CHENNAI: The chairs were laid out at Odyssey, Adyar and patrons of city-based ‘happynesswalas’ Avis Viswanathan and Vaani Anand had gathered to witness #Avis100 — The 100th edition of their live, reflective conversation series — The Happyness Conversations, on Saturday. “This is a celebration of living life as it is,” said Avis, addressing the audience.
The author of Fall like a Rose Petal (a story capturing how Avis and Vaani stared at bankruptcy, and their learnings from the phase) went on to thank the patrons, and said, “I would like to thank life as well. If the bankruptcy and spiritual quest hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have understood what happiness is. I wouldn’t have written my book. This book changed our life — gave meaning and purpose.”
Over the editions, several riveting and inspiring stories of loss, love, hope, faith and living a happy life despite the circumstances have been shared as, and the 100th conversation was no different. The unconventional romance of a HIV + couple — Manu* and Karthik* — different layers of emotions, social stigma, familial support, and faith they traversed through, took centre stage, warming hearts and filling the audience with hope.
About 12 years ago, Manu got the virus from her ex-husband who had concealed that he had full-blown AIDS at the time of their marriage, while Karthik was infected with the virus through a blood transfusion he received after meeting with an accident in 1995. Despite the circumstances, the duo decided to be patient and follow the process of life.
Talking about what the phase taught them, Karthik said, “I believe there’s a large design in life. Being patient and going along with it helps.” From dealing with the news of the diagnosis, coping with the unfairness and bitterness; finding the courage to open up with close friends and family, coming to terms with their life to moving on from the past, and serendipitously finding love, the duo has had a life that’s nothing short of a film script.
Interestingly, the couple did actually feature on screen — in the documentary Love Sick, directed by Ann A Kim and Priya Giri Desai. The documentary follows Dr Suniti Solomon, who discovered India’s first case of HIV in 1986. The doctor played matchmaker to the couple — that’s when and how they found meaning, love, and happiness.
“Our life has given us immense hope, has stripped us of our baggage, stereotypes and societal judgments and brought us together. I knew that someone, somewhere is meant to be with me,” said Manu. (*names changed as per request)