I am living on too little sleep most of the time.
It is the story of Shanta that keeps me up at night and my two year old son that wakes me early in the morning.
It has been this way since 2008. This was the year I met Shanta and the year I became pregnant. The two most transformative events of my life happened just months apart. And they both have put me on a thrilling, unkempt, angstfilled track that I can’t get off. My only option is to make another pot of coffee and keep doing what I am doing.
The story of Shanta and the raising of my boy, Hale, keep me on a constant rotating roller coaster—if one has me slowly ascending with sweet anticipation, the other has me begging to get off the ride. They both bring me such immense, unexplainable joy. They both bring me these dark waves of deep frustration—regret even. (Am I allowed to think such a thing?)
When the documentary makes progress—maybe a grant is awarded, Hale decides to spend a day refusing to get dressed and I am in my pajamas till two. After a day of snuggles and milestones, I feel the project is too huge—impossible. What am I doing? Will it ever get done? This is stupid—unreasonable even. I gave up a well paying, rewarding job as a teacher to be in the unpredictable, no paycheck world of documentary. Everything we do is piecemeal.
Why am I spending time I could be with my son to make a film about a girl who is thousands of miles away, who speaks a language I don’t understand— and who is no longer alive.
Why am I spending time prepping snack for preschool when I could be working on the answer to the question the whole world needs to know— why did Shanta take her own life?
In 2008, my husband, Scott, and I traveled to Nepal to film a promotional piece for an NGO that provides scholarships for girls to go to school. Shanta was a stellar example of why educating girls is the best thing we can do for the world. She moved from her tiny, remote village to live with her brother in Katmandu and to attend one of the best schools in the country. When we met her, she had been in the city for a year. She had learned to read and write. She had some English. Shanta was at the top of her class.
She told us she was going to become a doctor. She told us she was going to return to her village to teach the women about contraception. Shanta was angry that her mom had so many babies—that she was just one of many.
Shanta was angry about a lot of things. She was routinely pushed out of line at the local fountain because of her untouchable caste. Her sisterinlaw, a mother of two who has never spent a day in school, harassed her for being yet another mouth to feed. Her apartment was too small, dark