vigil 4

 

Anushka Gupta can still hear Karan Khullar’s voice in her head.

Repeatedly, she hears Khullar tell her, “I’m hungry,” and, “I’m sleepy” in Hindi.

On Monday, she stood with about 100 others on Turlington Plaza to mourn the death of Khullar, a 22-year-old foreign exchange student who died on Feb. 11 after police said he was hit at a bus stop by a drunken driver.

Khullar moved to Gainesville from India in January. At the time of his death, he had been living in the city for just two months.

The vigil was put on by the Asian American Student Union, Indian Student Graduate Association, Indian Student Association and Sikh Student Association. The Dean of Students Office and the International Center helped organize the service and passed out white candlesticks, which were lit in a circle.

“I cannot believe he’s not here with us,” Gupta, a 22-year-old UF computer engineering senior said. “This is not possible.”

Gupta and Khullar went to the same college in India and came to UF together in December as exchange students. Khullar booked their flight. The small group that came from their college celebrated New Year’s Eve together in Tampa, happy to finally be in America, Gupta said. She said she was moved to see the amount of people who came for Khullar, even if they didn’t know him.

Gupta took photos of the crowd to send to Khullar’s brother back in India.

“I see so many people connected,” Gupta said. “It just makes me so happy to see that they’re here for us.”

To keep others from experiencing the same loss, those gathered signed their names in Sharpie onto a pledge beside a photo of Khullar smiling, vowing not to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Ronit Dastidar, the external vice president of AASU, said he hopes to hang the banner of signatures in the Student Activities and Involvement suite.

Dastidar, a 20-year-old UF microbiology and cell science junior, said the groups began planning the vigil about a week and a half ago. Although not everyone knew Khullar, what happened to him could have happened to anyone, Dastidar said.

“It’s not an isolated incident,” Dastidar said. “Drunk driving can take anyone at any time.”

Lakshay Arora, a 23-year-old UF computer science graduate student, knew Khullar in India, and the two were roommates in Gainesville. Arora came to UF a year before Khullar. He said the two used to talk about when they would be reunited again in America.

Though they fought often, Arora said he misses Khullar.

“He’s like a brother to me. Wherever he is, I hope he’s hap- py,” he said.

Contact Romy Ellenbogen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @romyellenbogen