THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Friday, 15 June 2007

The story of Shila and Laila

Shila has been a client of Buddies ever since before I joined the NGO. Another colleague of mine was assigned as her buddy and they get along quite well.

The first time I got in touch with Shila was when I was trying to arrange for Shila’s and Jah’s transportation to come to Ipoh to join us for our family day trip to Teluk Batik last year. Jah was supposed to get a taxi from her place, stop by to pick Shila on the way and come to Ipoh together in the same taxi.

But just 2 days before the family day, Shila got involved in a minor accident, fell off a motorcycle which got her feet swollen. So she had to back out from the trip, much to the disappointment of her daughter, Laila.

All contacts then were by phone calls or SMS, so we (Jah and I) didn’t get to meet Shila personally.

The next time we planned to meet up was when I arranged for a Hari Raya gathering for the Malay ladies among the PLWHAs. Again, Shila and Laila were excited to come. And again, at the last minute Shila backed out as she was not feeling too well. Not only was Laila again disappointed, so was Jah as she had been looking forward to meeting Shila.

We finally got to meet this year when Shila and little Laila joined me for the International Aids Memorial Day celebration in KL. During the 2 hour trip to KL, Shila told me her story…

When Shila’s husband was first diagnosed HIV positive, he didn’t tell Shila for a few months. Not that he didn’t want to, he just simply didn’t know how to. He was afraid Shila might leave him. Eventually he had to tell because the staff at the HIV clinic insisted he brought his wife and daughter for tests. Thank goodness little Laila was spared but Shila was not as lucky.

But Shila took it well. Her husband apologized to her for causing her to be infected with the dreadful virus. Shila told him that what was past was over and done with, there was no point bringing up the matter. She told him not to give up hope. Yes, Shila was very supportive of her husband.

Shila was never really accepted by her husband’s family. The family had actually wanted him to marry someone of their choice, so when he instead married Shila, they couldn’t accept Shila into their family. When Shila gave birth to Laila, they accepted Laila as part of their family, but they still could not accept Shila.

When they were both diagnosed HIV positive, both sides of the family didn’t know. Shila and husband were not sure how their families would react so they didn’t tell anyone.

When the husband’s condition worsened and he became so weak, his family accused Shila as being the cause of his illness. Oh no, they didn’t know anything about the HIV, they just accused Shila of using the services of a bomoh to cast a spell on her husband. Oh dear…

Shila couldn’t take it any longer. She decided to call one of her sister-in-laws (the one most open minded compared to the rest) and told her the whole truth. It was only after that Shila’s in-laws began to accept her, especially after knowing that Shila too was infected. They knew of the husband’s drug history and so it wasn’t Shila who caused her husband’s illness. It was in fact the other way round.

Not long after that Shila’s husband died. Shila and Laila now live with Shila’s mother. Shila’s relationship with her in-laws is much better but they seldom get to meet as the in-laws stay in another state.

Shila may not be doing too well financially but she’s willing to do anything for the future of Laila. She applied for Welfare help but it wasn’t approved. Reason given? She had only one child and she had family support (Oh for heaven’s sake, she makes a living helping her mother sell kuih every morning!). She applied for Baitulmal help but had to go through “hell” during the interview. The officer drilled her with all sorts of sensitive questions (particularly on her HIV); Shila broke down and cried in front of the officer. But ahh… Shila’s tears caused the officer’s knees to go wobbly. Her application was approved without much delay…

Well, so far Shila and Laila are doing okay. I must say I admire Shila’s determination. I believe they will be alright.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I will never cease to be amazed by these so-called gov't "social workers" in Malaysia. Having been a gov't servant I can understand the need to make sure the rakyat's tax dollar is not being wasted. But to be so spendthrift is ridiculous.

And baitulmal ... well, another reason to continue not giving our zakat to them. Altho it may be slightly more difficult to locate people on our own at least the recipients are not required to go thru "hell" - which to them I am sure is what it feels like.

loveujordan said...

Salam Pi Bani,

Sedih dan sayu baca kisah Shila ,tabahnya dia, semoga kehidupan mereka dua beranak diberkati Alah swt , Amin.

J.T. said...

Shila's determination is what makes her move forward positively.

It is uplifting when you say that your PLWHAs will be alright. It means something is working somewhere. :) And I am very sure that makes you feel good.

You make a difference, Pi. :)

Pi Bani said...

Anonymous,
From what I've seen so far, be it welfare or baitulmal, it all depends on the officer in charge. I know of a welfare officer in a particular district who is very dedicated in making sure the poor ones in the district he covers get the necessary assistance on time. But generally, it's tough, especially when they know the applicant has HIV. They tend to look down on them.

Pi Bani said...

LUJ,
InsyaAllah, berkat ketabahan Shila, hidup dua beranak ni akan diberkati. Di sebalik segala kepayahan, Shila tak mengeluh pun tentang nasibnya. Sedangkan kita yang menghadapi dugaan tak seberapa pun dah tak tahan...

Pi Bani said...

JT,
I have to tell you that physically, Shila looks fragile. But her determination is really admirable. You know what keeps her going? Her one and only daughter... her intan payung buah hati pengarang jantung...

nyonyapenang said...

shila sure is a brave and magnanimous lady.

Pi Bani said...

NyonyaPenang,
Brave indeed she is. And she is also lucky her family (mother & siblings) supports her.

stand-up philosopher said...

Hi Pi,
The Shilas and the Lailas out there need strenght and assurance to move forward. For them, I see their strenght is in you. You are their strenght. I'll remember to pray that your strenght will abound and overflow to those that seek your counsel.

elviza said...

Dearest Pi,

Again, my heart was touched deeply. Sigh...

Pi Bani said...

SUP,
The Shilas and Lailas out there would have even greater strength if only there is not so much stigma and discrimination against people like them. Thank you for your prayer.

Pi Bani said...

Elviza,
I see you are easily touched by the stories of the unfortunate... you have a good heart, sis...