“Don’t Entertain Liars, Stay Far Away From Them”

by | Apr 4, 2022

Lali has been working with Basic healthcare Services (BHS) for a couple of years now. I was interested in knowing her role especially because nobody directly told me what she does. Hence, I took the opportunity to understand her story and write about it. The conversation was provoking, energy filled, productive and eye opening. Here it is:

V (Vania): Would you like to introduce yourself?
L (Lali): My name is Lali. I was born in Budel Panchayat of Manpur which falls under the Salumber block of Udaipur, Rajasthan. Right now, I am working with Amrit Clinics, of BHS, at Manpur.

V: What do you remember about your childhood?
L: Good or bad?
V: Let’s start with good?
L: I am the oldest child. We are a total of 9 children – 3 girls and 6 boys. I used to look after their studies and food. Simultaneously, I also got to learn with them.
V: What about your parents?
L: Over here, the eldest sibling has to take care of the rest of the children.

V: Did you get the chance to go to school?
L: I did, but I studied well only till 5th grade. From 6th onwards, I could only attend school once or twice a month. Had to miss it because of priorities at home.
V: What did you do 5th grade onwards?
L: I looked after all the household chores- cooking, cleaning, feeding my siblings, helping in the field and more.
V: Did you want to study more?
L: Of course I wanted to study more, but we were also facing financial problems at home. My parents used to work in the minefield. They were being paid just 30-35 rupees a day. When our fields didn’t produce enough yield, we had to purchase food which was a huge task. Now, the fields are rich with crops, minus usual challenges.

V: How did you join Amrit Clinics?
L: Well, that is a long story. I was married off to a family in Nithauwa. After I gave birth to my second daughter, I started to fall sick. When she was 3 months old, I couldn’t lift myself off the cot. It was becoming impossible to take care of myself or feed my new born. Nobody from my in-laws house was ready to help me or my daughter. They neglected us. With great struggle, I decided to leave and seek assistance from my neighbours. Thankfully, they opened their home for me.

My elder daughter was in good health as compared to us. I wanted to go to my home but that was too far. So I took my younger one and went to my aunt’s place which was 4 hours away (walking). I’m still surprised about how I made that walk all the way there with the child in my arms under the scorching sun.

Even when I had delivered my first daughter, my in-laws didn’t take care of me. They didn’t give money for medicines when she fell sick. I had to do odd jobs to pay for her medicines. Since then, I didn’t want to stay with them. Their own son used to abandon them for days. He used to go work in Mumbai/Ahemdabad and rarely return, without contributing money at home. That’s where the bitter battle started.

This time, as I came to stay at my aunt’s place, she called my parents and told them to come fetch for me. That’s when one of my her neighbours came by to pay a visit and saw my condition. I was then recommended to Amrit Clinic, and admitted there for 10-12 days.

My parents supported me for a month but after that, my father started to lose patience. He said, “We married you off, you’re not our responsibility anymore.” During this tenure, I was tested HIV positive. I didn’t even know what it means. Dr. Pavitra was aware of the poor care given to me and my newborn. That’s when he recommended sending me to Jaipur along with my daughters. I started to recover there. I wanted to mend my relationship with my family but when I returned, they didn’t allow me to go back to Jaipur. My father threatened to kill my mother if I left.

People in the village had started to taunt my father as someone who was unable to look after his own daughter. To protect himseld and stop the gossip, he threatened me to stay back.

V: How old are your daughters today, and where are they now?
L: They are 12 and 9, studying in Udaipur. I’m glad I get to meet them at least twice a month. They are all I have.

V: Does your family know about you being HIV positive?
L: They don’t understand what it is. I have tried explaining it to them but they weren’t supportive of me taking medicines. In fact, they think that medicines are making me sick. However, I know that I need to take them all through my life, and have made my peace with it. Years of treatment through BHS has helped me know and fight the disease well. The good part is that people in the village don’t know what HIV is, and I don’t go around telling anyone unnecessarily.

V: What role do you play in Amrit Clinic?
L: I started as a Clinic attendant in 2014. In 2020, I was promoted to the role of a HIV Counsellor at the Manpur Clinic. I counsel HIV patients by explaining the causes, symptoms and required precautionary measures to follow. Additionally, I follow up with patients to ensure that they have been taking their medications well, and on time.

In total I have assisted 46 patients until now, out of which 34 got enlisted, 20 have ongoing assistance, 10 of them defaulted and the rest passed away. I am available on call if they need me for any help. I am also providing assistance in the management of Phulwaris (local creches).

V: If you had the chance to speak with people who have failed you, what would you say to them?
L: To the people who have hurt me, I have nothing to say. I do not wish to talk to them at all. My husband was absconding for the longest time when I was fighting life and death. He calls now to ask me about my daughters. I am stern, and strong enough to take care of myself and my daughters. Those those who left me in the dark can stay away.

V: What are your key learnings from all this?
L: Before I could join Amrit Clinics, I did not even know where Salumber was. I couldn’t think of traveling anywhere on my own. Today, I am confident enough to go places, even new ones, because I believe in myself. I learned that I am actually pretty good with roads. Earlier, I was shy and nervous to talk to anyone but today, I can stand up for myself and hold conversations.

V: Any advise you would like to give me?
L: Make mindful decisions and always be aware of your surroundings. Carefully assess those who you want to place your trust in; and don’t give up as soon as you see a problem. Face it because you can always overcome any obstacle. That is exactly how you will learn in life. Problems come, but they don’t stay because ‘koshish karne walon ki kabhi haar nahi hoti’. Don’t entertain liars, stay far away from them.

V: What are your dreams for the future?
L: I have saved some money over the years and now I am building a house of my own. In the worst of times, I remember how far I have come and it puts me to ease. For future goals and dreams, I want to support my daughter’s education and help them in any professional interests they choose to follow. I want to see them excel and make it big in life. It is my job to help them realize the importance of independence.

V: What are you most grateful for today?
L: Without a second thought, it is the family that I have got through Amrit Clinics. They gave me and my daughters a new life. I can’t thank BHS enough for trusting me and providing me with not only healthcare but also a lifelong subscription of people connected by the heart.

We ended with a rapid fire round in which Lali gave her quick choices, as follows:

Roti or Khichdi: Roti, my stomach prefers it over rice
Banana or Orange: Banana, I like its sweetness
Chai or Coffee: Chai
Television (Videos) or Songs (Audio): Songs, we can play whatever we like as opposed to TV where we can’t choose what we watch
Travelling or Sleeping: A perfect balance between the both of them
Bike or Car: Car, more comfort
Monsoon, Summer or Winter: Monsoon, I love to watch it become green everywhere
Sun or Moon: Moon, it spreads just enough light so that the stars can shine too, unlike the sun
Sweet or Spicy: Sweet
Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan: Akshay Kumar, in his comedy movies only

Lali has a story that carries weight of persistence, patience and survival. Privileged lives in the cities have their own sets of troubles and hardships but every time I have a simple conversation with someone, especially women, in these remote, rural areas I find some highly inspiring and courageous stories. Lali’s is one of them.

The sad truth is that sometimes, they fail to see that they are their own super heroes knitting super hero stories for people like me who can make them available for a larger audience. India is filled with glorious tales, but the ones that radiate the battle between life and death, overcoming hard-to-defeat fears, hoisting the flag of independence, will always be on top of my list.

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