Saturday, November 10, 2012

Making Sense

Chapter 5
Gujarat is known for its trading abilities. A Gujarati is capable of selling
anything to anyone. In a society primarily driven by commerce, Money is the
axis on which the society revolves and virtually everything gets defined in
monetary terms – perhaps even religion.
I am going to give just two small examples of how I saw religion being
interpreted in monetary terms. I was surprised and I could not help
appreciating the abilities of the society to turn everything into monetary
prospects. I had seen the high level of awareness amongst ordinary people
when it came to stocks markets, real estate etc. But even God won’t mind
showering currency on a society which is so dedicated to commerce.
It so happened that on a rare evening when it had rained during the month of
August in 2003, a friend of mine who had come over from Rajkot asked me to
accompany him for an ice cream. The ice cream parlour happened to be bang
opposite a temple ( I won’t name the temple for the obvious reason of
avoiding controversy), but it surely was a prominent temple. There was a
discourse on Gita in progress. Being a person having a slant towards
atheism, I was not interested in what came from the loud speakers. But
something caught my fancy and I cannot forget what I heard.
Gita is a sacred Hindu book which, as I see it, talks about sacrifice and
renunciation amongst other things. One thing that I cannot forget from the
Holy book is that one should continue with his work (Karma) without worrying
aout the fruits of labour.
All of a sudden I heard the speaker at the temple relate this very
practically to the modern life. I could hear him say that even if there is a
hike in the prices of petrol (it was almost 55 dollars per barrel in
international market) and even if the cars become dearer one should not
worry about the hike but keep tapping business opportunities. So what if one
one has to shell out more for petrol but making new contacts in the business
world will surely provide fruits in the long run!!! Made a lot of sense to
Let’s go to the other side. I came across a group of Muslims almost one year
later who were interpreting Islam for al practical purposes to help their
community reap benefits of capital market. A businessman named Zafar
Sareshwala had conceived the idea of Islamic trading in the capital market.
The purpose was to rea thee benefits of a liberalised economy by remaining
within the limits of Shariat. For this purpose he had taken the help of
religious scholars.
The explanation went that while a Muslim cannot invest in an industry
manufacturing or trading in alcohol, an institution involved in borrowing
and lending, he can surely invest in a company manufacturing motorcycles.
A Qazi from the Shariat court, Mufti Abdul Qayyum said that Muslims can
invest in television channels showing news or other productive programmes
but not in entertainment channels and those showing fashion shows.
He was quick to explain that all the Muslims need to understand is the
difference between Sud (interest) and Nafa (Profit). ‘’Sud is something one
gets even if money is kept stationery in a bank but Nafa is result of money
getting into the process of business and changing hands. Besides while
investing in business there are equal chances of profit and loss but in case
of interest there is a remote chance of losses.’’
Sareshwala was in the process of launching an Islamic Equity Fund from
United Kingdom. His concern was doing the job of a broker, suggesting people
to invest in ‘’Islamic companies’’ and also to manage Zakat (annual donation
by Muslims for charity).
‘’After the Shariat screening we also have a purification process for
companies. For example a company may be an ‘’Islamic company’’ and its owner
maybe from any religion, yet at the end of the year some of its earnings
might turn out to be unislamic. We calculate the portion of profits that are
unislamic and then ask the investors to donate it,’’ explained Zafarwala.
More than fivee hundred Muslims had gone in for Islamic trading when I met
This too made a lot of sense!!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lots in a name

Chapter 4
There are ample examples to show what divide is in sociological terms.
Coming from up north, from the state of Himachal Pradesh, I have been
witnessing phenomenon of class, caste and communal divides at various places
wherever my quest for the daily bread has taken me.
Communalism is not a new concept for any one of us. The generation to which
we belong has heard enough about partition and post partition communal
violence. But it is only in Gujarat that I came to face and tried to analyse
the hows and whys of this machine that churns out hatred, bloodshed and
irrepairable losses.
Gujarat at present, I talk of the period between 2002 and 2005, has all the
ingredients to experiment with the limits of human sanity. There are
numerous examples, small anecdotes that  I will dole out as I proceed. These
instances and anecdotes just go on to show how hate mongers, from various
communities, have gone to the level of abusing the constitution with
shameless which words simply cannot describe.
I did give that example of a HIGHWAY HANUMAN. The Hindu god already has
enough pseudonyms like Pavanputra (son of the wind), Marutinandan,
Bajrangbali – and these all are names which people remember with a sacred
reverence. Now why add something absurd!!!
There is more to it as friends told me later. During riots one also came
across media reports which talked about a  Hulladiya (Rioting)  Hanuman.
Several months later, on August 24, 2005 to be precise, I actually went to
Hatkeshhwar area in Amraiwadi locality of Ahmedabad where there was a temple
of Rokadiya (Cashier) Hanuman. This somehow did not surprise me much because
it simply went with the Gujarati penchant for money!!!
It was in the summer of 2004 that India took on Pakistan in a cricket match
on a Tuesday and thanks to a heavy duty performance by ace batsman Virender
Sehwag, India mauled the Pakistanis. It was an occasion enough to cheer for
cricket fans (though I myself do not like the game. I knew that it would be
the hot topic of discussion as the mention of the word Pakistan is as good
as an abuse in the nationalist Hindu circles of Gujarat and people would
take an extra cup of tea to celebrate Indian victory over their enemy.
It would have been fine if discussions centred around performances, failures
or even an extra effort to defeat the traditional rivals.
But the statement that shocked me was from an educated Hindu youth who
claimed to work for a newspaper. He came up with  the point,’’ You know
Sehwag is a Hanuman bhakt (worshipper) and since the match was held on
Tuesday which is Hanuman’s day, Hanuman himself descended to help India win
over the enemy!!!’’ The connection and explanation was beyond my
comprehension and I knew there was no point in talking sense.
But it so happened that India lost to Sri Lanka, the following Sunday. I
could not help but quipping to the same fellow,’’ What happened this time ?
Did Ravana descend to defeat the Indians ?’’This was enough to send him on a
ranting and rambling exercise, which is so common amongst the fanatics. He
was quick to point that anti-nationals like me were out to defame India and
spared no effort to fan anti India sentiment
Let’s move over to another glaring example of the levels to which thinking
of even educated people can stoop once their mind is governed by the
philosophy of hate. This time again it happened to be a person whom I had
just met while covering a couple of political rallies. By the small that we
had shared I knew he supported the cause of right wing Hindutva as he kept
on quoting people and books supporting the ideology. It so happened that I
bumped into him during the course of an official assignment. As I was about
to depart I just remarked that I had to go to the nearby market in old
Ahmedabad to purchase dates as I loved having dates in winters.
‘’Do you also eat dates ? I thought only Muslims eat that fruit,’’ he asked.
I had no reply to this one.
I could just wonder since when have fruits started getting identified with
religion. Tomorrow someone just might as well say that Apple is a Christian
fruit or Orange is a Hindu fruit. Later I came to know that I was not the
only one to have had such an experience. A senior journalist with a Hindi
daily had also been confronted with similar remarks.
As if this was not enough I got to hear the logic behind dates being
classified as a fruit eaten by Muslims. A Muslim friend told me that Islam
spread from Arabian lands and since the staple diet of people in the Arabian
deserts has been milk and dates, hence dates have come to be closely
associated with Islam.
Another small observation which has huge social bearing is that Hindus in
Gujarat mostly refer to Mohammedans as Muslims or Miyas while Muslims always
refer to the Hindus as Gujaratis. Neither is sub consciously willing to
accept the other as himself. Aren’t both the citizens of the same state and
hence aren’t both Gujaratis. The divide goes more deep. Despite knowing
Gujarati language Muslims, particularly in central Gujarat, prefer not to
converse in the language which gives another point to hard line Hindus that
if Muslims can’t accept Gujarati language how can they accept Gujarat to be
their own ! There is another dimension to this point. A large number of
Muslims in this region are migrants from Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
and claim to be not comfortable with a new language.

Sides of the same coin

It was July 8, 2005. The event was the annual Jangannath Rath Yatra in
Ahmedabad where ‘’peace’’ prevailed and people were supposed to have
forgotten the 2002 riots. The police had made its quota of pre-yatra arrests
along with some recoveries. The only difference was that this time they were
reluctant to say that the accused wanted to disrupt the yatra.
Anyhow, the local media was abuzz with pre yatra stories and going by these
reports anyone would feel that Ahmedabad had become normal once again.
But the whole illusion took a beating when I went to Dariapur - a
predominant Muslim area falling in the categories of disturbed pockets.
There were scores of policemen, as expected. Muslim women were mainly
indoors and only kids lined the route from where the yatra was to pass. The
road had been got cleared by the police and everyone waited in anticipation
for the yatra to arrive.
Around 1.30 p.m. elders of the community could be seen asking the few women
outside to go indoors. The logic being given was disturbing indeed. They
were telling the women,’’ Don’t you understand that looking at idols is
Haraam (sin) in our religion.’’ The women ad others, low on literacy,
somehow understood. The children were getting smacked for venturing closer
to the road. A friend told me that things were different till some years
back when women and children actually used to line the streets.
Exactly at 2 p.m. a police Jeep with a public address system mounted on top
of it came to the spot and appeals were made to clear the road. It was quite
similar to the addressing when a curfew is about to be imposed. All of a
sudden one could see the yatra approaching. Immediately a large number of
speakers started blaring out patriotic songs and both the police and the
elders in the Muslim community resorted to blowing whistles at a shrill
pitch. I was surprised as I could not connect freedom movement or any of the
nationalist events to the religious occasion of the yatra and wondered why
these film songs were being blared at a very high level.
I decided to put this question to an elder. The reply was,’’ The yatris hurl
abuses at times which are countered by the Muslims. It may happen vice versa
also. The spats have all the potential to turn into violence. With more than
120 truck load of yatris you cannot take chances. Hence loud music and chaos
simply make abuses inaudible.’’
I could not term to terms with Muslims voluntarily keeping indoors – they
call it Janta curfew here – a concept which is a blot on the secular
society. Why do they do this ? The reply of an elder was,’’ By being indoor
for three hours we buy peace for the rest of the year.’’
All the papers the next day reported that the yatra had passed off
peacefully and the attempts to promote co-existence of Hindus and Muslims
were successful!!!

Getting a lesson

As disclosed earlier, the lessons came in plenty, pointing to the hows and
whys of the existing social order. A few days on, somewhere in the month of
February 2003,  I decided to visit a widow home in an area called Juhapura.
The locality can easily be described as one of the biggest Muslim ghettos of
the world. In Gujarat a lay man or a newcomer like me would describe the
place as Juhapura which was initially built as Sankalit Nagar. But how does
a Hindu living in Ahmedabad describe it ? Well, the reply to the question is
Don’t be shocked if you happen to pass the locality during the visit to the
city and the taxi driver puts on the brakes to exclaim,’’  Sahib, this  is
mini Pakistan!’’ the sentence will be followed by the choicest of abuses
reserved for describing the Muslims.
Well, I happened to take an auto to the locality from the exclusive Hindu
colony where I resided. I told the auto driver to take me to Juhapura and he
readily proceeded. The shock came when he stopped at the tip of a road and
asked me that he had arrived at the destination. I told him,’’ I have to go
the widow home behind Memon hall.’’
He said,’’ This is the BORDER  of Juhapura (as if I was about to cross the
LoC) and I will not go inside the locality. You can cross the road and then
hire an auto driven by a Muslim and reach your destination.’’
I had no choice but to do what he told me. I crossed over and found that I
would have to walk about 25 metres before I could get an auto. As I walked
this virtual no man’s land, my eyes wandered to an engraving of Hindu God
Hanuman installed beside the road below which was written HIGHWAY HANUMAN.
Visiting the widow home was another eye opener. I was told that some of the
riot victims of 2002 riots were residing there. The staff there was very
co-operative and rational in thought. The place is being run by one
Mehrunissa Mansuri, fondly called Mehru Apa and I have no qualms in saying
that she has done commendable work.
It so happened that two psychiatrists by the name of Sibasis and Jaikumar
who were involved in social cause of rehabilitation were on a routine visit
to attend to the children of victims who had seen killings at their tender
age. An interesting case that they discussed with me was of a seven year old
who was suffering from tuberculosis. It was a demonstration of what violence
can do to the psyche of a child.
The two psychiatrists, after small chit chat, had asked the boy to make a
drawing. The boy enthusiastically started off on a white paper but after
drawing a line he seemed to have been lost somewhere. All one could see was
a blankness engulfing his face.
After a few minutes life returned to his face and he quipped to me, who was
a stranger for him till then,’’ You know my Abbu had a big gun !’’  This was
enough to invite a shrill voice from another room. The voice belonged to his
mother and she said,’’ That is why he was sliced in front of you into three
Recovering from the shock, I was told that the boy’s father used to sell
toys and amongst those toys was a gun, a favourite of his son!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Journey Begins

It was a cool morning by Gujarat standards when I landed in
Ahmedabad on my second assignment in the state. The date was December 13, 2002. I
had fled the state three years back because of personal as well as professional reasons thinking that I would never ever return. But three years down the line so much had
happened that
it was not possible to deny an opportunity of coming back merely for
professional reasons.
The place had shot into limelight after the Kutch earthquake in
2001. This
was succeeded by one of the worst communal riots in Indian history
in the
succeeding year. Lots has been reported on the Godhra incident and
the post
Godhra violence that I need not go into the gory details again but
references to the events will keep on occurring as we proceed
The only reason that I agreed for a second stint in the state was
whatever was happening was bound to have a very important place in
political and legal history of this country. I want to point out
that this
assumption of mine has proved to be true. All I wanted to understand
was the
how and why of the madness prevailing here. Simply saying that the
or violence have stopped does not amount to prevalence of normalcy.
I just
wanted to observe the chaos all around and this exercise has proved
to be
very educating and amusing at times.
And the learning began on the day I landed. Not knowing the
airport norms I walked out only to be caught by a waiting
driver who wanted to know my destination. I was to go to a room
arranged by
a friend on the western tip of the city and the driver looked
satisfied at
the prospect of fleecing me of atleast Rs 50.
Anyhow the journey and the lessons began. It turned out that the
auto driver
was a Hindu living in the walled city. My obvious topic of
discussion was
the riots and the just held elections whose results were to be
announced the
next days. He was more than willing to talk about the Muslim bashing
had taken place and took the route that passed through the eastern
banks of
the Sabarmati, pointing and recalling where killings had taken
place. I
could recall the names that I had read over the last several months.
stunners were to come one by one.
I asked,'' Why do you think all this happened?''
His reply was,'' It was bound to happen as the previous Congress
regimes had
appeased the Muslims to the extent of ignoring all their criminal
acts and
it was because of the Sangh Parivar organisations that the Hindus
had been
able to move with their heads high in heterogeneous localities for
the first
My next question was,'' Who will win the elections?''
The reply was, ''The BJP because it has helped us get even with
Muslims and
it has rescued us from their threats.''
The fellow had nothing to say when I asked him,'' Till date how many
have threatened you or your family on personal grounds just because
you are
a Hindu ?''

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I had a dream....

I had a dream a couple of days back. It was not something that had to do something with ambition as I have never been ambitious. It was years back that I had struck a compromise with life that I would never seek big cars and fat salaries and in return life would just offer me a peaceful existence on my own terms while being far away from the rat race.
Coming back to my dream, I must say that it disturbed me a lot. It was something that had come much unexpected. In this dream of mine I was exported back to my schooldays and the year was 1984. Yes, I remember the year precisely because at that time I was in Class 7 and it was in that year that our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated and this assassination was followed by a pogrom against the Sikhs. Well, my dream had nothing to do with the assassination or with the pogrom. It has something to do with a thing as simple as a paper plane.
What I saw again was a mischievous act to which I had resorted to in the social sciences class. My teacher Uma Hiteshi, a great human being who loved me a lot despite me being a naughty brat, was sitting on the teacher’s desk. I came to know that she passed away last year and it was yet another great personal loss for me. And it was perhaps my
continuing to remember her in my sub consciousness that she decided to come alive in my dream once more.
Anyhow, while she had sat correcting our notebooks towards the end of the academic session with the exams approaching, a naughty thought had struck me. Confident that I would get promoted to the next class and there was no use of revising my course in that autumn class, I decided to have some harmless fun. I took out a notebook, tore a page and made a paper plane. Making a paper plane those days, at that age, was a huge delight…..a very fulfilling experience.
With deft hands, I tore a sheet out of the notebook, gave it the required multiple folds, smoothened its wings on my palm and like any great inventor I wrote my name on it. Then came its launch from the window of my class and I was confident that it would definitely soar high on account of the strong late autumn, early winter wind. To my
childish delight it came true to my expectation and it did soar high and traveled a long distance away from the window.

But to my shock, the wind played the truant and after traveling a long distance, it
made a u turn and my sincere hopes and wishes that it does not re-enter the class were dashed. Not only did it re-enter the class, it landed right under the nose of my bespectacled teacher who was busy correcting a notebook. My name on the plane gave away my identity.

What followed was on expected lines. I was labeled a goonk, my ears were wrenched and I was promptly thrown out of the class. This was something of a routine. It was at this point that my dream broke. I woke up feeling thirsty. Saw the time on my mobile which read 5.35 am.
Then I had a longing. The craving to make a paper plane returned after all those years. I felt restless on discovering that I no longer possessed a notebook whose sheets were worthy of making a paper plane.I decided that I would borrow a sheet from the kids in the
neighborhood the first thing in the morning and I would definitely make a paper plane and once again write my name on it.

But I realized with horror once again that the notebooks along with their new form of
stapling and binding that are in vogue today are not ideal for making a paper plane. With the slopes of the hills becoming a jungle of concrete, there is no scope for the planes to soar high into the clear blue sky. The multi storeyed buildings would halt the plane’s flight and these buildings no longer allow the blowing of breeze and winds that would facilitate an ideal launch. So my agenda now is to once again put my dream into reality. I would go to the wilderness one of these days with a notebook that has sheets ideal for making a paper plane and indulge in that childhood luxury for the whole day. Perhaps this would be a befitting way of paying my respects to my lost teacher.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An (HIV) Positive Life

It is my sincerest wish and hope that the two of them continue to live happily ever after. Interviewing them was both difficult and yet very fulfilling. They really were the “odd couple”. After all in a society like ours that is plagued by hypocrisy, how many such examples do we come across?
Let me tell you that Jadish and Heena were both HIV positive when I had met them. Overcoming their personal traumas both had taken the bold step of marrying each other and trying to make sense of life for others like them. I am reproducing the entire transcript of my talk with them on a hot April evening in Surat in the year 2006……

Q. Please tell me your name and what do you do?
Jagdish. My name is Jagdish Patel and I work in GSNP plus (Gujarat State Network for people living with HIV positive and AIDS) as a field counsellor.
Heena. I am Heena Patel and I work as centre counsellor for GSNP plus.
Q. Why did you get associated with this network?
Jagdish. Because the network is for the HIV positive people and finding solutions to the problems being faced by HIV positive people in the society is very difficult. It is easy to find such solutions when you join this network. It is easier for a person to become acceptable in the society because a network has a wider reach while an individual doesn't.
Heena. When I joined this network I was already a widow. It has been through the network that I came to marry Jagdish. After I experienced widowhood and eventually I came out of that, I can now help other widows facing such problems.
Q. Can you tell me something about your past?
Jagdish. I used to work in a diamond cutting and polishing unit. I lived with my brother for six years but when I tested positive for HIV even my brother started facing problems in society but he did not say anything to me. But I understood what he was going through. He suggested that I go back to my village in Jamnagar district but I came in contact with this network and I came to know a lot on how to face these problems. My biggest problem was that I was unmarried and if I married a HIV negative woman I could pass on the infection to her ad if I married through the network I would prevent the virus from passing on to at least one more person. Hence I decided to marry a HIV positive girl and set an example and thus contribute towards reducing the overall HIV positive people.
Heena. We were one brother and four sisters. I was the youngest and was the most pampered. I was engaged immediately after I finished high school and was married three years later. He (My first husband) was HIV positive but he did not tell it. He was scared that his engagement would break and he will not be able to find a wife later. After marriage we came to live in Surat for two years. He worked in a diamond unit. When I enquired about his frequent illness and repeated trips to testing laboratories, he refused to tell me anything and said that what is the point in my telling you? Then I told my brother who asked me to come back to my father's house in Rajkot. Later when my husband came there he was taken for a test and my brother told the doctor to give his report to him (my brother) instead of the patient. This scared my husband on how he would face the society when my brother came to know of his illness. When we came to know about it, I too undertook a test to find that even I was HIV positive but after eight days my husband passed away. My in laws did not want to keep me but I insisted that if they wanted to turn me out they would have to come to leave me at my parents place in a procession like they had come to take me from there at the time of the marriage. I stayed there but I was ostracized. My clothes and utensils were kept separately and no body interacted with me. It was after a fortnight of my becoming a widow that my niece visited me and after seeing the treatment being meted out to me she asked my father to call me back. My father came and took me back saying that he would keep me and during the next three years when I stayed at my father's place, my in laws never enquired about my well being.

But by that time my brother had married and had two children. Though he had no problems in me staying in the house, his wife started raising objections out of fears that her children or her husband might not get infected as I was going to live there till I died. There were frequent fights in the house. I asked my father to leave me either in an orphanage or a home for people like me. But my father asked my brother to move out. Then I came to know about the network. I married Jagdish and we have been working and living together for the last three years. We are portrayed as an example for HIV positive people who want to marry.
Q. How did you become HIV positive?
Jagdish. It was four years back that I fell sick and had malaria and typhoid. I had gone to visit a cousin who was admitted to the general ward of a hospital and it was there that I got these diseases as I was not aware that I was HIV positive. I had gone in for a blood transfusion seven year prior to that. Maybe I got the infection from that.
Q. What made you go in for a HIV positive life partner?
Heena. After I tested positive, during counseling I was told that if wanted to remarry it would be better if I married a HIV positive person. I too understood that only a HIV positive life partner could understand my pain and agony, particularly when I was sick. If I married a HIV negative person and he got the infection through me, he would blame me for life like I used to blame my first husband for passing on the infection to me. He would look down upon me. So I decided to marry a HIV positive person whether he was from my caste and community or not. It is the virus in our blood which was my consideration and I married Jagdish.
Q. Initially when you met each other, were you nervous about looking for a life partner?
Jagdish. I had reservations whether I would be able to adjust with a HIV positive girl or not. Our castes were different and my parents insisted that I marry a HIV negative girl. I had reservations on how I would ask a HIV positive girl to marry me. Would she accept me? I was HIV positive but the girl I would approach would both be HIV positive and a widow as well. She would have faced the problems of widowhood and what if her husband dies again and she gets forced into the world of widowhood once again. But when I approached her, I just asked her to forget the past and think about the future.
Heena. My father was against the marriage and told me that I should live with his family till I die. But my other family members like mother, brother and sister understood that being HIV positive does not mean that I will die tomorrow. They knew that I will continue to live and a life partner is required. Another thing was that as a widow my acceptance was not there in society. I could not go anywhere on auspicious occasions and could not even dress up properly. It was conveyed to my father that my acceptance would be there if I remarried. After Jagdish had proposed to me my sister told my father that even if he is not from our caste but we would lead a life together. She said that all that was required was a prayer that I do not return to widowhood. After a lot of reluctance my father agreed to our marriage.

Q. What role did this institution have in your marriage and how do you see the recent match making event organized by your network?

Jagdish. When we got married there were no guidelines in the network. Ours was the first marriage. Then the idea of a marriage bureau came into being. HIV men and female fill out a form about there age, profession and marital status. Then after two and a half years we thought that it was difficult to arrange meetings between individuals and hence we decided to arrange a match making event where people from all over Gujarat and sit face to face with prospective life partners. In the recent event four couples decided to marry.
Heena. This institution played a major role in my marriage. I was from Rajkot. At the time of my marriage my father was reluctant and the marriage was solemnized in Surat. By then GSNPplus had become both my paternal house and the house of my in laws and it remains the same today. Even today my problems are solved through GSNPplus only. We were displayed as an example of a happily married HIV positive couple in the recent match making event. We are the first such couple in Gujarat and it was conveyed that other people too could live and support each other like us. Going by the example four couples have decided to get married and the fifth such marriage is in the pipeline.
Q. Would you ever have met if there was no such institution?
Jagdish. Had GSNP plus not been there I would have never met Heena or thought about marrying her. The network has documented the HIV positive people like us and this is very helpful.
Heena. The network is essential for all HIV positive people. Other NGOs are working in this field but only GSNPplus has a marriage bureau. I worked in Rajkot as a researcher with an NGO but it was only after coming in contact with GSNPplus that I came to know about the marriage bureau and was able to meet and marry Jagdish. Otherwise I would have still been at my father's place and he would have wept looking at me. Now when my father sees me on television or in a news photo he does not feel that he is a father of a HIV positive daughter. Now my entire community knows about my HIV positive status. Now my father can say that he is proud of a daughter who can say in front of the world that she can live despite being HIV positive. I too say that I have HIV not AIDS and I can live with your support.
Q. Can you tell me something about your marriage? How was your marriage like?
Jagdish. At the time of our marriage my parents were reluctant. I told them four hours before my marriage and still they were refusing to allow me to go ahead. But at the scheduled time everyone came and the marriage was solemnized in a proper manner. Initially I had thought that the marriage would be solemnized as a mere formality and would be over in a few minutes but it turned out to be an elaborate affair with my family members, relatives and GSNPplus members turning up in strength.
Heena. My father had reservations on me remarrying and had not come for marriage. He had refused to allow my mother to come also. It was the GSNPplus that had supported me. But when I did not call up my parents for over a month, I got a call from my sister who asked me why I did not go to my parent's house after marriage? I said I was scared of my father. She said that it was not only my individual decision and others like my sister and mother had supported it. I went to my sister's house in Rajkot where my mother came to meet me and take me to my father's house. I was still reluctant to go but

my mother took me home. My father had wept seeing me saying how could he forget his daughter? He immediately accepted Jagdish and me.
Q. last question, what difference has marriage made to your life?
Jagdish. Before marriage I used to remain aloof. I did not talk to anyone. I was very confused. Everyone used to ask me why I did not marry? Was no one willing to give his daughter to me in marriage? Now everyone tells me that I have got a very nice wife who can fit into our community very well. I am very happy after marriage. I did not imagine my life partner would be so accommodating and supporting. Today I can proudly say that my life partner is priceless and I cannot live without her even for a moment.
Q. It has been your second marriage. How do you feel about the whole thing?
Heena. I shudder to even think of the days that I was spending as a widow. Jagdish loves me so much, gives me everything without even asking for it. He helps me with my medicines as I am taking treatment. When I am not well he doesn't let me get up and do any work. He supports me in my job also. We do our household work together in the mornings. We share the responsibilities of running our household after our job. It is my good luck that I married Jagdish. I have forgotten my previous marriage taking it to be a bad dream. I just pray to god that I get Jagdish as my husband for seven rebirths.