“Her parents died of AIDS, you know. She could be infected,” Vijayeta Sinha heard someone speak. She turned and saw Manish Umrao within a group of students pointing out to her.
Vijayeta had come from Mumbai to Delhi only to escape from her past and her past now had caught up with her.
The information about her past spread like fire. Many of her friends in college began to shun her. Vijayeta was studying Journalism in a well-known management institute in the capital.
One day before the lectures started Manish commented maliciously about her mother. She could not help but cry and she was crying when the professor of Journalism in India, Shalini Sharma came.
The professor noticed her crying and asked her what happened. Vijayeta did not say anything. She just sat there looking down at her hands, big tears falling on them.
Professor Shalini came near her favorite student, Raj and asked him, what had happened. Unfortunately, Vijayeta had already started crying, when he had entered the class.
So, the professor approached Vijayeta directly and said “Come and see me in the staff room after your lectures.”
When Vijayeta went to see the professor, Shalini asked “What is your problem? Is it something personal? Is someone in your family ill?”
“No, Ma’am. I don’t have a family,” that was all Vijayeta could say and she burst out crying.
Shalini went forward and hugged the miserable girl and said soothingly, “Vijayeta, tell me. I may be able to help you.”
“Manish is defaming me, Ma’am. He is spreading stories about me. I am losing friends. Today, he said something very bad about my mother.”
“Don’t listen to him.”
“He does not have the right to pass a derogatory remark about my mother.”
“Let him. But your mother wasn’t that way. You know it, don’t you?”
“Then don’t bother. You are studying journalism. You are a future journalist. You’ve got to be brave.”
Though Shalini told her student not to bother about the stories being spread about her, she decided to get to the bottom of the matter, since she thought that it was serious. So the first thing that she did the next day was to seek out her favorite student in Vijayeta’s class, Raj.
“Raj, I want to find out what is happening here. Send Manish to the staff room.”
When Manish appeared at Shalini’s table, she asked point blank, “What is the problem with you and Vijayeta?”
Realizing that this was another chance to malign Vijayeta, he blurted out, “Vijayeta’s parents died of AIDS. What guarantee is there that she would not have the dreaded disease? We should all keep away from her. In fact, you should throw her out of the college.”
“The college administration knows what to do with which students. How do you know all this about her?” Shalini asked a little curtly.
“We were neighbors in Mumbai. Everything happened in front of me.”
“Ok. You may go,” she said, thoughtfully.
During her lecture the next day, Shalini called Vijayeta to her table and told her to meet her again in the staff room after lectures.
When Vijayeta came to the staff room, Shalini took her outside to a very secluded place in the campus.
“I spoke to Manish. He told me everything…”
“But, Ma’am, he would not have told you everything, since nobody but me knows the whole thing,” Vijayeta replied, tears welling in her eyes.
“Tell me the whole thing.”
“My parents did not have AIDS when they conceived me. Neither did my Mom have it when she delivered me. So I don’t have AIDS.”
“How did your parents get AIDS in the first place?”
“When my Mom had come to her parents’ place in Delhi for my delivery, my Dad was alone in Mumbai. One night, he was traveling back from Pune, where he had gone for some official work in his car. He had an accident on the way and lost a lot of blood. Then infected blood was given to him in the hospital. A few days after the accident, my Dad realized that he had been infected with HIV. By then it had been transferred to my Mom.”
“See, now the right thing would be for you to go for an HIV test. Don’t take me wrong. I am saying this for your own good.”
Shalini herself took her student for the HIV test and like Vijayeta said, she was not infected.
Now Shalini made it a point to tell this in the class, showing the medical certificates and the test results. “Manish knew that Vijayeta had lost her family and she did not have anybody to call her own. He should have acted with humanity. At the same time, when Manish spread stories that she had AIDS, her friends should have not listened to him. It is not necessary that when either of your parents have AIDS, you should have it too. Vijayeta does not have AIDS. I would call the filth that is in Manish’s mind as AIDS. You are educated people. You know how AIDS is spread. Even though someone has AIDS, you have to treat them with humanity. We are a prestigious organization and we don’t welcome such behavior from you, students. Manish this is the last warning to you. If you continue such behavior, you will be rusticated.” so saying Professor Shalini started the day’s lecture.