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Chapter 28: AIDS: Disease of the Existential Orphan

There have been cases.one case I know personally. In Raipur where I was a professor for a few months, a house caught fire. Raipur is a hot area, a dry area, and it is an everyday thing, houses catching fire. It was very close to the bungalow where I was living, so I ran there. And what I found was that nobody was interested in the house that was burning, everybody was interested in something else.

I somehow made my way in the crowd to see what was the matter. The matter was that a woman who was paralyzed for three years had suddenly come running out. She forgot her paralysis! The moment people told her, “What are you doing? You are not supposed to run, you can’t even walk. For three years you have been in bed” - when people said that, she fell immediately.

I went into the crowd and I told the woman, “Just try to understand a simple fact. It is good that the house is burned; it has made one thing clear - that you are not paralyzed. Somehow you have lost the will to live.” I brought her to my bungalow.

Her husband had died and on that very day she became paralyzed. It was really a shock, because in India, losing a husband means losing your life; you cannot get married again. She was young, not more than thirty. For her whole life, fifty years perhaps, she has to live alone, with no child.

She had been working, somehow cleaning people’s houses, washing their clothes, but there was no energy in it. While her husband remained alive, although he was sick for at least three years, she continued to work. But the signs were clear that the husband was disappearing. The doctors were hiding it, but you cannot hide-she could see the person was disappearing.

She managed the work somehow to feed her husband and to feed herself. But the day he died she feel ill, and since then for three years she had not risen from the bed; she was paralyzed. Now people were just giving whatsoever they could manage, and she was living on that. She was a beggar. I brought her to my place and I tried to explain to her, “If it was paralysis, whether the house was on fire or not would make no difference. Paralysis cannot understand that the house is on fire, to leave you alone at least for a few minutes and then come back.” I asked her, “What happened?”

She said, “I don’t know what happened. The moment I saw the house was on fire, I simply forgot everything else: I had to run out.” That brought her into the moment. The past, the husband - dead, alive - all the misery, all the suffering; the future, fifty years still to be carried on somehow.. This whole ugliness simply disappeared in a single flash! She ran out. She was herenow. The fire brought her whole being focused - in the moment.

I told her, “That’s what is needed. Don’t be bothered by idiots. If this place will not allow you to get married, I will arrange to send you somewhere else. I have friends all over the country; I can send you anywhere. You are beautiful, young - you can get married, you can live again.”