The Santos and Fernandes families – bravehearts left behind

Nov 3, 2011, IBNLive

How does one identify grief? Is it the number of cigarettes someone is smoking, the compulsive checking of messages on the phone? Is it the stoic belief in destiny and in how God only takes the brave ones he loves? Or is it the seething anger spilling on to cyberspace? Is it tears or that vacant look that replaces tears?

When I went to the Santos’ home, I saw all of this and much more. The picture that will stay in my head forever is of Valerie Santos, who had almost adopted all of Keenan Santos’ friends, probably trying to mask the pain of losing a son. She told me Jesus gave her the strength to carry on while making tea and refreshments for all the youngsters who had gathered there – not just to support dear auntie, but also to keep the campaign for justice going.

Valerian Santos, Keenan’s father, was a different case. Unlike his wife, he was visibly shaken, not with grief, but with anger. How could no one come forward to help his boy and why were some people now coming and trying to exploit the situation for their own political purposes? The only request he had was the accused be made an example of.

The Santos family prayed hard all the 10 days Reuben Fernandes was in hospital. Valerie Santos recalls how she thought, half of Keenan’s soul was still with Reuben and if he was saved, she would get her son back. But that was not to happen. Reuben also passed away on the 31st of October. The youngsters and the Santos’ now had to also help the Fernandes’ deal with the loss.

Reuben’s old parents are very distraught and haven’t gone out of their house or interacted with outsiders much. The old couple have not even been told the full story of the horrific incident. The task of facing the world is left to Reuben’s younger brother, Benjamin Fernandes. Benjamin has taken indefinite leave from his job. He saw his brother die in front of his eyes and perhaps that is why he doesn’t meet anyone’s eyes while speaking. He stays quiet and perhaps hopes that he could exhale the grief just like smoke from that cigarette he always keeps handy. His days are now spent trying to take care of his parents, gathering media support for his brother and taking care of legal details.

In the entire day that I spent with them, none of the family members or the youngsters, shed a single tear. Yes, the grief was present, but along with it an almost stubborn resilience and a will to get justice for the bravehearts they lost. Valerian Santos summed it up the best – I lost a brave son and I am proud of it.



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