I had this great friend of mine and in two years time, we went from being a friend to best friends. There would be absolutely nothing hidden between us. He would share all his life with me, his holiday trips, his dreams, his passions, everything. Even his sexuality that he is bisexual. And I would listen to him, would encourage him, would give him more input to dream about, would make his world. Since we work in different offices and stay in different locality far away from each other but in the same city, we rarely get a chance to meet each other in person. But when we do meet, we go out for a long bike rides late in the night, feeling the gentle midnight breeze. Then we would make a stopover at some dhabas over to eat and drink. (I have stopped drinking now. That was pre-July 2011). The relationship that we shared was such that people would often mistake us for a couple when in fact we were best of friends.
He knew everything about me. My past, my broken marriage, my present. But what he didn't know was my sickness. Also, I didn't deem it very important to tell him as we weren't going to marry each other and we didn't even dream of a future together. So this was my darkest secret.
When I decided to go public and put my story on A Girl Like Me as my first stepping stone to eradicate the fear, the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV, I decided to tell him also. Being my best friend, close and inseparable, I knew he would respect me and accept me the way I am for no fault of mine. Besides, I haven't caused him any sort of harm or even endangered his life thus I was confident enough that he will be with me and understand how am battling myself against this slow death.
Thus I called him on Yahoochat and told him am going public and my story is up online. And I gave him a link to read on. I don't know how much he had read or he ever read it coz a big bold broad line "Mumbaiyya Gal : Intro : Living with HIV" was enough to make world slip underneath his feet.
"Since when u have been HIV"
"Why then you haven't told me"
"Now that you have become spiritual and religious, and don't go out with men anymore was the right time you declared to tell me?"
"Now that you don't go out with me so you thought it's about time you declared this"?
I didn't protest. I don't know where I had gone wrong. He was my best friend, not someone that I am going to dream of being my husband. I know that the only thing that blew him off is IGNORANCE. Thou being from well to do family, highly educated, successful job, I bet not many know in depth about HIV except the scary picture that is shown during advertisements. In India, there is a nation-wide awareness of how not to get HIV and how to protect yourself/prevent yourself from getting it. BUT what about those who already have it? What about those half of the billion Indian population living with it? How to treat them with respect? How not to judge them coz they have a virus. How not to make them feel stigmatised or discriminated....what about this awareness? NONE. My mind was spinning but I had to say something....
"sorry that I never told you but I thought it wasn't important as we aren't dating, we are simply best friends"
"I know I should have told u earlier but the lurking fear inside me prevented me from telling you"
"Am really sorry for the same and now that I told you, am willing to face whatever the consequences"
And all he said was ......
"I am going to do the testing. Dont' know if I had contracted it."
"yes, am breaking up my friendship with you. What do u expect"?
And bam!!! I was left alone, shattered, shocked, frozen to my chair in disbelief. Does he thinks that a friendly kiss, or a peck on the cheeks or hug or even snuggling cause HIV? Does he thinks sharing food from one plate cause HIV?
Whatever the reasons, I need to wait till he is normal again. Till he forgives me and listen with a patient ear....
But this story goes on to say that India has a long way to go. A VERY LONG WAY!!!