I have seen a lot of pain and suffering. I surely have. Irrespective, I feel that happiness is a personal choice. From a troubled childhood to a rocky marriage and contracting HIV to finally finding the right partner and my voice, I have achieved peace in life despite what came my way.
I came from a broken family and had a typical ‘Cinderellaesque’ life, courtesy my stepmother. She would lock me up in a room and starve me. Lunch was a luxury. Second helpings did not exist. Seeing my half-sister being treated with love and kindness compounded my own feelings of worthlessness.
I was my father’s first-born, an Air Force Officer. Apart from being able to understand his feelings without a single word from him, I also inherited his love of fighter planes. The sound of fighter planes would send goosebumps down my spine.
But that was too much of a dream. I was rejected due to a condition that I had since I was 3 - bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. I can only hear sounds 80 decibels and higher, equivalent to the hoot of a railway engine. I follow conversations face-to-face, through lip reading. Otherwise, I strongly rely on the written word for communication. I suffer from certain speech defects too. I cannot pronounce letters. Doctors say that a damage as severe as this could have happened due to physical abuse. My family offers a contrary explanation – that I fell down from my father’s bike after a tyre burst, though I have no memory of the accident.
My biological mother made a reappearance in my life. It is anyone’s guess that the reunion was not happy. I was in class nine then and the experience shattered me so much that I had to repeat the class. I just about managed to get past high school from the National Institute of Open Schooling, New Delhi but could not make it to college.
Short Lived Joy
By now, you must have realized that I was running a massive deficit of love in general. So falling for a gentleman seemed natural. It felt as if my life would steer towards normal. It did for a while until I missed the first period of my life. Oh, the joy of being a first-time-mother (https://www.babychakra.com/learn/mothers-day)! The joy lasted only until I rushed to share it with my then husband. He did not want babies and got me to abort thrice in 2 years. I was wholly dependent on him, financially and emotionally. I was naïve and submissive. I didn’t even know about the Domestic Violence Act back then. It was only after I was beaten, abused and left for dead that I realized the importance of self-esteem and self-respect.
How did I get pregnant so many times? Because of his dislike for using any protection during intercourse. I was on vaginal contraceptives that have a high failure rate, especially if correct procedures aren’t followed. It requires 10-15 minutes of waiting. Imagine a person wanting to have sex in the middle of the night, and you aren’t prepared. And when you want to insert the pill and request your husband to wait, he forces himself upon you! Isn’t sex without consent within or outside marriage called rape? I am more upset with the laws of the land that there is no provision to report marital rape.
Death and Life
And all of this was just the beginning of my next ordeal. One of the abortions brought along HIV. Due to medical negligence. I was transfused with infected blood. I was three months pregnant when I came to know that I was HIV positive. This time, I refused to abort and carried my baby. Thankfully my son was born HIV negative. Humanity struck rock bottom when my ex-husband demanded divorce soon after the child’s birth and took away our son with him. The very child who was not wanted when in the womb.
Depression and Dishonesty
There I was, dealing with the shock of having learnt that I was HIV positive and fighting postpartum depression. Amidst all this, my son's father let me in on the fact that he had been having an extramarital affair and was planning to leave me. In order to become financially independent, I started looking out for a job. I wasn’t ready to give up on my marriage yet but after my maid informed me that he had been bringing his girlfriend to our home in my absence, I decided to call it quits.
I have no regrets. My deepest pain is that my son is being brought up by a stepmother (my ex-husband married his girlfriend), a situation that I was an unfortunate victim of. Sadly, whatever was written in the divorce agreement was NOT mutual. My side of the story was never heard. A forceful signature marked the end of it. But I haven’t given up yet. I am fighting to get mys on back legally.
Finally, Love and Purpose
About 5 years ago, faith knocked at my door again and I married Vivek Surve, who has taught me compassion and forgiveness.
Today, I have found purpose in life by spreading awareness on HIV and busting myths around it. I work as an activist, writer and blogger and as the ambassador for several organizations and not-for-profits worldwide.
My biggest strength is the fact that I am happy to extend a helping hand, exchange a warm smile or give a hug to those who need it. Being deprived of love and care I know how important they are. But I also know what I can be happy if I want to be and not because of someone or something else.
I may not be able to hear much but I hear the angels sing. Stay Loved! Stay Blessed! Be happy.