Literary geniuses string together for emancipating HIV-afflicted

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Kolkata, Aug 13 (UNI) In a bid to uncover the predicament faced by millions of Indians of having to lead the rest of their lives in social ostracisation, ''AIDS Sutra'', a brilliant anthology of essays, endeavours to reveal the struggles, desolation as well as the countless victories won by those afflicted by this dreaded disease.

In the process, the book lays bare the human face of their crusade against death and desperation, beneath the hordes of statistics and medical terminology piling up on a subject which is still considered taboo in this country.

Speaking at the launch of the AIDS Sutra, published in collaboration with ''Avahan'', the India AIDS Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, acclaimed novelist, essayist and short story writer Amit Chaudhuri, one of the contributors in the collection, said here yesterday, ''In the course of interacting with several people, directly or indirectly affected by the fatal disease, for the purpose of writing my essay, many of my own myths and fallacies were shattered. My essay deals with the medical profession, particularly in the public healthcare sector, which handles the majority of the AIDS cases.'' Avahan Programme Coordinator Jayanti Rajagopalan informed, ''AIDS is mainly a working class problem, affecting the migrant labour population. This book mirrors the ordeals of the ordinary people living with HIV and AIDS, many of whom are in the margins of Indian society and whose voices are rarely heard.'' The book includes short stories penned by illustrious personalities from the literary world, including Salman Rushdie, Siidhartha Deb, Kiran Desai, Vikram Seth, Shobhaa De, Sunil Ganguly, William Dalrymple and Mukul Kesavan, among others.

''For each book purchased, Rs 80 will go to support children affected by HIV in the high prevalence cities of Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. The funding will help them go to school and receive care and support,'' Ms Rajagopalan added.

William Dalrymple's piece deals with the fate of one of most the vulnerable sections of Indian society, the Devadasis, Kiran Desai chooses to portray the life of sex workers in Andhra Pradesh, the state which has nearly one-fifth of the total cases of HIV incidence in India, despite having only five per cent of the country's population, Sunil Ganguly depicts the inner life of his beloved hometown Sonagachhi, Salman Rushdie writes about the Hijra community in Mumbai, while Vikram Seth reveals the damning ordeals faced by drug-users in the Northeastern region, where injecting drugs is the main mode of transmission for AIDS.


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