Stories from a day

IMG_1672.JPG8am Peregrine accompanies our friend Shazia and her three-year-old to the hospital. Two months ago he fell off a roof, since then he has miraculously recovered from life-threatening brain trauma. God willing, nothing more from the doctors is necessary. But it has been impossible for Shazia to get answers. She is ignored like a nobody, asked for extra money, given confusing and contradictory instructions and finally brushed off as another poor woman from the slum. In the initial emergency we funded the boy’s treatment, but stopped when the danger passed. Peregrine’s best discernment from what the doctors tell he is that right now, all he needs is time and attention. Of course, Shazia is left uncertain and concerned.

9am On the way to work I pass a bike shop. Some weeks ago I had gotten Shadia’s bike fixed there, and Shadia had give then a tongue-lashing for using child labor. Today the manager calls me over. “This boy,” he motions to the 9-year-old that works there, “can you take him into your care? His situation is very difficult, his life is very bad.” I thought Shadia had said that the boy had family in the village, so I ask. “His father is dead. His mother is in the village, but she is poor and cannot care for him. He should go to school, get a good life, shouldn’t he?” I excuse myself from the conversation and get to work as soon as I can.

2pm Our neighbor’s son is in jail. He’s been there since last year. I’ve lived in this new room for almost three months and only found out about him today.

3pm I overhear Alia, one of my fellow teachers, say something that catches me off guard. I ask her to repeat herself. “You know Mira? She is sick, and she didn’t recognize who I was.” I remember Mira is a slender young teenager who I had met some weeks earlier.  She has been sick from hepatitis, and now something had messed with her brain enough that she didn’t recognize anyone anymore. She’s getting a CAT-scan soon. I suspect it could be as simple as extreme heat, dehydration, or malnutrition. Alia tells me this had happened three years earlier as well.

4pm I am searching the alleys for absent students when I come across a friend who I hadn’t seen in weeks. Heavy makeup is caked on her face. I ask her what the occasion is, and she turns aside and doesn’t answer. A young neighbor pipes up, “She got married a month ago!” I ask my friend if it’s true, and she nods. What do you say to that? The new bride may be 17 but she looks a 13 year old, no bigger than my two young friends who got married off last year and are suffering the consequences. No bigger than their own mothers when they got married.

5pm Pappu, an acquaintance of mine, is in the hospital. Hepatitis. This time a year ago his daughter missed more than a month of school and nearly died from the same thing. After teaching I stop by Pappu’s home to ask the family how he’s doing. There’s a lock at the door, meaning they’re at the hospital with him. Three nights ago a mutual friend had said that Pappu’s condition was poor. Another tragedy cycles.

6pm Our landlords are beating their six-year-old. Again. He is very “naughty”, so he gets beaten a lot. They don’t have any framework for another option.

7pm Little Senna tells us that she can’t go to a regular school because she has to do too much work around the house. I had been teaching her to read the last few weeks, and Peregrine had been planning to recommend her to someone trying to get kids enrolled in a local school. But if housework is the real reason she doesn’t go to school, then outside assistance is unlikely to make any difference.

Senna changes the topic to her friend, who I only began teaching this week. She says, “I feel sorry for him. He prays a lot…I feel sorry for him.” She doesn’t elaborate. I want to probe further at a later time. It could be nothing or everything.

When Senna leaves, Peregrine tells me that the young daughter of someone who used to be a friend of ours had come by earlier in the day. The girl mentioned that her older sister has gotten married. What? I guess it’s been 2-3 years since we’ve seen her, she was about 12 then but might be 14-15 now…another one, really? I want to cry.

9pm As I return to the room with Peregrine we see police motorcycles pulling up. A crowd is milling around my neighbor’s door. There had been a fight, domestic violence against a young wife. At first I thought the woman was unconscious, but minutes later she is walking normally. The husband was taken to jail. His wife will return to get him out the next morning. Beyond other reasons…having both sons of the household in jail at the same time might have been too difficult for the family to handle.

24 hours in my community.

And it’s 115 degrees today. And I have a cold. And I’m not sleeping. There are good stories too, and I want to tell good stories more often, but these were the stories today.

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