Nepali Times Asian Paints
Love in the time of AIDS


A year has passed since Asha, 22, married Sharan, 34. They are the first HIV-positive couple in Nepal to get married. The ceremony was performed at the Guhyeswori temple in the presence of a small group of friends who were helping them produce a book called Positive Life-a compilation of oral testimonies of 15 young Nepalis about how they contracted HIV/AIDS. That day, they visited Asha's old grandmother, mother and godfather to seek their blessings.

They are happy together. But just two months into the marriage things started getting tough-societal pressure is always hard to handle, and money for food, shelter and medicine were scarce. Their only direct resource of livelihood, Prerana, an organisation they established to assist and help 'positive' people move on positively with their lives, didn't function for a year shortly after Asha and Sharan were married. They are now trying to get it back on track.

Asha and Sharan live in a dingy mud house in Dilli Bazaar and they are lucky to have a kind landlord-they have shelter, even though they haven't been able to pay rent for a few months. This winter was cold, and perhaps that's why both were ill. "I almost had no hope of seeing Sharan alive this summer," remembers Asha. It is a tough battle-when Sharan gets better, Asha is sick, and vice versa. But they still take pleasure in living. Sitting on their bed, the only seat in their house, sipping tea, watching Sharan light a cigarette, I found myself laughing more heartily than I'd done for a long time. Sharan's intriguing sense of humour and Asha's quick responses were too life-affirming for the old room to remain depressing.

We continued laughing as we walked down to Naag Pokhari. "One day I lost nani (Asha) in a cinema queue. I looked around. Couldn't find her. But suddenly I realised she was standing at the back. She's so small," laughs Sharan. Asha replies: "Wait one day, I'll really shrink and you'll look for me the whole day." Food and cash are a problem, but this couple survives on faith. Their room is filled with small pictures of poubha-style Ganesh and Tara, and photographs of friends. They have a small cassette player and a black-and-white TV.

Sharan's neighbourhood friends love him. They sometimes offer him raksi to lift his spirits. Says Sharan quietly: "Sometimes I take it. It's okay if you drink within limits. Earlier I used to argue when my wife scolded me. But these days, I don't do anything to make her feel angry and sad, because I love her very much."
Smiles Asha: "He's a very good husband. We fell in love because we understood each other so much."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)