On April 13th, 2018, a group of children from the Vivekanand camp were playing cricket outdoors when they bore witness to the accident which has shaken this community. A bus parking at the nearby British School for the evening lost control, taking the life of Rahul, a thirteen year old boy, and severely injuring the ten year old Jagdish.
Our own AES community’s understanding of Rahul, the young boy who passed away on the site of the accident, is regrettably limited. He began MAD last August, placing in Level 4. In the little time we had him in our program, he managed to make an indelible impression on all of his teachers as one of our most resilient students. Ms. Lisa Kagan, one of the volunteer teachers for his level who had worked with Rahul for the past seven months, wrote the following after learning of the accident: “Rahul really was a special being… We said it about him all the time,” recalling how he faced challenges with enthusiasm and a smile. “It was so impressive. He seemed like a very contented soul.”
Amit Naftali, a former MAD student leader and a high school volunteer in Level 4, also shared his memories of Rahul: “To be honest, I don’t really know what to say. I don’t how to react, or how to process the fact that I won’t be able to see Rahul’s smiling face every single Tuesday anymore. I won’t be able to hand him his name tag at gate 2 or help him with the tongue twisters in class, or even sit with him at his table when he can’t figure out the grammar of one of the sentences we practice. I remember one time that he kept insisting that the correct format of a sentence is ‘I has go to the store yesterday’. There was something so sweet about seeing the progression of understanding through Rahul’s eyes in level 4. He was kind, soft spoken and generous, and I am devastated with the thought of not him not being with us- of saying goodbye to Rahul- the flower that wilted before getting the chance to bloom. Now, I’m not sure what to tell the other children in the class, Rahul’s 13 friends that were always (well, not ‘always’) in my class. There is some emptiness, a void that just opened in our hearts since Rahul was taken from the class. Now, we have to pick up the pieces and try to fill that void. We have to fill that void with more passion, with more friendships and with more love. We must let the power of education bring us closer together than ever at times like these. We must remember that Rahul will always will be in our hearts and mind, watching our every step with pride.”
What is perhaps most striking about this situation is how many of those “who barely knew Rahul still feel the sorrow of his loss,” as one of our volunteers who had spent in a month in his level later commented. His ebullient character and the joy he brought to each lesson spoke to each of us volunteers, who know similar students in our own levels: the students with ambitions, whose faces light up when they see their volunteer teachers at Gate 2 every Monday and Tuesday. It also spoke to members of our AES community outside of MAD, who, through their own experiences with service, have known similar young boys and girls with similarly determined to succeed. Collectively, what we mourn goes beyond what passed on that evening on the 13th: we mourn what could have been, a young life which could have flourished has the accident been averted, and are reminded how vulnerable the smiling children we see each week are outside of this campus.
Rahul left behind a brother and two sisters, who, along with his parents, attended a remembrance service for him on Monday, April 23rd. His brother is in the same class as Jagdish, and one of his older sisters is two levels above him. Many of the students in Jagdish’s level, some as young as eight years old, were present at the time of the accident; some were so young that they struggled to understand and describe what they had witnessed.
Their classmate, Jagdish, who many of us know as a joyful, energetic, young boy, joined MAD’s new Beginners Level this January. He has been recovering in the hospital from a pelvic fracture since the accident, and is expected to be released in three weeks and make a full recovery. MAD looks forward to welcoming him back in August.