathing. He was weak and could not work in the small grocery shop he runs.
Madan came in touch with our JSK staff at the ART centre. He did not want us to come to his house since he did not want his mother to know about his condition. We asked him to bring his wife to talk with us. He did not.
Until this time.
As I was talking to Madan I could see the small cluster of the family that surrounded Madan. His brother sat with me on one bed – complete with the martial moustache, curled up and his silver earring that characterises men from the desert state of India. On the other bed – next to her father – sat Madan’s younger daughter. An older daughter sat on a chair. Out of my line of sight was Madan’s wife – her name meaning ‘happiness/good fortune’ and with their youngest – a boy on her lap.
I could have been sitting under a tree in Madan’s ancestral village – with him lying on a charpai - the traditional stringed cot that is the main article of furniture for so many a rural home.
Instead he is in our hospital. Agnes – our nurse in her white uniform – and Giri – our HIV counsellor complete the scene. The evening sun shines on the trees that block most of the neighbouring apartments. We are having an evening prayer with Madan and family.
I am talking about Jesus. About how men came with a man who was paralysed – and how they were so determined to have him healed that they broke the roof of the home Jesus was in to let him down.
And yet the first thing Jesus says to the man on seeing their faith is “Friend – your sins are forgiven.’
HIV is not the worst problem in the world. It’s a terrible challenge – one that has brought untold suffering. It’s the cause for Madan and his family to be here in our hospital room – getting the blood that will keep him going.
But below the disease is a condition that all our dark hearts hold – and most try to hide – a radical rejection of all that is good in God.
The words of Jesus ring across the centuries. “Friend…. forgiven.”
We prayed for Madan. For his healing. For the blood to help. For the new regime of drugs to kick in soon. For his worries to be stilled. For his family to be blessed. For him to taste the joy of hearing Jesus call him ‘friend.’
The drops of blood kept dripping into Madan as I left the room.