Hi there. I am Raju, all of ten years old. I have been living here for a few years now. Frankly, I do not have any recollections of life before I came here – I was probably too young then for me to remember anything now. I am very happy here, and the people here take very good care of me. They are all I have – I call them my family.
Talking of family, I do not have parents. They both died of AIDS. At least, that is what I have been told by my family. I hope they are resting in peace, wherever they are now. Sometimes, I feel they must be resting in peace, because if they were alive, life would have been difficult for them. Actually, I am happy for them that they do not have to suffer any longer.
I have been told that I too have AIDS and that is why I live with these other children, who also have AIDS. I have been told that life is a precious gift, and that I should enjoy life as much as I can.
The other children here are nice to me. They are all part of my family. To each one of them, the rest of us are family. We play together, study together, learn together, and live together. In the time I have lived here, I have seen some of my brothers and sisters die. It felt sad at that time, but I am glad now that they are resting in peace.
The people here are very nice to all of us. I guess I am saying it again because I really mean it. They have their own lives to live, and yet they behave as if our lives matters to them. They spend time with all of us, teach us, play with us, get new books for our library so we may learn what happens in that big, wide world outside our compound walls, get toys for us, teach us how to make toys, get clothes for us, and so on.
Talking of the world, this place is our world. We live within these walls, we play within these walls, and we study within these walls. When we fall sick, or when it is time for us to get our medicines which these people provide us so generously, we go to the medical center, which is also within the compound. In other words, this is our universe.
Someone told us once (a good man who was visiting us) that if your desire something sincerely from the bottom of your heart, the universe will conspire to make it happen for you. I think this is true . I desire from the bottom of my heart to be happy and for my brothers and sisters to be happy, and my universe always makes it possible for that to happen!
Like, sometime back we kids were talking to each other. We all agreed that it would be nice if we had brothers and sisters in the world outside. That way, someone would come and visit us once in a while. That would be a special day indeed, and we could dress up for that day.
Soon after we had the discussion, something amazing happened (remember what the good man said when he visited us?). All the members of a Rotary Club in Pune came to see us along with their families, and spent a whole day playing with all of us. And they did it again the next month. And again the next month. This has now been going on for years. It is indeed a special day in the month for us!
I learnt that people from companies like Aviva, Johnson & Johnson, Cognizant, etc. are good people. They care for all of us. They give us time and money. They give us books. They try to make us feel comfortable, and sometimes special. God Bless all of them!
OK. So, I told you a lot about how I am very happy and how we kids play and enjoy life. Now, I want to ask you some questions.
Why is it that we are not considered normal by people? Sometimes to the extent that when they see us, they run away. Are we not people?
I told you I am ten years old. I have been told that that is nearly a third of my life expectancy. I have also been told that life expectancy is more than double of that in the outside world. Will I live longer if I go out?
I have heard that Doctors are people who can work miracles. In fact, we have two Doctors in our medical center, and they are very loving people who have worked miracles in front of our eyes. Why, then, do some Doctors refuse to treat us when we are sick?
When will the outside world start accepting that our condition is not our choice? That we were born like this, and just want to get on with our lives? That we bear no ill-will towards others?
Am I asking too many questions? Are they not easy to answer? I am sorry if that is the case.
OK, enough of questions. Here are some more facts about our place.
Did I tell you the place is called Manavya? That the lady who started this passed away a few years ago, and her son and daughter-in-law run the place as if this is their own house? That over the years we have moved all over Pune, not because we wanted to, but because wherever we went, the neighbourhood somehow wanted us out before the value of their houses got reduced? I know all of us kids feel sad that we have troubled so many people over time, but we are also glad that we now have our own place, even if it is a little away from the city.
Recently, some people from another Rotary Club in Pune helped us construct a new floor for Manavya. This is almost ready and we should be opening it soon. I like such functions, not only because it shows people care for us, but also because we will celebrate it with sweets, and friends from the outside world will come for the opening ceremony and we will make some more friends.
A recent visitor wrote in our Guest book: “It is better to be HIV positive than to be totally negative!”. Not sure if I agree entirely, though I agree it is important not to be negative. No one gains from negativity. I should know.