New Delhi: “Hazaribagh in Jharkhand.” These are the words HIV positive Roohi, 20, has been repeating since she was found writhing in labour pain at the New Delhi Railway Station two months ago.
Abandoned by her in-laws, the woman went from the streets to the hospitals, ending up at a shelter for homeless and mentally ill women.
Weighing just 28 kg, Roohi was pregnant when found by a woman at the station on a searing May afternoon.
In the days that followed, she faced the reality of being abandoned, losing her 17-day-old baby and being told that she was HIV positive.
“His [her husband’s] name is Horam. He is a farmer,” the petite girl told the IANS correspondent at the Sudinayala shelter in old Delhi’s Kabir Basti.
Resting her bony arms on a table and settling her tiny frame on a large wooden chair, she said, “My brother-in-law had asked me to wait at the railway station; he never returned” — and lapsed into silence.
Her hair tied neatly, clad in a hazy pink kurta and white slacks, Roohi listens closely to the conversations around her, constantly fidgeting with her fingers.
There is hope writ large on her face for any bit of information that will take her back to the life she lived before undertaking the journey to Delhi.
Voluntary organisations involved in her medical treatment and rehabilitation have little to share, other than her treatment in the national capital.
“The woman who found her at the railway station took her home in Jahangirpuri. But when she came to know about her HIV status from various medical tests done during pregnancy, she refused to take Roohi back,” said a member of NGO Child Survival India.
The agony had just started for Roohi, who now shares a roof and her fate with others of her kind. The dilapidated structure is home to over 25 mentally ill and destitute women who have found their way from dump yards and streets to the shelter.
Severely malnourished, the young woman delivered a baby boy at Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital from where the child was referred to the Lok Nayak Hospital.
“The doctors had found out she was HIV positive because of which the baby was in a critical condition at birth. She was referred to Lok Nayak Hospital where the baby died after 17 days,” the NGO member added.
In the weeks that unfolded, Roohi found herself wrapped in misery while she underwent a series of medical tests at the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital and the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital detailing the extent of HIV infection, her medical records show.
A few sheets of medical prescriptions stacked in a file piece together the class 3 drop-out’s recent past, even as caretakers say “no major mental illness” has been found till now.
According to Sudinalaya volunteers, over the last three weeks, Roohi has been actively involved in daily chores and talks with other women at the shelter, but occasionally relates her antecedents.
Tarun Monga, a volunteer at the shelter, says: “She is always eager to do things herself — be it cleaning or cooking. Occasionally she breaks into a conversation about her past.”
“She was brought here June 18 after she was registered by the Delhi State Aids Control Society,” Monga says.
After much contemplation, Roohi speaks.
“I was married in a temple in Hazaribagh,” she says, referring to the scenic town in central Jharkhand.
“I wore a red sari and beautiful glass bangles that day...,” she said with a smile, giving way to faint hope.
But that is only as far as she will go. No one is willing to hazard a guess on how long she will stay. But one thing is for sure: as long as she stays, she will be well looked after. In the end, that’s all that matters.
The woman’s name has been changed to protect her identity.