Jaahnavi Kandula – every life is valuable
A candlelight vigil honoring the memory of Jaahnavi Kandula was held in front of the restaurant Swagat in Milpitas, Calif. on Sept. 20, 2023. The 23-year-old graduate student was killed in Seattle in January after being hit by a police car.
The vigil was hosted by the Bay Area Telugu Association (BATA), the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), and the Association of Indo-Americans (AIA). Verses from the Gayatri Mantra were chanted along with passages from the Bhagavad Gita and the Quran.
Raj Salwan, City of Fremont Councilmember, joined representatives from the Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Himachal Pradesh communities, in expressing grief for Kandula’s death.
“She, like many of us, came to this country with the hope of the American dream. You know, we all have that story. My father has a story and many of you have, of having $3 in your pocket. And you have a dream and hope that you come to this country where you can succeed, away from all the barriers, all the struggles. And to have someone judge you as being insignificant or not important, not worthy, it’s very hurtful to the sentiments of the community. And so Jaahnavi reminds us that every life is valuable, …. it is unlimited value. And so we light this candle in her honor. And we will always remember her,” said Salwan.
She’s our girl
Vijaya Aasuri, an advisor for BATA and a member of AIA, felt it was important for the community to come together, representing different states of India, “not just because she is a Telugu girl, no, because she’s a girl, she’s our girl, who lost her life at a very unfortunate and early age. And that shouldn’t happen to anyone and justice should be brought.”
Ram Thora of TANA was at the vigil and was also part of the team that helped get Kandula’s body back to her family in India in January. Kandula’s family wanted her body in India as soon as possible which meant a flight through Los Angeles. Thora, one of 18 representatives of Team Square or TANA Emergency Assistance Management, was the contact person for California.
Getting Jaahnavi home
“We immediately create a WhatsApp group, with all the involved people,” said Thora, “including the family members or friends of that victim, in this case, Jaahnavi, and within that WhatsApp group, we discuss the plan.” In Kandula’s case, it was to repatriate the body as quickly as possible.
While the vigil honored Kandula’s memory, Sateesh Vemuri of TANA added that a larger purpose was to share information on safety guidelines for Indian students arriving in the U.S. for their studies. “We spread information on, when they walk out from the apartment, what precautions they have to take, or while they’re going swimming or while they’re driving,” he said.
Team Square helps Telugu and non-Telugu immigrants during moments of crisis or transition. They get as many as five calls a week, said Vemuri. “Some calls we will get before 911.”
To learn more about Team Square and how TANA is helping and protecting Indian communities, visit https://www.tana.org
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