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Fire within

She had dreamt of being a teacher someday, but her father had insisted that she be married soon after her plus two exams. “Everybody in the town has been asking me about your marriage. It is my responsibility to get you married. You can pursue teaching later,” he had said. That was the day she had given up on her dream.

Of course, it was an arranged marriage. Except for occasional meetings and phone calls, she had not spent much time with her fiancé during their courtship. After seeing him once or twice, she had only met him again at their wedding. ‘Perks’ of being born in a conservative family. After the wedding, she had moved to a new city. And like the city, her husband too had been new to her. They had been married for six months.

Massaging her husband’s swollen legs, she thought of all that had happened. A new worry nagged her. She could not quite understand why her husband was so sick all the time. It started with the fatigue that refused to die down. Initially, she had thought the city’s horrible traffic was the culprit. After all, he was a salesman, having to roam all day long to meet dealers.

Months later, when things got out of hand, they saw a doctor who prescribed some medicines and vitamin supplements. But the problem only worsened. Every second day, he would fall ill and end up in the hospital.       

One day, she was in the kitchen, packing his lunch. All of a sudden, she heard him shout her name. She knew something was wrong. She rushed to him. He was on the bedroom floor, lying cold and motionless. She dropped to the floor beside him. She shook him frantically. Slowly, he tried opening his reluctant eyes. She was afraid those eyes would close once and for all. She dashed to the telephone to call an ambulance.

After a long day of tests came the devastating diagnosis. The doctor called her to his chamber and enquired after her husband. He took his time to reveal the diagnosis. And when he finally did, a part of her just died. Her husband was HIV positive.

She knew her life would never be the same again. She spent nights sobbing silently into her pillow. In the day, she was by her ailing husband’s side. The nights were the hardest–she was haunted by nightmares, while he slept with the help of sleeping tablets.

One night, it was unlike other, he started coughing blood. His fingers and toes had turned blue. She thought it was a nightmare again, but his coughing woke her up. She rushed to his bedside to see him lying in a pool of puke and blood. She lifted his weak body, cleaned him, and dressed him in fresh clothes and put him to bed. He held her hand, and she held onto him for life. And then, he was gone, just like that.

The days that followed were excruciating. Time seemed to have slowed down; even months felt like days since her husband had passed away. She could not go back to her parents’ house because she was ‘married’. She had no in-laws as her husband had lost his parents as a child. But life couldn’t wait forever and neither could her savings.

She managed to find a peon’s job in a school. Of course, it wasn’t nearly enough to survive in a big city. So, she decided to pursue a teaching degree through distance education. Slowly, but surely, she found the ground beneath her feet. It did not matter that life had suddenly landed her in a dark alley. She had managed to light a fire deep within her.

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