The radiance on her face defies her condition. No one can decipher the amount of heartache against social stigmas she has gone through. Jyoti Dhawale is HIV+ yet she plays with life hand in hand despite the harshness of the society.
She has personified the phrase ‘When life throws lemons at you make lemonade.’ She chuckled when asked about her forever ambition. As she grew up in Air Force Camp, Jyoti aspired to be a fighter pilot like her father. She had a pinching desire to fly those mean models of aircraft in the sky. But, at the age of three, her aspirations were cut short by an accident that left her hearing impaired.
Her marriage with her first husband was a dream come true. They were like perfect soulmates who confided in each other and looked at life through rose tinted glasses. However, it was only when Jyoti got pregnant that her husband showed repugnance to have babies. He pressurized her to abort the child. And despite his choice to not have kids he refused to use protection during intercourse leading to two more subsequent pregnancies then abortions, as contraceptives didn’t work out for Jyoti.
It was only after her fourth abortion Jyoti discovered she was HIV+. Her husband was tested HIV- and he yet again pressurized Jyoti to abort the child. This time Jyoti decided to go forth with the pregnancy despite the pressure from her husband. She was blessed with a healthy HIV- boy.
It was downhill from there. “I never expected a friendship to be broken when I shared my positive status with my best friend whom we use to share everything under the sun. Secondly, there were also an incidence of a friend’s family not allowing me to enter their home or even have a sip of water from the glass”, she narrates.
This is when her husband started pushing her for divorce. Instead of being there for her he pulled off all the emotional support leaving it as a barren relationship. He started physical abuse and manipulated her to sign the divorce papers.
Her husband won the custody of their child and Jyoti is still fighting for visitation rights. As if it was not enough to tear her apart, her spirit still could not be dampened. She compared herself to a warrior who doesn’t accept defeat until death comes. She applied in an IT firm and works as an employee there. The working atmosphere saw her distinctly but she was still strong enough to face it all.
Not letting life defeat her, Jyoti joined many NGOs spreading awareness about HIV and AIDS. It was her outlook for life that allowed her to keep on going. She met Vivek, her second husband at a chat room and a solid friendship grew between them. When her father died that Vivek stood with her constantly, this led to a closer bond between these two eventually letting them tie knots. Vivek is HIV negative.
Jyoti says – Vivek was the best thing that happened to her.
Jyoti is now associated with NGOs like Beydaar (Pakistan) as an Ambassador, The Well Project (USA) as Community Advisor Board, The Sitma Project (USA) as an Ambassador. She is constantly working to spread awareness about HIV empowerment
“On a scale of 1-10, I would rate India as a pitiful 2.5 when it comes to knowledge, treatment and care”, she says about the state of affairs in terms of HIV awareness in the country.
HIV is only a physical condition that should not get to the heads of people. There needs to be proper awareness and knowledge about the same.
“One needs to be more sensitive towards those having special needs rather than to be made fun of and laughed at. They don’t need sympathy, just an understanding and learning to adapt with them”, she says.
Jyoti’s story is one of its kind. She has faced life standing tall and it was only her positivity that has allowed all the good things to still come her way. Life has been unfair to at times but it was her headstrong attitude that ultimately she defeated life and still shines when others would have been broken. We all can learn something from her.