Her name is Shaemoli and she has a drug addict for a father. Her mother is considered “ugly” and “stupid” and though she’s illiterate she’s the one who did menial house-work for rich neighbors until her own health gave out. She’d take her whole salary to the grocery man and give it to him, just so Shaemoli’s father wouldn’t get his hands on that money too. When it was time for Shaemoli to get married, some of my friends decided to pay for her continuing education instead of paying for her dowry. Shaemoli is in her third year of college now.

Shaemoli and her mother came to visit my friend last night, while we were also visiting. With the men in the room, they kept smiling and telling us that yes, everyone is healthy, yes, Shaemoli’s studies are going well. . . but then a few minutes after the men left the room the smiles left. My friend asked if Shaemoli had gotten married, as two months ago, she had told them about a prospective groom.
“Yes, the wedding happened, the marriage was . .” What strange verb tenses she is using! I thought.

Then the sad story came out. This man, Mintu, was so very in love with Shaemoli. She met his parents and his brother. Mintu didn’t ask for a dowry, and for a poor family, that’s a dream come true. So the wedding took place. But then the neighborhood started buzzing with rumors — “That man has another wife! That man has three kids!” At first Shaemoli and her family didn’t believe the awful rumors. Finally they sent an aunt to chase down the rumors. She indeed found another wife, with a daughter in 8th grace, a little son, and a baby on the way.

So Shaemoli left, filed for divorce, and returned to her parents. The man, Mintu, is still coming over to beg her to come back. His parents and brother have come also, begging Shaemoli, touching her feet and promising their care and love for her. Meanwhile, the neighborhood is deriding Mintu for his actions, calling him “the father of three”. Mintu got so angry that he goes home, takes a big stick, and purposely beats his wife to kill his third child. Five days later she goes into labor and delivers a dead baby. She’s just barely alive, in the hospital, and her kids are crying after their father for enough money to eat.

Shaemoli, in the eyes of this society, is now used goods. She has no dowry which could possibly buy her a second marriage. Jobs are scarce, especially for girls. Her parents will not be able to support her for the rest of her life. Words fail. Here’s to holding out for a God who catches each tear and counts each wrong.

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