Disclaimer: The below listed incident is not fictional. It is completely real. 100% accurate. This in itself should be shameful, disgraceful and appalling for everyone.
Staring at the blank ceiling above, an ingenuous eight year old boy struggles to count his breaths.
1…. 2…. 3….
“His condition is getting critical. I can’t guarantee the days he’ll survive.”
His mind kept on wandering to those lines the doctor told his grandmother earlier that day. He was fake sleeping to avoid seeing the stress lines on his grandmother’s wrinkled, yet pretty face.
His little mind didn’t realize the gravity of the lines, still it kept on echoing inside his brain.
“When will the pain end Nanu? I can barely feel my body.” He had asked his grandmother minutes ago.
“Very soon bacchhe. Very soon. And there’s a big surprise after it. Want to know? You’ll get to meet your Dada and Mama!”
His tired eyes filled with joy.
“You’ll stay with us. Right, Nanu?”
“If the God wills, I will.” And she closed her eyes for a moment. Opening them back she said, “Till then count the number of breaths you take.”
His grandmother, Mugdha, used this mechanism to distract lil Raju from the unimaginable pain he was going through.
“Naaanu!” Raju blurted. “Will they remember me? Will they recognize me?” And he swayed his arms to show his pale and fragile body; an existing carcass of skin and bones.
“Of course they will. Don’t you remember them every day? Didn’t you recognize them during their crisis? They are your parents bacchhe. They love you and they are eagerly waiting for you.”
His face displayed a slight curve. And his eyes closed to witness the memories of his loving parents.
Mugdha limped to the nearby window.
I can’t guarantee the days he’ll survive. This exhausted her mind too.
She knew it. Since his birth. That she might encounter such a day in her life. But, she wasn’t ready for that happening so soon.
So very soon.
Perhaps, a corner of her always hoped that he would survive longer. And still does.
The mind always knows. It’s the heart that doesn’t believe. She made a mental note of this.
He was the only thing she had with her. When Raju was little, she had decided to choose him over all her sons who later, abandoned her over this decision. She had mortgaged her only house to treat Raju in a reputed hospital. And for a second also, she didn’t regret doing it.
She loved him immensely and couldn’t see him in pain.
Her mind went back to the torturous days wherein her daughter, Rajni, and son-in-law, Vinayak, ended their respective struggles with AIDS.
Vinayak advanced into hell when Raju was six. Rajni took the heavenly abode when he turned four.
They were tested HIV+ when Rajni was three months pregnant. That’s when Vinayak confessed of having committed an unpardonable sin of performing intercourse with a prostitute.
Vinayak’s one mistake affected the lives of all three. Ending that of her lovely daughter. And about to engulf her amiable grandchild.
This feeling caused an ache inside her.
Mugdha turned back to look at Raju. He still had that grin on his face.
His zeal marveled her. An eight year old boy; battling death for no absolute fault of his, rejected by his entire extended family fearing that he might ‘contaminate’ them too and being labeled an untouchable only because he carries an HIV virus. He was shunned by everyone. He never got any toy or car which every child is showered with. He could never play any sport outdoors or any game on PlayStation. He never got an opportunity to live a life like any normal child around.
And yet, he smiled.
He was spending the last moments of his life all alone in a recluse room. And still, he smiled.
I love you, my strong bacchhe. Mugdha let out.
Suddenly, his machines started beeping loudly, breaking the silence of his otherwise silent room. He also began breathing heavily. Mugdha hurriedly reached towards him and pressed the knob for the doctor.
She shook Raju and kept on mouthing, “Be Strong. Be Strong. Be Strong!” Raju briefly opened his eyes, clenched his fist and uttered, “Sstroonggg.”
In seconds, he was moved to the OT.
Outside, Mugdha felt her mind getting numb. Almost unabashed of the outcome.
Within hours, Raju’s body gave in. Surrendered to his agony.
Mugdha saw his lifeless body. She brought it near her own and cried inconsolably.
AIDS. What is it? Please say something except Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome.
It is a disease caused by the presence of an HIV virus in the body which makes the person susceptible to infections, tumors and illnesses.
Yeah, it is a horrendous condition.
But more atrocious is the way we treat them. Not letting them live or even, die normally.
Countless lectures and awareness drives have failed to instill in our brains that HIV virus is not and can never be spread by touching or spending time with the victim. And yet, we reject them. Abandon them. And force them to live in isolation.
Aren’t they suffering enough?
Why and how will they ‘contaminate’ you?
Another big misconception we have is that we consider HIV+ and AIDS to be the very same. No, it is not! AIDS is a disease. HIV+ is just a signification that you carry that virus in your blood. It can take a whole duration of normal life for a person’s HIV+ virus to progress to AIDS. Why devoid him of his rights only because he is HIV+?
Open your eyes people. Please open them.
Going through AIDS or even carrying an HIV+ virus is host to unimaginable and horrific anguish and pain. Have a heart. Do not make it worse for them with your prejudices and judgements. Let them live freely. And allow them make their everyday count.
Touch them. Spend time with them. Share your food.
It won’t contaminate you. It will make you a bigger person.
A silent prayer for strength to all those inflicted with AIDS. And stronger pity to all the innumerable people who don’t let them live their life with dignity. I hope your actions don’t compel Karma to gift something adverse to you.
Happy Reading 🙂