Her eyes were having a burning sensation again and this was an inevitable sign of fever. For the past five days, Diya had been sick. The temperature reading is 102 F. She thought that the seasonal change in Kolkata was the reason for her fever. The doctor has prescribed her medicines and due to her relapsing fever, he has advised some tests. Tests were already done and she was awaiting the report. Since childhood, Diya hated being sick and she had always been healthy.
After lunch hours, she had two classes. However, she loved teaching her students, yet talking about the electromagnetism theory in such health, was not at all a good experience. Diya was admired among her students since the day she joined “Modern Academy”, firstly for her good looks, pleasing personality and next for her teaching skills. She loves to teach her students but her health is being an obstruction. Still, when the students wish, ‘good afternoon ma’am’, it strengthens her.
But that day, she wasn’t even able to stand on her feet. She was trying hard to pick herself up to walk towards the classroom. Her eyes were closed and she was sitting in a corner of the staffroom with her head down. Jyotika, her colleague, thought that she might fall asleep. As soon as she came near and touched her, she exclaimed, “Diya, you are running a high temperature! Have you taken medicines?” “Can you please take me to the Principal ma’am? I need to talk to her.” Diya feebly replied.
“Where’s your medicine? Take them first. I’ll be right back,” Jyotika at once left for the Principal’s room. For the day, her classes were replaced and she was sent home. She was also given a sick leave for the next three days. Her husband, Girish, hadn’t yet come to pick her up, so Jyotika stayed by her side.
Almost after two hours, her temperature was normal. She opened her eyes and found Jyotika sitting near her. “You didn’t go home yet, your kids will be tensed, Jyoti.” Diya tried to sit up on her own.
“Stop being formal Sweetie. When will Girish return? He should take care of you.” Jyotika sounded so kind.
“He will be late from his office. Don’t worry, he cares a lot for me and I don’t want to make him more anxious.” Diya’s words confirmed her love and care for her hubby. After one hour or so, she forced Jyotika to leave for home.
As soon as she left, Diya rang up Abhay, the pathological agent, for the delay of her report. But she got a little surprised to know that her husband had received it in the morning from the hospital. “Why didn’t Girish say anything about it? Is everything okay?” While thinking all this, she called him up again but got a busy tone.
She knew that Girish disliked any disturbance during his office hours. So she remained silent but this strange behavior of her husband was bothering her. Due to ill health, she fell asleep.
“How could you hide it from me? Would you explain with whom have you been sleeping? Get up.” With her half-opened eyes, she could hear someone abusing her. Before she could make out what was happening, she was thrown out of the bed.
“Why are you behaving like this?” Diya cried out in pain and with an unknown fear, her face was getting pale. Such outcome of her husband’s anger was not new. However, since the past two years, their relationship was improving. They were planning for a kid and his abusive nature was changing.
“Don’t you know what you did? Your bloody innocent face may deceive others, but I know that s*** in you. How many do you need for physical pleasure? Get lost.” Girish was pulling her hair and dragging her towards the door. Diya with all her strength freed herself. “You are hurting me, Girish.” She was groaning in pain.
Girish handed her the report. Diya was stunned and within a single moment, her brain stopped working. It flashed ‘HIV positive’. She rechecked the report and with a thud sat on the floor. “How is it possible? It can’t be positive, there must be a mistake…,” she kept murmuring.
“They tested more than once and the result was the same. Now, tell me the truth. Who is he?” Her husband’s charges were not reaching her ears. She was murmuring the same words, “There must be a mistake."
Even after his continuous abuses and beating, Girish didn’t get any expected answer from Diya. When all his attempts went in vain, he locked Diya in the apartment and went away.
It was his old trick to control his wife. Diya knew that by night he would return drunk. She rang the pathological agent again and got the same reply, “Ma’am, we tested twice and the result was the same.” She couldn’t figure out how it happened and for some time, went numb with fear.
The ringtone of her phone brought back her senses. No sooner had she picked up the call than her mother was shouting, “Girish told us everything. How could you do it? Is it the result of that given freedom? He allowed you for the job, how could you take advantage.” Diya hung up the call.
Her parents’ reaction was enough to speak their mind. Their daughter was a victim and they made her the culprit without any second thought.
However, something inside of her, didn’t allow her to break down. With her aching body, she somewhat managed to stand up and headed towards the wardrobe. Like a fanatic, she was looking for all her old blood reports. Last year, when she had a blood test in the school health camp, it was completely fine. Out of anxiety, once more she searched the wardrobe for her previous surgery reports.
In the course of her search, she brought out all the official documents of Girish too. This would be another reason for torture, she knew and so tried to put them back immediately. But the transparent cover displayed some medical report. Now, she witnessed a heinous truth. Girish was HIV Positive since last September. Diya could hardly believe that her husband was the sole reason for her misery.
She didn’t keep silent at all and her protest brought her out of the house. The fresh marks of wounds were visible on her face and all over her body. Before driving her out of the house, her husband fulfilled his sexual desire once again. Her husband did Diya one more favor. Girish informed the Principal about her health.
On breaking out of this news, instead of supporting her, Diya was dismissed from her service. Most of the parents claimed that if she continued classes, it would affect their children. Jyotika tried to fight for her and make people realize that HIV was not contagious in any way. Due to lack of awareness, most of the teachers appealed for her leave. With a little amount of money and some clothes, she came out under the open sky. For some days, she stayed at Jyotika’s house, but her husband didn’t like this and Diya didn’t want to disturb their happy life.
Such inhuman treatment was breaking her down. She had ultimately become homeless with an insecure future. With reference of one of her students' father, she came to ‘Live once more’. This NGO in Kolkata, worked for AIDS patients, they took care of them till their last breath.
She was introduced to forty-six people who were suffering from the same disease. In two weeks, her life was changed and she thought thirty-one was too young an age to die. Nevertheless, here, when she found the companions of even fifteen year olds, she found herself a little luckier. The whole day she kept talking to them, singing, reading and teaching the senior patients about new technologies. She soon became their ‘favorite’. When there was a debate between the different generations, she used to be the judge. After a long time, she was happy.
Her condition was not too good and treatment was going on. Continuous fever, cold, cough and other symptoms were indicating the coming end. But before the eternal peace, God had stored something good for her.
Diya was busy in chanting ‘Shlokas’ from the ‘Gita’ when the news arrived that a new doctor would come to treat them. The name stopped her from further concentration. That night, she couldn’t sleep with excitement and the very next morning, he arrived. All the patients were greeting him.
Her thirsty eyes were pleased to meet him and some words were readily exchanged. “What are you doing here? I want to talk to you alone.” Danish shook hands and murmured in her ears. This sudden encounter after six years was painful for him, to find her in that NGO.
Still though, their conversation went on. Within a few days, others started smiling at both of them, whenever she taught them or met for any reason.
The electronic medium of connection worked well to share their words. Diya was a little reserved rather she pretended to be. But Danish was frank and hopeful that she would get better.
Every afternoon, Danish used to take her for a walk and they talked for long hours. Diya felt the warmth of his care and holding his hand, her fight for life was becoming stronger. She wanted to live that life forever.
Though her diet was under restriction, she had her chocolates every day. She loved to ride on the swings and Danish fulfilled all her wishes carefully. Day and night, their meetings and words knew no end.
It had been almost six months now since Diya came here. Her parents wanted to take her back but she denied. The entire home of ‘Live once more’ was ready to accept the new couple. Danish was going to Mumbai for four days and on Diya’s birthday, he was returning.
On asking what she wanted on her birthday, Diya gave a simple answer. “Can you help me be a free spirit? I pray for it.” It was the last message Diya sent before Danish started for Mumbai. But she didn’t get the reply. Danish didn’t even come to meet her personally. She was a little angry and decided not to talk to him further until he would say ‘sorry’. She started waiting for his return and the days became longer. In spite of others’ presence, she felt lonely.
She willed herself to not check her phone to see if he had replied. It had been about three days now. She hated that she was constantly checking his 'last seen at' status and yes, he had logged in just five minutes ago. Yet she couldn't stop herself. This sinking feeling to find absolutely no communication from him was becoming unbearable, almost torturous.
And then, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding in her ear, she unlocked her phone and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message.
But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn't know if he was joking or not. What was this? “Will you be my Queen?” Danish surprised her with this sudden approach. Diya asked for freedom and got a captivating reply.
Tears were rolling down from her eyes. How can life bring in such irony? When it took away all the lights, turned her colorful days into still black ones, and changed her multicolored dreams into grey shades, her first love was waiting for her. Once their religion parted their way, she kept begging to her family, but Girish was made her future.
When the ‘ideal’ husband had ruined her life, her first love came back as a savior.
In the last six months, she never said that she loved him. But today she didn’t stop herself. Instead of messaging back, she took up a piece of paper and wrote to Danish.
“To my Daani,
Thanks for loving me and yes, I love you. I love you more than before. That day when I asked you for an escape, you wanted some time to think over it. I was forcing you and you said that I was being ‘childish’ again. However, it was not the truth, Daani. I didn’t have any other way to be with you. I know, you were in the third year of your M.B.B.S and couldn’t manage anything. So, you decided my fate after my parents and took the realistic decision. As Ma said, I did every possible thing to be a good wife. Sorry, I couldn’t pass that hard exam that you set for me. Hope you are not angry.
Daani, why didn’t you come to see me when I was dressed as a bride? I wished you to come and appreciate me like normal times. You could bless me for the future. Maybe, your blessings could save my life rather if you had not escaped, we could be the happiest couple. Does anyone have the right to decide my death? If I go to heaven, I will ask him.
Since the past six months, you have cared a lot for me. It was my mom who used to feed me with her hands before you did. I was angry with you that day when Girish came to my life and abused you calling you a ‘coward’.
I am sorry. You are too brave to love a dying person and wrap her in your arms. You made me live my childhood once again and that much love is enough for the remaining days. I wish I could live a normal life.
I would love to be a girl again, but a free spirit this time. Hearty, don’t think I am blaming you for what you did. These are just my last words to you before leaving for a new address. I won’t make your life more complex, dear. Sorry for I became greedy to be with you, it was wrong and I realized it later when you left.
Keep smiling and move on in life. ‘Diya’ is going to be blown off soon. If possible, spread the HIV awareness among people and let them accept us heartily.
Danish was in the train, when he sent the message. He'd thought of surprising her with a celebration on her upcoming birthday and chose that ‘perfect’ wedding ring for her. He wanted to correct the mistake to some extent. He knew that Diya would be angry with him as he didn’t bid her bye personally. And somewhat, this would make the surprise more beautiful. But when he reached, the letter in his cabin, expressed all the unsaid emotions.
His ‘Kiddo’ was not there anymore. Nobody had any idea when or where she left for.