After a feverish night I woke up this morning feeling slightly better.
I was very glad to be able to come to the clinic, and it was a heartbreaker of a day. My interviewees included some very tragic stories, and once again a few of them cried in front of me. Everything ran smoothly except an error with my recorder which required me to go back to my hotel 6km away and pick up a cable- on the back of my translator’s motorbike! Quite fun hurtling along the crowded roads, we even passed a wedding on the way- they seemed just as delighted to see me as I was them!
I met Alka, a 35 year old woman who married when she was just 15. She developed diabetes nearly a year into the marriage, but when her husband found out, he accused her of hiding the disease and tricking him into marriage, and abandoned her. Her life was left ruined- for the lower castes here remarriage for women is frowned upon. Dr Pendsey employed her at the clinic to enable her to live, as her family nearly disowned her and would only accept her if she was supporting herself. She is now working as a childminder to allow other women to work, an irony considering that her own chances of a professional career have been ruined by her lack of education and the stigma surrounding diabetes here. She wept as she told me about the shame and guilt she had felt when her husband left her.
I also met Salma and her beautiful 15 month old baby. She was unable to find an arranged marriage partner in her caste because of her illness, but fell in love with a Muslim boy (she is from the Hindu warrior caste). She had to run away with him because her family disowned her, and they married. He supports her and her illness but she says she weeps every day because she misses her family, and how this makes it harder for her to cope. She suffered two miscarriages because her diabetes was not controlled properly- however she is now a proud mother, proving everyone who doubted her wrong.
Although this place is full of sadness, it is also full of moments of hope like this. I met one of DREAM Trust’s biggest success stories- Type 1 diabetic Manda. Coming from an illiterate, low caste family, she was determined to help others in the way she had been helped with her illness, and was had a dream to become a nurse. She had to hide the fact that she was diabetic both from the college and her roommates whilst she was studying, because it could have caused her to be refused from the course. This included submitting samples of her father’s urine instead of her own during college medical checks, and even taking her insulin injections hiding away in the bathroom! Whenever she felt her diabetes rocketing out of control she would rush down to the DREAM Trust in the middle of the night to be stabilised, before going back to class the next morning as though nothing had happened. She is now a government nurse and one of the most respected members of her community. She explained how she had several engagements fall through because of partners discovering her condition, but finally married without telling her husband. She revealed the truth a few days ago, but because she is such a respected and self-sufficient member of the community, her husband is happy to accept her condition.
It really is shocking how much stigma and lack of understanding there is around Type 1 diabetes here. I had two little girls describing how their fellow schoolmates tease them and call them crazy, and another who described how she doesn’t leave the house often because other villagers make unwelcome remarks.
However I can’t help but feel that I am seeing the lucky ones here. All of them emphasise that if it wasn’t for the DREAM Trust their families would not have been able to afford both their insulin and their education. Many would have been dead.
I am currently waiting at the clinic for my first experience of the monsoon to subside. I had expected heavy rain for the duration of my stay but so far had seen none- until now. I understand why Indians speak about the monsoon in awe-filled tones, it really is beautiful. The rain falls in thick drops, cutting through the humidity and rolling down the tropical green leaves. I can only really compare it to the rainforest, but without the overhead canopy of trees the drops fall relentlessly and unhindered. Anyhow I can’t get an auto-rickshaw until it stops- which could be 15 minutes, or all night!
Tomorrow I am spending the morning at the clinic, where I have ten people to interview, and am also going to do my very important interview with Dr Pendsey and some of his staff. In the afternoon we are going to visit some homes of diabetics living in the city, so a long day- 9:30am-7pm! Hopefully I will be fully recovered by then.