Why Should This Ever Have To Happen?

August 6, 2009

This is a sad story I read in the papers yesterday and today. If you’re not in the mood for sad stories, skip this one.
There’s a young girl, educated but perhaps quite poor. Her mother committed suicide when she was very young, and she has a father and a couple of brothers. She has the misfortune to fall for a young, handsome boy from a different community. Despite staunch opposition from her family, she goes ahead and marries the boy. Her father and brothers disown her and have nothing further to do with her.

Her husband, of course, unveils his true colours by taking to drink and beating her regularly. Regardless of which, they have three children in rapid succession – the elder two are girls, the youngest a boy. When the youngest is born, the husband deserts her.

She struggles to survive for several months, then, when the youngest is almost a year old, and the oldest is about 4, she gets a job as a teacher at a pre-primary school. The two older kids (and this part I’m making up on the fly) also go to the same school. What is she to do with the youngest? Given that her family has disowned her, and her husband is nowhere to be found, and she obviously can’t afford any kind of day care… so she takes him along to school, somehow managing to keep him there between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Obviously, after a point, the school authorities object.

Now what? She can think of no other way, so she leaves them at home. She can’t leave just the baby, so she leaves all three of them. Locked up at home. The whole day. Because she has to earn money or what will they eat? Home is a shack with a tin roof. She’s not an uncaring mother – she leaves food for them. And water. But you can’t expect a four-year-old to responsibly look after a two-year-old and a one-year-old. One day, they find a matchbox and start playing with fire.

Can you imagine that? Three tiny kids, playing with matches, one of them catches fire, the other two panic, they have no idea what to do… three of them howling, but locked in…

They were charred beyond recognition. The papers say the experts say they must have died of asphyxiation before they were charred. I can only hope so – asphyxiation is not pleasant, I’m sure, but being burnt alive…

How can you – the mother, I mean – ever recover from something like that?

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