Praying hands, Healing hands, Working hands, Strong hands, Striking hands, hands, hands, hands. I have seen them all. But the most beautiful pair of hands that I have ever seen belong to a little girl who shares my name. They are the most beautiful without a doubt.
This little girl has now grown into a young adolescent woman. But she will remain my little girl. Her zest and lust for life that I have witnessed, are so rare in a human being. When I am tempted to sulk, a passing thought of her is enough to shake away some of those blues.
She must have been 5 or 6 when I first saw her. She had already developed those little benign growths all over her body, face and hands. Some of them were very large. Some of them were painful when they were infected. She was also infected with the HIV virus, having acquired it from her mother during birth.
I never met her father. He died of AIDS. I briefly saw her mother and cared for her. She was already well into full blown AIDS and there was nothing much we could do for her those days. Her mother-in-law patiently and lovingly looked after this dying woman, like no mother would. After the parents died, the mantle of responsibility of caring for this child with HIV plus this horrible skin condition fell upon the grandmother, who had already burnt all her reserves of love and patience and not to mention money in the terminal care of her son and daughter-in-law. But care she did. And how!!
I saw this child frequently. Her health was deteriorating and she needed to be put immediately on the expensive life saving medications( anti-retro virals). This was the era before the medicines were provided free in the Government program. The drugs were priced exorbitantly and had to be purchased or sponsored. I found a few donors who were willing to pay for the drugs for a small number of children and widowed mothers. But the donors were not willing to sponsor this child. They had criteria. They felt, they needed to give the medicines to the child that had the best chance of survival. I don’t blame the donors. Many times, even a donor wants to get the best bang out of his buck. Unfortunately they did not see this child as an ideal candidate for precious commodity like these expensive drugs. They did not think that these drugs will make a difference in her life.
But I fought.
If any child had a chance of surviving, it had to be this child. I argued, I begged, I appealed. How do you know that she would not make it? I finally convinced one kindly friend to pay for her treatment. Soon the medications kicked in. She showed remarkable improvement in her general condition in a short span of time. Her skin lesions however remained. She did not fall sick as often as she used to. She did not succumb to any new infections. In short, she became hale and healthy like any 6 year old would.
It was a new lease of life for the grandmother and child. They never missed a movie or a temple function. They soon made so many friends in the network of people living with HIV. They attended all support group meetings, NGO organised get-to-gethers in town. They were busy and their calender was full of events!! They were having so much fun!!!
This child recovered far too quickly than so many other children who were also treated at the same time. What made this little girl bounce back so quick? I often wondered.
Then one day, as she walked into my clinic for one her routine refill visits, she flaunted her hands at me. The same bumpy, misshapen hands. But there was mehendi all over them. And a bright colored nail polish flashed from the nails. The grandmother loved the child so much that she had found the hands beautiful enough to decorate. That I realized was the secret of her survival.