It was sometime during my high school days I read a Malayalam translation of the classic novel The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck. And, this could probably be my first world literature read followed by Brothers Karamazov of Dostoevsky. I got The Good Earth delivered again by Amazon during the year 2011 to read the English version for the first time while I was down with Malaria. This book, talking about the village life in China during the first few decades of the twentieth century, is still one among my personal favorites. Since my parents are also from an agrarian background, I could relate a lot to this novel and its characters. I saw my father in Wang Lung and my mother in O-Lan. Though we don’t own much land, my father’s love for the little stretch of land he owns is incomparable. He even got some more land leased from a rich landowner in our village out of his interest in farming. However, unlike Wang Lung, he has not succeeded in becoming a rich landlord 🙂
During a recent visit to China, I got a friend who is equally interested in books. When my fellow travelers were busy shopping in Wall Mart, we spent hours over some coffee at a local café talking about books, politics, and cinema and so on. Even after returning from China, we continued to talk over WhatsApp about our latest reads. I suggested him to read The Good Earth since it is about China of the pre-first world war period. To my surprise, he told me that it was not as popular in China as it was with the rest of the world.
A few days back, my friend happened to be in the city where I live. We decided to catch up over dinner. I really wanted him to carry something back to China but there was not much time get anything delivered online nor was I free to go out and look for something due to some busy schedule at work. So, I dug into my book collection and traced the 2011 copy of The Good Earth. Normally, I don’t prefer giving away books from my collection. Still, I thought there is nothing better I can give to a friend from China. And, his smile upon seeing the book proved the same 🙂
Of late, I have come to know that The Good Earth is the first book in a trilogy that includes Sons and A House Divided. While my fried will be busy reading The Good Earth, I have decided to go behind the remaining titles in the trilogy.
An amazing view of the Deccan Traps as my flight starts its descend to Mumbai airport. A small settlement is also seen on the hilltop and a formation on the stone that looks like a giant statue of the Buddha!
Deepak (name changed) found out about his HIV infection at a blood donation camp. It devastated him! Not yet out of his post graduate college, he did not have the courage to share the news with his parents, skipped lecturers at college and locked himself at home. He fell hopeless, and was in a state of an emotional upheaval. With much persuasion from his mother, Deepak finally opened up to her. Though it took her some time to accept reality, she never blamed her son, and instead, gave him the assurance that the entire family would support him, and never forsake him. The family got him enrolled for ART, and subsequently he became a part of Vihaan Care and Support (CSC) programme. The CSC provided him with peer support to cope better with his new circumstances. He realized that HIV was no longer a life threatening health issue, but a manageable one. Today, he sees life with much more optimism and fortitude. He has resumed his studies as well, and is closer to his family. He completed his study and is confidently managing a CSC working as a Project Coordinator.
HIV is still considered a jarring enough diagnosis to plunge a patient into depression. The Healthline News in 2014, highlighted, “When depression is paired with HIV, the two diseases can feed off of one another. A 2001 meta-analysis of studies on HIV and depression underscored the severity of the problem. It showed that people with HIV run twice the risk of depression as those who are at-risk for HIV but remain uninfected.”
I talk about this story today, as the central theme of this year’s World Health Day is ‘Depression’. Every day, across India, 360 care and support centres and 32 Help Desks teams consisting of counsellors, peer counsellors and outreach workers from the Vihaan programme, reach out to thousands of individuals living with HIV, many of themselves living with HIV. They encourage and support them to accept life with courage, actively access and retain themselves in care, support and treatment services, and have a positive outlook towards their lives. At Vihaan, we believe mental health is a crucial factor in ensuring the wellbeing of PLHIV. This World Health Day, we pledge to renew our commitment to continue to support PLHIV to improve the quality of their lives by helping them in enhancing their mental health and wellbeing.