Doctor/author explores HIV/AIDS in IndiaWidely published in the United States and abroad, Vishwas Gaitonde is spending May in residence at the Anderson Center at Tower View working on a novel about a young gay man in India, where homosexuality is a criminal offense.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
Widely published in the United States and abroad, Vishwas Gaitonde is spending May in residence at the Anderson Center at Tower View working on a novel about a young gay man in India, where homosexuality is a criminal offense.
As the community service element of his residency, he will speak on May 20 to members of PFLAG and the public about India’s laws and their impact on HIV/AIDS in that country.
The program, free and open to everyone, will be at 7 p.m. in the Red Wing Arts Association Depot Gallery, 418 Levee St.
Gaitonde earned a medical degree from the University of Madras, India, and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa.
“I was interested in both medicine and writing,” he explained. “Both are very demanding.” He realized that “Doctors could be writers, but not vice-versa” — hence the initial pursuit of medical training.
Today, Gaitonde combines the two in both nonfiction and fiction writing that addresses a variety of medical topics, including tuberculosis and leprosy, and also nonmedical subjects. He has lived in the United States about 20 years.
His earlier works included opinion pieces, feature articles, essays and short fiction pieces published in newspapers, magazines and literary journals. His fictional work “A Cow in His Throat” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
He published a nonfiction book on HIV/AIDS in India, but decided to try a different approach as a storyteller. “Fiction brings out the human side much better,” he explained.
He completed his first novel and is currently seeking a publisher. It’s the story of a young doctor in India whose idealism is destroyed by the corruption he discovers in the health care system. He discovers his calling: the surgical rehabilitation of leprosy patients.
But he faces a difficult decision: Will leaving the country to get training mean giving up the woman he loves?
While at the Anderson Center Gaitonde is starting another “very human story” — about a young gay man seeking love despite the threat of social ostracism and criminal prosecution in India.
The 150-year-old anti-sodomy laws in his home country have recently been challenged, Gaitonde said. “A court battle is currently in progress before India’s Supreme Court.”
But HIV/AIDS continues to have a real impact on the country, he said. People are afraid to come forward for treatment for fear doctors will report them to the police.
An underground gay-lesbian community has evolved in India, and Gaitonde has researched the matter to gain insight into the current status. He will describe that movement at the meeting, and hopes to get input from local people about the situation here.
If you go…
Who: Vishwas Gaitonde
What: Public presentation
When: 7 p.m. May 20
Where: Depot Gallery, 418 Levee St.
How much: Free