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SUCHILLA'S TRUE STORY

By Satya Savitri

india is full of thieves
corrupt
the rich despise the poor
and don't touch

men murder their wives for dowry
throw gasoline over them
burn them
ALIVE!
a daily occurrence
no prosecution
police bribed

I met Suchilla
invited to her house,
if you can call it a house
cement box
ten foot square
hole in roof
stuffed with plastic bags
for repair
as landlord refused,
for many indians
it was a good house

on the wall a picture
of Jesus
Sacred Heart exposed
bleeding!
beside it a photograph

Suchilla lived,
if you can call it living
with three grandsons
very young,
she worked hard
she never begged
which was unusual,
she asked for work
not handouts
three boys to feed
school uniform to buy
pay for their books
if she did not work
they did not eat.

I asked,
“who's picture?”
her daughter, now dead
burnt to a crisp
with gasoline
just another young wife gone
agonizing death
boys without a mother

I held Suchilla in my arms
as she wept
I too lost my children
I know the pain
and said
“you must give your pain to Jesus
he has his hands out to take it
but, you must GIVE!”

two mothers
united in pain
one message

days passed
I saw Suchilla
radiant
“I did it!
I did it!
I gave him my pain
and he took it”
gone!

when my lease
was coming to an end
I had not found
a place
Suchilla said,
“you must stay with us
you must not be homeless”
and I wondered
where would I sleep?
where would I wash?
no tap!

again she said,
“you must come to our church
for Christmas,
you must share our Christmas meal!”
I wondered,
of rice?
of lentils?

I lost Suchilla
the landlord sold
the scrap of land
to developers
luxury apartments
bathrooms
but no water
the well was dry

I never forget Suchilla
her simple faith
her generosity
sharing of her deficiency
as she had no abundance
to share

but she had faith
in Jesus
this healed her pain.

where does she live now?
I sit in my flat
too big for me,
my bed, my table and chair
and I am angry!

I shout about the packaging
on food
the waste of plastic bags

what does Suchilla eat now?
I criticise out loud
greed
complacency
hypocrisy
and am accused of arrogance

“judge not that you be not judged”
is thrown in my face
by bigots
who live in comfort
with hearts
cast in stone

but,
I know
that every grain of rice
I waste
is one
Suchilla
won't be able to eat

I know
that every plastic bag
I save
could repair Suchilla's roof

and although on different continents
everything I do,
think and say,
can help or hurt Suchilla