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January / February 2011
Till Death Do Us Part
by Isabell Zipfel
I am 37 years old, and I married for the second time. I got married at the age of 16. My husband was working in Dubai, so he always left Delhi to work there. Sometimes he went to Dubai for three months, sometimes for six months, sometimes for one year.
In Dubai he injected drugs. His family shouted at him, advising him not to take drugs. My mother-in-law asked, “Why do you take drugs?” My husband answered, “I need the drugs.”
His salary was 25,000 rupees per month (about $554). But he never sent the money home. I asked him, “Where is the money?” He never answered.
In the meantime I gave birth to two children. Again I asked him, “What are you doing with all the money?” He said, “I don’t want to tell you.” I went to my father-in-law and asked him, “What is my husband doing with all his money? He is getting 25,000 Rs per month. He doesn’t send anything back home!” My father-in-law told me, “He takes drugs, and he goes to prostitutes. Prostitutes in Dubai ask for 6,000 Rs per night. He is spending all his money on his bad habits. That’s why he does not send the money back home.”
I was worried and scared. I wanted to talk to my husband about it, I wanted to advise him not to go to prostitutes, but I did not have the power to do it. I never complained about my husband, because my mother-in-law and my father-in-law were very good to me.
When my husband was in India, he never had enough money for drugs. That’s why he tried to sell everything. One day he tried to sell the bed, too. I shouted at him. Then he told me, “OK, I will not sell the bed, but there is a guy who would pay 1,500 Rs for one night with you.”
He even sold my mangalsutra. It was my wedding necklace. It was a very powerful chain. He shouted, “Give it to me, I have to sell it. I need drugs.” He took the chain. I said, “OK, take it. But take your life with you as well.”
In a way that is what happened. One day my husband became very ill. I went with him to the hospital. The doctor said, “Your husband’s body is completely damaged. He will only live for some days.” He was admitted to the hospital.
One night my husband asked me to stay with him. I said, “I will come back in the morning. I have to look after the children.” During that night my husband died.
I married my husband’s brother. He was very good and caring. I gave birth to my third child. One day my second husband became very ill. I took him to the hospital. The doctor did an HIV test. The result was positive. His condition was very bad. The doctor said that my second husband would not survive. I asked him what I should do. The doctor told me, “Go home and take care of him.”
The doctor gave him ARVs. The medicine was expensive. But we didn’t have any money. So we sold our house.
After one year I had an HIV test done on my third child. The result was positive. So the doctor told me to check myself, too. I took an HIV test, the result was positive. I know for sure that my first husband was HIV positive, that he had transmitted the virus to me. Nobody had tested him, because at that time nobody knew about HIV/AIDS.
After a short period of time my third child died.
In my first marriage my life was good. My husband earned 25,000 Rs, my father-in-law 35,000 Rs ($775). We were rich. We even had animals, some cows and buffaloes. My house was very big. The situation started to become bad as my first husband became ill. After that my second husband got ill as well. We had to spend so much money on both of them, and I had to arrange the marriage of my daughter. Now there is no money at all anymore.
Sometimes we eat in the morning, but in the evening we cannot eat, because there is nothing to eat. My second husband does not work, he is too sick. My father-in-law gets a small pension. He gets 1,000 Rs ($22) per month. How can you live on 1,000 Rs per month? Before all this happened nobody wanted me to work outside the house. But now the situation has changed—there is no money at all. Now I have to earn money. But how do I find a job?
Isabell Zipfel grew up in Rome and now lives in Berlin. Before embarking on her career as a photojournalist, she translated screenplays and earned a master’s degree in German studies and Italian literature at Berlin’s Humboldt University. She has been working as a photojournalist since 2007.
Not all of the individuals in these photographs are HIV positive nor are they necessarily representative of their corresponding story. The images and interviews were obtained with the help of the Delhi Positive Women Network.
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Search: marriage, India, arranged marriages, Isabell Zipfel, Delhi Positive Women Network, infidelity, prostitution, injection drug use
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