My language teacher, Cheri, is pretty amazing. She married at the ripe old age of 30, which in a land where women are usually married at age 15, is pretty ancient. Cheri’s husband, Jim, was a widower, so Cheri inherited all of his children when they married. She loves each of them like they were her own, despite some of the struggle that came with such a dramatic transition.
Five years ago, Jim was kidnapped. Alone and afraid with her step children, Cheri was forced to hear the news and stay updated through Jim’s brothers because, well, Cheri is a woman. No captor around here would try to negotiate with one of those. They were demanding all kinds of money and making outrageous claims, but it at least confirmed that Jim was alive.
“I had to sell all of my jewelry,” she told me. “It didn’t matter to me anyway. The only thing I wanted was Jim. Every night, I would cry. I tried to hide my sadness from the children so they wouldn’t lose hope. We didn’t know if we were ever going to see him again,” Cheri whispered. She spoke in her sweet broken english to keep her step daughter from understanding our conversation.
After a month in captivity, an agreement was met. For a ransom of 21,000 rupees, Jim was promised to be returned. That’s 250 bucks. But to a poor local at the time, that kind of money was more than they might make in 6 months. And in a place where people are hardly making it day to day, no one has that kind of money saved up.
“He doesn’t talk about what happened when he was gone,” Cheri said. “When I saw him again for the first time, he was wearing the same thing he had on the night they took him. He was thin and looked like he had been hurt badly, but I don’t know what happened to him…”
The ramifications of it all have been pretty huge. Jim’s youngest daughter would cry uncontrollably every time he left for work, and it went on for months. She’s so fearful, in fact, that she refuses to go to school or be a part from Cheri. Ever. Despite Jim’s silence on the issue, he is a wonderful father and husband to his family.
As we finished up my language lesson, Cheri kissed my cheeks and hugged me tightly. I looked at her and her step daughter and tried to imagine the terror they’ve lived through. My eyes welled up with tears as I gave her one last hug goodbye. I learned a whole lot more than just imperative verbs today!