“Jyoti, I want to marry you, and this time I am sure of it.”
I looked at him, not believing a word. Marry me? An HIV-positive woman? When he couldn’t commit to me for the whole two and half years we were going around??
FLASHBACK: Pune, Aug 4th 2013
My phone vibrates.
1 message pending
I was just getting ready for the HIV Matrimonial Event that was to be held in Pune. I was a Guest Speaker for that event and I had not prepared my speech as yet. Thought that there is still 2-3 hours to go for the ceremony to start, hence I will write at the venue itself. I always keep my phone on the “vibration” mode and its background light was distracting my attention. I switched on to read the message:
“Jyoti, please break your ties with him. I have realized my feelings for you and want to marry you. I don’t want to lose you.”
I choose to give it a royal ignore. This is not the first time. He had said that before also, only to develop cold feet. He is HIV Negative and in India, sero-discordant couple are discouraged. Normally doctors would advise abstinence and would also suggest not to even kiss. Such is the case of HIV in India. His words clearly ring in my ears – “What will my parents think?” “What will society think?” Also I have to be answerable to some of my people to whom I had told that I won’t ever marry…blah blah blah, hence I didn’t let the text message affect me this time. Before, I used to get emotionally depressed and mentally drained, but now, since I have decided to move on after much waiting, I have also decided to marry a guy of my respective status.
The phone vibrates again. And again. And Again.
3 messages pending…
“Jyoti, this time I swear to God, I will take you home and marry you. You will henceforth be my responsibility”
“Jyoti, please come back to me. I have realized how much you mean to me and how much I love you when you have already left me”
“Jyoti, would you rather be with someone whom you know for two and half years or marry a person you have just met for few hours? Why don’t you give me one last chance and believe in me?”
This time I was getting exasperated and could feel the stress level rising. Why does he have to do like this all the time? Just why, when I am with him, he could not even “feel” me? Why, when he is about to “lose” me does he realize how much I love him?
BACK TO PRESENT: Mumbai, Oct 13th 2013
“Now, under the sacred fire, with blessings of Lord Ram and Sita, and our own worshippable God Jagannath, Balram and Subhadra, I pronounce you husband and wife”
“In sickness and in health, till death do us part”
And I also remember the promise of an everlasting love and support:
- I pledge to be with you to uplift the stigma and discrimination
- I pledge to change the mindset and thinking of Indian society through our example
- I pledge to support you in your cause
Stigma is still there. In his home. Around society. Amongst his friends. But then, if we need to change that, then it is “WE” who has to bring in the change. Thus WE as a living, walking, talking example want to prove everyone that HIV is not scary as it was before. That it is no more an untouchable disease. That it can be controlled. That we can lead a normal life. My husband Vivek Surve is still abiding by his promise and doing the best he can for the society.
Have the COURAGE to “live”. Anyone can die—-Robert Cody
This proverb I lovingly dedicate to my husband who has proved himself by marrying me and facing lot of critics, his family too not withstanding. When going gets tough, the “tough” gets going!!
About the writer:
Jyoti Dhawale is an HIV activist, writer, blogger and a front runner campaign into breaking the myth, stigma and discrimination that surrounds HIV being HIV positive herself and telling her story, her experience and sharing knowledge. Also Community Advisor Board for The Well Project (USA), International Steering Member for Prevention Access Campaign (USA), Brand Ambassador for Being Positive (Bangalore), she has worked with countless number of NGOs, holding talk shows and blogging. Her interest is vast though travelling, motorsports and photography top the list.
Editor’s note: This blog post has been published with permission from the writer. The original blog post was published on The Well Project.