Zarina's story

I was born in Allahabad. My father died when l was seven years old, and my mother brought us here, to Bombay. My mother worked in a company that mad insulation coils. She was not making much money at that time though, and had to leave us with our uncle and move to Dubai, where she earned much more.

I was 14 when l got married. I thought he was a well-bred boy from a respectable family and had no idea he had bad habits. He told me very early that he visited prostitutes though - he'd say he was going out, and l'd wonder what the big deal in that was since everybody goes out. It was only later that l realized that he'd been 'going out' to the red light area. He had also asked me if l had had a boyfriend or lover or any other problems, but l was too young and inexperienced to understand.

He was 20 at the time, and has a business repairing watches. He'd drink a lot and mix with the wrong people. When he didn't drink, however, these people weren't his friends. They were up to no good and would invariably cause fights.

I spent the years before my pregnancy behind purdah in one room...I had a child after two ears of marriage, but didn't know that last thing about children, or even how one has them! I thought people married so that the woman could look after the home, prepare meals.and didn't let my husband consummate our marriage until after the first month. I have not desired 'it' since. He was so sexy, he'd want it at every point, while l had begun to detest it. It was because he was this sexy that he needed to go out. He had forced me for the first two years, and by the end of it, l had begun to hate him as well.

We went on this way until he started to fall ill. He stopped working and started going to the dispensary, but this didn't help. He had even sold his stall to pay for his treatment. He had AIDS, but l did not know anything about it then. He had told me to keep it as a secret - he was scared they would throw us out of the hospital.

Doctors feel that HIV patients are a waste of their time - if they're going to die anyway, let them. Yet they seem aftaid of us and will even wear gloves to take our temperature. Nurses discourage our own family members from sitting by our side. If doctors and nurses have such an attitude, what will happen? It really angers me that we are thrown away for having this problem. He died within six months at GT Hospital.

I remarried in 1996. I was working at a company then and he was my boss. I have told him everything. We use condoms because he is negative. We are friends and lovers, fifty-fifty. He is working in Dubai and sends money for the children. We write to each other and l am happy.

My elder daughter is very sick - woh to last stages main hai. I'm hoping to bring both my children back home. I don't feel alone because l have friends and my mother. Had l not remarried, however, l don't think l could have come this far. I can speak and write English - l have taught myself all this.

By this time Zarina is really fidgety. I asked her sho all knew about her status apart from her mother, her friend and her husband. She said her sister. I asked her which of her sisters and she said - "I only have one sister." Then l pointed out that she had mentioned that she had four sisters. By now l realize that she is fibbing. I asked her if she is making all this up and she continues to laugh. She cannot make up her mind - she says yes and then starts laughing again.

Arre, people have been asking me the same questions for years and l've gotten bored of repeating the same story. Then they ask if l've thought about the future. Will you ask me that too" I've been asking God to take me away, what else? I can't commit suicide, so what shall l do? I am carrying on. I think about my daughter a lot, and the fact that she'll never recover, but people think that l don't care because they see me out and about…..Lekin mera aisa hi chalta hai.

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