On Tuesday at 6 pm, a group of students from the South-Indian community organized and lit candles outside of Kerckhoff to observe and mourn the death of Srinivas Kuchibotla, a 32 year old Indian engineer from Kansas, who was shot while hanging out with his friend. Although the vigil turnout was small, it was nonetheless moving. The constant theme in the conversation was “how do we even talk about something like this.” Many raised concerns about their inability to share their grief with their families, as Indian families tend to be non-assertive, and tend to brush controversial issues under the rug. Therefore, the vigil was their respite. It was a place where they could talk and ask questions like “are we safe,” “what should we do,” and “how do we cope.” Although there were no clear answers, what was comforting for them was knowing that there were others who shared their concerns and fears. They came together to have a soothing conversation, and it was that support which helped in calming their fears.
Watching this group of people standing around a candle lit heart had many bypassers stop and join the vigil. This raised another concern: how do we raise and spread awareness of such tragedies and events which we mourn for? A woman who joined us explained how sad it was that she didn’t know about the shooting before the vigil, and wished the organizers had made a better effort in making people aware of it. The conversation after that concluded on one point: the minority community has to make an effort to not function in isolation, as they sometimes tend to do. The communities, be it Indian, Muslim, or Latino, have to make an effort to extend an invitation to make other people part of their conversations. In order for any movement to gain momentum, it needs people’s support, and in order to gain this, the affected communities have to reach out to other people and make them part of the conversation in order to raise awareness. There were two white students who joined the vigil because they saw the candle lit heart, and this reminded the group that the community will always find support if they ask for it. Another example of this is Ian Grillot, the man who put himself in the line of danger in order to tend to Srinivas when he was shot, getting injured in the process. The group acknowledged that situations like the travel ban need the overwhelming support of the people who are not directly affected by it, but regardless come together on humanitarian ground to fight against it, which is so comforting and motivating.