Testing Gulshan = No amount of tragedy — be it war, illness or mass shooting — could stop her from following her dream.

The Atlanta police chaplain appeared calm and composed as he stepped through the door of Gulshan Harjee’s home that summer evening in 1999.

Gulshan remained in denial about the news she was about to receive, even after learning there had been a mass shooting on the street where her husband worked. Even after authorities recovered her husband’s driver’s license from the scene. Even after Dean Delawalla — her first love, the man who encouraged her to come to America, and the one who helped her achieve her dream — did not come home that day.

There are other buildings on the street where the gunman struck. There are other offices in the building where Dean worked. Maybe the shootings happened elsewhere. Or maybe Dean escaped. The mind has a way of weaving just enough hope.

This was before Sandy Hook. Before Las Vegas. Before Pulse nightclub. This happened when mass shootings could still shock.

Pink and white balloons drifted in a corner of Gulshan’s Sandy Springs home as dozens of grim-faced friends and relatives streamed in to offer their support. Gulshan and Dean’s daughter Shahla had celebrated her fourth birthday just the day before.

Are you Mrs. Harjee? the police chaplain asked.

I am.

I am sorry to tell you, but your husband was killed today.

How sure are you?

Ma’am, it’s your husband.

The chaplain showed her Dean’s driver’s license and hugged her. Then he led her to a chair, where she collapsed. Shahla crawled into her mother’s lap.

Where is Daddy? she asked.

Gulshan and Dean had endured so much before coming to America: discrimination, disease, war. This wasn’t supposed to happen in America. They thought they would be safer here. Dean’s death would test Gulshan’s faith. She had to find a way to persevere. Her children were counting on her, as would many others.

2

Rehmat the resilient

Gulshan’s journey began in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest point. She remembers marveling at the snow-capped dome glowing pink under the sun. She grew up in Tanzania with her parents, two siblings and paternal grandmother, Rehmat, her hero. Rehmat doted on her grandchildren, often hugging and kissing them in between sewing and playing solitaire. Gulshan vied for Rehmat’s attention with her younger siblings, chatting with her in Kutchi, the language of her grandmother’s Indian homeland. Around their neighborhood, Rehmat was nicknamed “Bibi,” or grandmother in Swahili. Gulshan inherited Rehmat’s grit, a trait that would serve her well on her own journey.

 

 

Categories: The Muslim Times

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