Thursday, 19 February 2009

Brief but Unforgettable Interactions : The story of O

He sat on the water front with a fishing rod in hand. Eyes focused at the horizon, lost.
No one was near him.
I had observed him sitting at this same spot for 3 days and I have been on that island only for that many days. From morning to night, he just sat there; no one spoke to him or even went near him.
I asked some one about him and was told to leave him alone, that there was no need for me to interact with him. But, I am a curious person and I just had to know why he was such a reject of this society.
When I went close to him the first thing I noticed was the warts that were all over his body. I said a hello.
He greeted me with a smile which told me a thousand stories. This was a man in a great deal of pain, both physical and psychological.

I sat next to him. But he moved away almost in a reflex saying ,
“No, do not sit next to me, you may catch it….”
I asked, “Catch what?”
“I have a disease that bad people get”
I sat next to him and said,
“Such a disease does not exist and as far as I believe there are no bad people”

While looking at my direction he shifted the fishing rod. At that instance I noticed that he was in real pain, many of the warts were oozing and flies were sitting on the open wounds. He smiled again as he tried to chase away the flies.

“Everyone on this island knows that I am a bad person, a cursed person”

I just sat there looking at him, listening to him. I have already been able to figure out what disease he was probably suffering from and understood why he was saying what he was saying.

“I am just waiting for death now; you see I do not have the guts to kill myself. But the pain is so much that on some days I think I just cannot tolerate it any further”

I heard myself say,

“But you must be getting assistance from the government for your condition they must be supplying you with medication”
He fell silent again and looking away from me almost whispered,
“So you already know what disease I have, and you are still willing to speak to me’
He continued,
“Yes, I do receive medication but not enough, sometimes it does reach me regularly but I do not get enough medicines which can take away all the pain in my body, it is too much…now, since I am in the last stages….you know”
The man was breaking down.
I slowly touched him on the shoulder and this triggered the eruption of a volcano of emotions.
“Luckily, I had my own place on this island, but no one in my family lives with me but I have a sister who provides me with food which she leaves at my house every evening. But even they do not interact with me. If I catch a fish, I will take it home and that’s the only additional thing I can get to eat. Sometimes, I feel like smoking, so I collect the cigarette butts from the street and smoke them. This is my life”

I heard his story through sobs.

“As a teenager I went to Male’, and found a job in a nearby resort. I had many friends, I was earning well. I loved both boys and girls I had all sorts of fun, every thing you can imagine. Both with local girls and sometimes…you know…..”
I nodded again.
“I was with this woman from another country for a few years, we had fun, her friends and me, we all had fun…..and then after a few years I came to know that this lady had caught a disease and she warned me that I too may be infected. I tested and I tested positive for HIV. I thought I had my whole life ahead of me, that I will marry, have kids, have a life, but every thing got snatched away from me…the moment I held that piece of paper with positive scribbled over it. And now….I have full blown AIDS and I am dying…..I am dying……”.

I looked at him as he whispered pointing a finger at a group of youth who sat at a distance smoking.

“Can you see those guys over there? I see myself in them, all I wanted was to have fun, and have a good time and just enjoy life, just like them. I have told them my story, sometimes they feel sorry for me and even offer me some of the stuff they are using saying it will take away my pain, but I say No …now….but it is too late for me. And you know what the worst part is? This isolation from every one, that people move away from me when I walk close to them, it hurts…..”
“Those guys they have their entire lives in front of them, they don’t have a diagnosis like mine, when I see them blow it up in smoke I feel sad….everything is such a waste…but they must find out the reality of life by living through the hard times themselves…just as I do….”

The sun was going down now and I realized that I had sat next to him all evening listening.
I was touched by his story and this was also the first time I got to interact and speak with an HIV patient in the Maldives.
I asked him whether I could contact anyone and speak about getting more medication, may be a review…he shrugged me off saying,

“All the medicine in the world cannot make a difference to me now. If you want to do something for me, tell someone what happened to me….tell at least someone my story”

I nodded as I watched him walk away with his fishing rod.
He came without any bait and was walking away empty handed.
But between the sunrise and sunset of that day, he had lived a life time of pain and remorse.


ck said...

That was a well written article, got bitten by reality!

jaa said...


Anonymous said...

It's piteous that he had to spend his last days secluded like that. Apart from the physical torture induced by the disease, his sense of loneliness at that most difficult time would have been equally devastating for him. Shame on the islanders. The drug gers in the street corner had more heart.

Maldiveshealth said...

There are so many of these stories to be told. Thanks for sharing with all of us. Recently i met a mother who was taking care of her son who is in his late 20s who had a disability. no one went in to that house. The mother did not take him out of the house. When asked why ,she responded with quilt (which can be seen on the face) saying that everyone looks at him differently. Every one gives an eye to him and me. As if they are saying that he does not belong in that island.

There was nothing i could do. Except shed a tear.