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The positive side of negative life...

Roli Books' "The Positive Side" tells us that AIDS does not just hitch rides with truck drivers on lonely highways. It flies Business Class with men in dark suits, too. It walks in through the door of both sex worker and housewife. What is arresting about Modicare Foundation Vice-Chairman Samir Modi's book is the moving real-life narrative of HIV victims, says SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY... .

NINE-YEAR-old Victor has AIDS but spares no chance to prove to his father that he is a "tough guy". Ever eager to do "every fun thing" but mostly constrained by his listless, frail being, he at times gets annoyed as to why the "evil monster" got into the needle and entered his haemophilic body, but quickly begins to chat about cars as he spots his mother's face changing colour.

He, however, hastens to add, "But just you wait mister monster... .you've won today, but I'm going to beat you tomorrow. I'm not called Victor for nothing".

A year younger to Victor, Shalini has a similar tale. Her parents discovered that the trio are HIV positive just by fluke. When her father started falling sick every now and then, the doctor advised him to go in for the HIV test, which came with a +sign. Thereafter, both she and her mother underwent the test, which too came with the red mark. Father died soon after, but the mother and the daughter have not left living life.

Says Shalini's mother, "I'm aware that the virus is lingering within us but I try not to think about it much. I may be positive in the medical reports, but I'm more positive in my mind." Shalini stands first in her class which makes her mother extremely proud of her.

In poignant write-ups, Victor, Shalini's mother along with many other HIV positive persons have turned into words their unremitting resolve in battling life's survival war against the killer virus, the timeless rhythm of every passing day after HIV in "The Positive Side", a book recently presented by Modicare Foundation Vice-Chairman and well-known businessman Samir Modi. Filled with arresting images and the chronology of the virus, the book essays, in simple narrative, the heart-warming experiences of a collection of `Positive People', at once touching the inner chord.

Says Modi, "Even among educated class in India, HIV awareness is startlingly minimal. There is a common notion; it does not happen to "us", it happens to "them". So, the idea behind this book is to club experiences, chronology and awareness together so that it fights the biggest enemy - stigma - and give a substantive overview about the scourge to whoever willing to know about it". But the overall point the hardback wants to make, as the 32-year-old industrialist adds, is the positive side of things, that HIV is just a virus. Agreed that it is strong and stubborn and won't go away that easily. But so is the hunger for life.

Whether it is Victor battling with his "mister monster" or Shalini's mother trying to live a normal life or Mrinal Kanti Dutta, who is fighting the virus among the sex workers of Sonagachi, Kolkata, or the couple from Kerala who adopted Ankit, a three-year-old HIV positive, each episode endeavours to underline the Indian experiences with HIV, the existent experiences of existent people who not only struggle with the virus but also the social stigma attached, thereby raising consciousness about the volume of the pandemic. The book, published by Roli Books, minces no words in telling the readers that AIDS does not just hitch rides with truck drivers on lonely highways. It flies Business Class with men in dark suits, too. It walks in through the door of both sex worker and housewife. It hangs out in college canteens. Plays on the swings in the park. Shops at the grocery around the corner. Smiles at you every morning.

"The Modicare Foundation has been wrestling with this reality since 1996. It has worked with many schools to help students fight inhibitions about relationships in Delhi. It is also running a project to empower sex workers of G B Road," says Modi. "The Foundation is also concentrating on spreading awareness among the industrial workers, who comprise a major chunk of the society," adds this suave Doon School product. The book, created and designed by Team Contract, is the foundation's aim at fighting the virus collectively than forcing the victims to live a cocooned life, counting each day for the final journey.

All through its pages, the book stands firm to its vital question to the readers: `In the battle of shadow against colour, of virus against will, which side are you on'? Hope many will cross the fence to be on `the positive side'.

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