Sunday, May 17, 2009

Meet *R, India

My recent work trip to India once again widen my lenses and I met a few families, each has its own story to share. But the most compelling for me is meeting *R and I must tell you his story...

*R is barely 10 years old and he is HIV positive. When I met him, he wasn't feeling well that afternoon. "He is having a fever," his dad told us. But they knew we were coming and wore their best to welcome us. That act itself has already moved me.

I looked at *R and immediately noticed the spots on his hands were evident because of HIV. While snapping shots of him, flies were everywhere. This humble family lives in the slums area, so this is of no surprise. Those little annoying creatures were feasting on his face, hands, feet..just everywhere. The boy just sat there, oblivious to what's taking place, he didn't even try to shoo them off. It is as if he has accepted this part of reality to be a norm.

I kept shooing those little creatures away, almost every 5 minutes and they just kept coming back. I realized, my efforts were futile. I silently teared, "How can anyone live like this Oh God?"

I can't even begin to tell you *R's story without first taking a deep breath because his story is a sad one. In 2007, his dad took him to a local hospital because *R had jaundice. And that's when he contracted HIV through blood transfusion. I feel sorry for the dad because he regretted taking his son to the hospital til this day. But what choice do they have? As if they can afford a private hospital?

I could see how much *R's dad love his son. This is his only son. He feels bad he can't even provide the basics of fruits and milk regularly for his son, which are supposed to keep him healthy. Imagine a father's heart...broken.

A small hope has come to the family, World Vision gave him a rickshaw 2 weeks back so that he could generate some income for his family. With this mode of transportation, he is able to fetch *R to the hospital for his regular medication and saved Rs200 each trip. He had to even borrow money previously just to cover the cost of transportation for taking his son to the hospital. However the rickshaw is still pending licensing which WV is helping to apply, so for the meantime, *R's dad can only work at night. And indeed, he did work hard - 10 to 12 hours every night. Which means when we visited his home, he must have not slept for almost a whole day.

He is only 27 but the hard life must have taken a toll on his appearance. It brought me to think, when I was 27, what did I understand about life? Surely, not the way *R's dad did.

Their zeal for life never failed to amaze me. Their strength, resilience, perseverance...I hope they have inspired you too, to live your life contented with less complains, less wants and doing something in the capacity you can to make your world a better place then when you first found it (borrowing this phrase from a friend, credits to -B).

Before leaving, I went up to *R. He was sitting on the rickshaw. I began to show him the pictures I took of him and his family from my camera screen. And when he saw his family's picture, he smiled. That was the first time I saw him smiled. That made my day.

*it is a policy that for people living with HIV/AIDS, no frontal shots are to be published / shaded and their real names remained anonymous.

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