Bahadur's story

I am my parents' only son. They were illiterate, but wanted me to be grow up and be somebody. They sent me to an English medium school, but my father died when l was in the 10th, and l failed in school.

I managed to make it to college somehow, and simultaneously started work as a painter to earn some money. But my responsibilities at work steadily doubled. I was unable to balance the two, so l had to give up on my education.

I gradually started drinking. The paint would give me a headache, and drinking was the only way we could get rid of the odor. People started telling my mother to get me married, and she took me to the village to meet girls. Many of them were unwilling to move to Bombay - in the end l married a girl named Shobha from a poor family with three daughters.

I started drinking more and we'd fight everyday. I started drinking in the afternoon too, and it got so bad one day that she took our child and left for the village. Shortly after this l lost my job at the youth mandal. A social worker sent me to a detox clinic in Malad, where l worked with alcoholics in SUPPORT. I would, nonetheless, have a drink at the end of every day myself.

I've been dry for the last 5-6 years now, and was diagnosed HIV positive five years back too. I would arrange street plays on AIDS in our community, and never expected to be infected. The day l found out l was positive, my wife came to visit me. Her brother was getting married in the village and they had come to invite me. I did not tell her about my health at that time.

My mother-in-law, however, took my best friend to the side and asked him what the matter was. He told her that l had AIDS, and l decided to come clean with Shobha, who had already been asking why l had been wearing condoms. Very late that night, l explained my situation to her, telling her that l had destroyed her life. I told her everything.

"First you were an alcoholic, now you have this illness!" she said, and left for her brothers wedding. I said l'd follow later, but fell ill on getting there and was taken to the hospital. My mother-in-law insisted that l sleep separately that night, either in the fields or in the temple. My wife, who does everything her mother says, did not support me either. What made me really sad was that they'd tell my daughter not to come close to me, not to touch me. In fact, everybody wanted to get me out of there, and it was my saala(brother-in-law) who finally escorted me home.

Everybody knows l have AIDS, and all my relationships have fallen apart. My mother is the only person who supports me still. My wife returned only once - l had sent her a letter saying that l was selling the flat. Her mother had probably sent her to get some cash from the sale. Shobha has been tested twice and is clear.

But how could she be positive - she did nothing but fight all day! It was because of her that l would 'go out'!

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