Sheashu Goes Home
Written by Rocky Braat
I’ve been staring at this blank document for about ten minutes thinking of how to start. About three years back I was sitting in front of about 1,200 people, my fingers spread out over the piano keys ready to complete a dream I have conceived just 10 months prior. I had practiced the song over and over; I needed to be perfect.
It was about 8:30 at night, and her mother had just died. As I rubbed her back she turned to me and told me her entire life was a waist. She had never even learned to read; in fact, she had never even been to a school. She was born to a poor Muslim farmer and never had the Opportunities that most girls do. Her father died shortly after her fifth birthday. It became clear after some time that the cause of his death was also living in her.
As she sat there she told me, “I have nothing to look forward to. I’m just a girl with AIDS; nothing will come of me.” Later that evening I agreed to help her wash all the evening dishes. As I sat there looking down, I began to sing the first song that came to my mind, “She’s Got A Way.” I thought it would be funny if I substituted her name for “she’s.” Sheashu, not speaking English, would never know what the context of the words I was singing really meant. As I looked up, tears streamed down her face; she never knew the words, but she knew I was loving her in that moment.
The following night, she began to weep again over the pain of her reality. I was perplexed how anyone could endure such a painful life without their heart failing. I made a promise that some day I would honor her.
As I looked up at the crowd of 1,200, my palms began to get clammy. I was nervous. I softly told the story of the beautiful girl who wept the night I sang to her. I closed my eyes and began to sing with everything I had in me; I made sure that for those 1,200 hundred that song would never mean the same thing again. As I stood, the crowd erupted in applause. I whispered, “That was for you Shea shea.”
It had been two months. I was up late rushing to read through a few emails before going to bed. My eyes filled with tears as I read the content title, “Sheashu’s marriage.” Wow that’s amazing. A little photo was attached of the beautiful girl wearing a wedding dress.
Upon my return to India, I inquired about the girl in the photo. Everyone told me she was only months away from having a baby. What a wonderful God there must be.
Over time I started to hear stories from others that her marriage was anything but a fairy tail, that – indeed – she was being frequently abused by her husband. After about five months, I saw her again at the hospital. Talk was really short because she had to go, but before she left, she cried.
She had conceived the child, but with that news, I heard rumors that the family that was supposed to love her actually took the child away from her and left her in the hospital. I was skeptical to believe such a crazy story. I thought, “Who would do that?”
One day I got the call, “You need to go to the bus station and pick up Sheashu.” I was both happy and sad. The staff informed me they didn’t want her, so they kicked her out. My next question was, “Where is her baby?” They kept it. I was in disbelief. How can someone keep somebody else’s child?
She came into the office and began to cry. She told me stories of being beaten with electrical cords, being slapped in the face, not being able to even touch the child she had carried in her belly, and stories about being completely separated from the family that promised to love her.
For a month I watched her mental health diminish; she had completely lost her will to live. Like a zombie, she would walk around the home and just say “baabaa” (tamil for baby). At times she would be upset and abuse others, but I awarded her that grace. I reasoned, “How could anyone keep it together as well as she, given the mental stress she is under?” She would come to me after dinner and ask, “Rocky Anna, pray for my baby.” The request became daily, and sadly, at times I didn’t feel up to it. I cemented the feeling that she had nobody.
One day she moved on from the home, and it seemed she might be getting on her feet – only without her children and the family that was supposed to love her. It had been six months since she had even seen her baby girl. She was planning to save up enough money and go back and bring her daughter home.
Sadly, two months before she was to go and get her little girl, she fell down and never woke up. She was on her way to the hospital to get the medicine for the thing inside of her. She had fallen asleep and woke up just in time to see the train pulling away from her stop. Not having enough money to go to the next stop, hop on another train and come back, she did her best to get off the train: she grabbed the greasy doorframe and tried to place her foot on the platform. As she did, she lost her balance and fell quickly. She tried to put her hands out to stop her fall, but the speed was too much at that point. She hit the left side of her head on the train platform. She lay there on the platform, people passing her by. One kind college student grabbed her purse and found her little phone book with five written numbers of people who had been faithful to her. The student informed, “Sir, she’s hurt really bad.” The phone was given to a medical professional that was passing by. He said, “Sir, her pulse is going down; I think she is going to die. Please do all you can to save her.” “I’m sorry, sir, that’s not my responsibility.” Within minutes of her fall, she had died. A brother rushed to the scene. There on the platform was a small bed sheet covering the beautiful girl. Crowds of people walked past her without so much as noticing. He pulled the sheet back, “It’s her.” By the time I got there, they had taken her away. The brother took me to the place were she and fallen, no more than a shot glass of blood on the pavement held any clue that anything had happened there today. I felt like someone was squeezing my throat.
A group of sisters joined us, and we rushed over to the hospital. It seemed like only a few short minutes before she came. We made a quick call to her two brothers, “Your sister has died please come quickly.” “I don’t have time.” Click. I looked at my watch. “I’ve been sitting here for nearly four hours.” The brother pointed to the black van, “That’s her.” I walked faster than anyone – as if to run. People who didn’t know her started to collect around the windows, the stupid buzzards. “Move!” I wanted to curse them; they didn’t know her. I put my head into the small window. There she was… She had fallen down and was never going to get up. Just about the slight smile on her face, she had two small steams of blood coming from her nose. The sisters caught up with me. They pushed their way to the small van window. “SHEASHU” over and over and over; they screamed it. The police quickly forced us away from the van. The van started up and made it’s way over to the morgue, which was just 100 ft ahead. There the Christians gathered and wept over the girl who had nobody. They carried her off inside and we all stood there confused about what to do next.
I sat by myself on the cement just weeping for this girl. I wasn’t sad over her death; I was sad over life – if it was just so hard. Over and over the song “Into the Dark” played in my mind. I remember months before I left to move to India, I made a promise to walk with all the children into their darkest hour. Her’s had come. Tomorrow I would be the last person to let her down.
Early the next morning the family who was supposed to love her joined us. I was disturbed in my heart; they seemed so unphased by her death. The husband’s face didn’t change the entire day. I couldn’t help but think that these people would never even tell this beautiful child with the face of her mother about the woman she would never know. I couldn’t tell a difference from a family going to a picnic and this family, who had come to join us as we buried our friend.
We arrived at the burial ground, and I stood next to the van to be the first to carry her. We opened the back, and there she was in a small box that looked like something someone made in their house for Halloween. We lifter her up and set her on the sidewalk. The Christians gathered and wept for her and her life. The family that was supposed to love her just stood with a chilling look on their faces; they didn’t cry for her. My time to share came, and I pulled a small photo out of my pocket. It was a photo of the only child Sheashu was ever able to love. The girl’s name was Subbu. She called Sheashu “Mommy.” Nobody ever stopped Sheashu from holding Subbu. I took the photo and placed it over Sheashu’s heart. I muttered the words of “She’s Got A Way” in between my sobs; it was her song. The aunties from the home had used the little bit of money that they had and put it together to buy Sheashu one last beautiful saree. They came forward and wrapped her in the beautiful orange and purple fabric. The Christians loved her so much. The time came to say good-bye. We picked up the lid and covered her; the nails were placed into the cover of her box. I grabbed the rope with all my might and did my best to steady her. I was the last one to let her down. I knelt down with the Gravedigger and buried my friend. The day before her 21 birthday.