By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, Nov 22 (IANS) Trust Sushmita Sen to do the unexpected - the actress has taken up the responsibility of the upkeep of her deceased staffer's HIV positive wife and two sons.
"The one good thing that came out of this whole experience was my rapport with my former staff Ashutosh (name changed) and his wife Namrata (name changed) and their two sons. I'm full of admiration for this woman of 29. She's younger and far less urbane than me, but her wisdom and her acumen in the face of such imminent tragedy just makes me feel so small," Sushmita told IANS.Thankfully, both the staffer's children have tested negative.
"But the lady is in an advanced stage of being HIV positive. I'm getting her the best treatment possible. Perhaps with the treatment she'll live five-seven years. But her spirit is unbroken."
When you express admiration for her, the actress rebuffs it.
She said: "On the contrary she's helping my conscience to get lighter, I feel guilty that I knew nothing about Ashutosh's illness. He was too scared to tell me. Namrata was warned no one should know about his condition, least of all me. He thought I'd be very upset by the nature of his illness.
"He came to meet me shortly before he died. He looked very ill. I thought he had jaundice. He asked me for financial help. I knew there was something seriously wrong. I tried to get in touch with his wife, but couldn't. The next thing I knew was Ashutosh was in a coma."
However, Sushmita did get to speak to Ashutosh once before he died.
"He got out of his coma long enough to speak to me once on the cell phone. He heard me, and he cried and 24 hours later he died. The next day I flew in from Goa to do his last rites."
The wife and the children had to be tested for AIDS. It was one of the most horrific periods of Sushmita's life.
"I not only had to deal with the death of my staff, I also had to break the news of his wife's illness to her at the cremation itself. This entire harrowing incident was so unexpected."
Today the dead man's wife and children are under Sushmita's care.
"It's hard to keep her free from infections. I'm doing my best to keep her intact. Today, I'm an expert on HIV positive," said Sushmita who participated in an AIDS awareness programme with Hollywood actress Ashley Judd early this year.
On a brighter note, she said, "A look at my daughter's delight as she watches 'Pocahontas' and I regain my spirit. God bless Walt Disney."
Apart from her social work, the actress is currently caught up in the pre-production work of her period film "Jhansi Ki Rani". She is not only playing the title role in the film but also producing it. Apart from that she will be seen with Shah Rukh Khan once again in "Dulha Mil Gaya".