Mallika is my name, a carefree girl wandering in the small narrow street in a village in South India. Like every celebrity needed an introduction, I did not need one. Everyone knew me in the village as a girl with two pigtails and called me a bunny rabbit for my protruding teeth. I called myself the ‘Aishwarya’ of my village. I had a fantasy of the man I wanted to marry. Someone who would be like a film star . There was only one match in the whole village. His name was Kannan, a vendor selling sweets from the nearby town. He was one of the few who owned a cycle. He would ring the bell everytime he passed by. He stopped to say ‘You look like an angel from heaven’. To me heaven was a place where all the good people would go after they die according to Hindu mythology stories told by my grandmother.
My father was a bus driver and my mother a cleaner at the local school. My education was free but I felt going to school was over work for the brain. I was getting free lunch with the meal scheme introduced by the government, so if I missed school I would have no food at home. One morning, I saw everyone running on the streets. I followed them not knowing where they were going. There was a van and a man standing and talking on the mike. I turned and asked ‘Rajamma, what is he saying? She said in a hushed tone ‘go home, this is not for small girls like you’. All I could hear was the word ‘AIDS’ and showing people a piece of rubber which looked like a balloon. I laughed, 'Why are they making an issue of selling balloons on a mike?' A girl of my age had better things to dream .
My dream was an escape from the reality of life of doing chores and waiting on my grandmother. The sound of the cycle bell rang. It was the perfect moment to talk to him. My mother had taken my grandmother to the hospital at the nearby town. I invited him to my mansion which consisted of one big room divided into four by curtains. The radio was playing the music I liked. Every Moment was in my favour. My dreams had come true. I thought I found my perfect man.
Days passed by, he was nowhere in sight. What could have happened? The next morning I gathered courage and took the bus to the next town. I stopped and asked the shop keeper ‘Have you seen Kannan? I am coming from the village. Please help me'. He looked puzzled and answered, ‘Don’t you know he has gone to the hospital with his wife since he has been diagnosed for having ‘AIDS’. I asked him’ what is ‘AIDS’? He said it was a disease that people get when they don’t use the rubber and sleep with other woman, and ultimately leads to death. He would never be allowed in the community and lead a normal life again. This is all I know. He paused and asked ‘Who are you, why am I telling you all this?’ My head felt dizzy, as if a knife had been plunged into my heart. I was no more an angel. Heaven or hell? God had to decide my destiny. If only I had not made a mockery of rubber technology, doubts and fears would have been erased.