Crossing the Lines


Shannon with crowd next to Tarbarak's sewing shopTwo families touch one another from opposite sides of the world.

Written by Lindsey Lowe

 

No one would argue that Chip Moore is a kind man. His eyes have a certain sheen that invites you to sit down and stay awhile, and his laughter is the kind you can hear a room over. And he’s probably always been that way—a kind man—but he suggests that perhaps he hasn’t always been as generous as he is now. Like many of us do, he spent many years passing people by, until one day, something—or rather someone—stopped him. “[My family] was at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando,” Moore says. “John, my oldest, may have been 8 or 9. We saw this man begging for change. Shannon [his wife] had always chastised me for not helping, because you know, I’d say, ‘Well, he’s probably going to buy drugs or something.’ You know all of the reasons you don’t help. We walked by this guy, and like most of us do, I ignored him. And John looked at me, and he goes, ‘Dad, how come you didn’t help that guy?’

“How do you explain to an 8-year-old the complications of why you don’t help somebody? Like my wife says, you’re helping—what he does after that is not your issue. I made a commitment after that to help—not everyone—but to make a concerted effort.” So that’s how it began.

Several years later, in the summer of 2012, Moore read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Rahima Sheikh, who lived in India and was fighting a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. The article described the difficulties for Rahima and her husband, Tabarak, who had been forced to mortgage their farm to pursue a cure for his wife. A second article a few months later, with a purpose of bringing awareness to drug-resistant TB, also caught Moore’s attention. He was particularly in awe of Rahima’s six-year perseverance for a cure, despite her circumstances. The family lived in a 240-square-foot house in a remote village; they lack things Americans consider basic, like a toilet or a refrigerator or a government that has done treatment testing for a TB cure. But the Sheikhs had traveled thousands of miles around India, using every bit of resources they could find, in search of medicine that would make Rahima well. “She’s a fighter,” Moore says. “I admired it—years of hell trying to get cured. I had visions of India, with the remoteness and the travel difficulties and the complete lack of safety net in that country.”

Tabarak and Rahima

Tabarak and Rahima

Moore, a real-estate developer in Birmingham, emailed Geeta Anand, the writer of the Wall Street Journal story, and asked how he could help. “I thought, ‘Wow, [Rahima] needs some help. I think she just needs a little bit of money and some resources, and she can kick this thing,’” he says. Anand directed Moore to Anjul Srivastava, who was living in California and had also wanted to help. Indian-born, Srivastava was able to communicate with the Sheikhs, as well as with Moore and Shannon. He became the go-between for the two families, who were nearly 9,000 miles apart. Moore initially wired $1,000 to India and assumed that would be the end—a one-time donation that provided a family with the resources they needed. But as they continued to receive updates from Srivastava, he and Shannon became invested in Rahima and Tabarak and their three children. Moore explains that Srivastava acted as a sort of bookkeeper for the family, making sure the funds sent to them (from both Moore and Srivastava) were being used efficiently. “[Srivastava’s] motivation was that he’s Hindu and she’s Muslim, and you know, they don’t necessarily get along in India…and he said, ‘I just thought it would be good if she saw that somebody from her village who was a different religion would help.’ He was building those little bridges,” Moore says.

More than a year after the first contact between the three, the Sheikhs’ situation had improved: Rahima had finally secured the medicine she needed, and Tabarak was working to get his family to a place where they didn’t still feel hungry after their meals. Moore and Srivastava were both still involved and wanted to help Tabarak implement a long-term solution. Srivastava learned Tabarak had worked in a Mumbai sweatshop and had sewing skills; Moore sent funds for him to begin a clothing business (eventually named Shannon’s Designs). A business man himself, Moore decided that he needed to be there in order to make sure all facets had been examined, and that is how he and Shannon ended up on a plane bound for India in August of 2013.

Moore confesses that though he had sown into the family tremendously, he was nervous to finally meet them. But when they arrived, they were greeted in the road by Tabarak, who was ecstatic to see them. “We flew in and went to eat dinner,” Moore recounts. “I’ll tell you, they were so excited…[Tabarak] jumped out of the car and was yelling, ‘Thank you, thank you.’” And so began three days that defied all of the lines we both desperately try to cross and back away from: The Christian Americans and the Muslim Indians sat down, together, and ate a meal of goat and rice. Everything about them was different, from their clothes to their customs to their languages. And yet, so much was the same, and the meal, which the Sheikhs had worked hard to prepare (Srivastava had sent them the money for a goat), was delicious.

Tabarak's Shop

Tabarak’s Shop

Much of the trip was spent learning about Tabarak’s business plan, which he was constructing with the help of Moore and with advice from another tailor in the area. Moore says that by visiting, he was able to redefine his focus of the family’s needs and get them things that would truly improve their quality of life. One day, they ventured to the closest urban area, a two-hour drive away, to visit the market; there, Moore was able to buy things like a fan and an inverter and batteries to power Rahima’s nebulizer, since the Sheikhs only get power for an average of three hours a day. But he remains adamant that the Sheikhs are not—nor were they ever—a “charity case.” “The objective is to restore confidence and dignity to Tabarak as a man who is independently providing for his family,” Moore says. “So he can send his kids to a better school. Or any school.”

There are many moments from the trip that Moore and Shannon can share that speak to the strength of human connection and of what happens to both parties when lines are crossed. Even now, months later, Moore’s voice cracks when he imagines the way Tabarak must feel now that his wife is in remission and his family leaves the dinner table feeling full. In a different life, if Moore had been born somewhere else, the story could be different. Whether it was luck or fate or divine intervention, that wasn’t the case, but he knows now it could have been.

Of course, Moore’s generosity to the Sheikh family changed their lives, but he says interacting with and watching the Sheikhs changed him, too. For one, he saw they never gave up on Rahima, or each other, when it would have been much easier to do so; the marriages in India are arranged, and sometimes, families abandon one another when someone becomes a liability. And while Rahima had certainly been that, Tabarak had done everything in his power to make her well. “One day, we were visiting [Tabarak’s] father-in-law, and I could tell that he really wanted his father-in-law to be proud of him,” Moore says. “Apparently he had been a bit of a disappointment to the in-laws, because he had to go off for months to work, but the way he has stuck by her…he is in their good graces now. When we went to see his father-in-law, I looked at him, and I said, ‘Let me tell you something. What your son-in-law has done—what Tabarak has done—is remarkable.’”

[L to R] Moore in sweatpants made by Tabarak, Rahima's mother Gulshan, Shannon, Afroz, Rahima, Tabarak

[L to R] Moore in sweatpants made by Tabarak, Rahima’s mother Gulshan, Shannon, Afroz, Rahima, Tabarak

The purpose of all of it was to gift to the Sheikhs something they had not been sure of in a long time: A future. “Because we had stabilized them financially, and they were able to pay debt off, [the kids] were able to go back to school,” Moore says. “I didn’t really think about me being the catalyst for that. Tabarak was talking about school, and I said, ‘Listen, I got a couple boys. Man, you gotta be proud of them. That’s the good stuff.’ He turned to me, and he said, ‘You made me proud of them.’ I said, ‘No, they’re your kids. You taught them.’ He told me, ‘You allowed me to keep them in school, so that I can be proud of them.’

“Of everything, that still gets me. That stills gets me.” In his eyes, there’s liquid proof that it does indeed. He’s quick to remind you that he’s just an average man, but then, he’s also a kind man—and kindness, well, it takes us across the lines.

 

One Response to “Crossing the Lines”

  1. Banshi Srivastava says:

    Quite nice article and can really understand the joy which must have been derived by all those connected with helping the family. Lot of efforts are being put by the Govt. to help TV patients -whether it is the quick and timely detection of MDR TV or medicines…..Please see comments in the related article in WSJ . The greatest problem is proper utilisation of facilities and awareness. Due to lack of it 2 persons die in India by tuberculosis every minute. Please find comments and read the same per reference given .Like other diseases TB is also taken lightly and medicines are left in the middle .This obviously led to drug resistance and creates lot of issues. Though things are improving but we have miles to go.

    If in Mumbai you need me to visit to find any details about the families being helped by you or you intend to help would definitely look for the same. Even if there is social work in any poverty alleviation programme please do not forget to contact. .
    Once again thanks .
    Banshisrivastava

Leave a Reply