Pune: 72-year-old Harish Pandey (name changed) had come from Mumbai to look for a bride for his 41-year-old son. "I am retired, and have only one son. Unfortunately, he is HIV positive, which we found out in 2003. He is in a central government employee on a senior post, and I want him to get married. That is why I'm here," he told MiD DAY.
A special matrimony meet of HIV-positive people was held on Sunday at the Pune regional transport office (RTO) - organised by positivesaathi.com and deputy regional transport officer Anil Valiv. More than 100 candidates had come for the programme from across the state, and some from Delhi and Tamil Nadu as well.
Speaking to MiD DAY, 30-year-old Rakesh Mehra (name changed) from Delhi revealed his story. "Three years ago I was injured in an accident, during the treatment of which I received blood transfusion. I was admitted at a modest hospital in Delhi, and my family members didn't check the quality of the blood. A while later, my company gave me an opportunity to travel abroad. While applying for visa, I had to go through a medical check-up. It was here that I came to know I was HIV positive," he said.
The news shocked his entire family, and Rakesh lost the will to live. "Then I started taking treatment and counselling from doctors. It was a very tough time for me. While my parents wanted me to marry, the question in my mind was 'with whom?' In our search we came to know about this website and matrimony meets for 'positive' people."
The programme began at 9.30 am with the registration of candidates. At 11.30 am, Dr Vaibhav Lunkad delivered a lecture on positive living, followed by lectures by other NGO representatives. At 1 pm, all the participants were divided into five groups for an initiation session, in which each person had to step forward and introduce himself/herself to others. Post lunch, participants were allowed to mingle and interact with each other.
From 20 to 50 - the partakers were from various age groups. In most cases, parents had either accompanied, or appeared on behalf of their sons and daughters.
In this meet, a couple had come to share their experience with the candidates. Subhash and Neelima Kamble (name changed), who are from Pune, got married two years ago. Both are HIV positive, and they met in one such programme in Ratnagiri. This was the second wedding for both, and now Neelima is two months into her pregnancy. "Life became hell when I came to know that I was HIV+, and then my first wife ran away with another man. For almost 12 years, I was alone, in depression - with no family support -, fighting this condition, and also looking for a life partner. After getting in contact with this website, I started going to these 'positive' people's meets and finally found Neelima. We interacted with each other, tried to understand each others' past life, and eventually, after consulting our doctors, we got married two years ago. Now, we are expecting a child, and are living happily," said Subhash.
Giving a message to the candidates, Subhash said, "Organising such an event is really important, as HIV-affected people also have feelings and the right to get married. Many of them are confused, and do not get proper guidance. I thank the organisers from the bottom of my heart, as they have changed my life, and hope they continue to do the same for others."