Reviving compassion

By Lawrence Bailey

It is unlikely many of you have heard of Kaluda Karmaker, less likely you have met him. His was a heart-warming story.

Born in Bangladesh, he worked hard to receive an education, to make his way in the world, and after a bachelor’s degree in Dhaka and a master’s in Norway, he came to the University of Calgary to pursue his PhD.

He was immediately respected in the Engineering department for his intelligence, his kindness and his devotion. He was a passionate and talented musician and fell in love with and married his wife, Rita, three years ago.

On the evening of Sat., June 14, 2003 Kaluda was to attend a sitar music recital alongside Rita. Kaluda never made it to the recital. Feeling ill, he was taken to the Foothills Hospital at 7:30 P.M. He passed away that same evening at 11:50 P.M.

As you read this, Rita is still trying to cope with the loss of her husband, a loss made all the more difficult due to the fact that she is pregnant with the couple’s first child. Furthermore, as international students, the Karmakers did not have life insurance and relied on loans and bursaries granted to Kaluda in order to pursue his research.

You would likely not recognize Rita if you passed her in the hall, or sat beside her in a lecture theatre. You might not ever take note of her. You probably wouldn’t care.

And that’s the problem.

As a people, as a culture, as a society, we have begun losing the value of compassion. Sure, we care for our friends and family, we worry about them, but it’s increasingly rare to give a damn about humanity.

While I understand the constant moans and lamentations about rising tuition, car troubles and hangovers, I don’t often sympathize. They pale in comparison when you step back and take a look at the world. The story of Rita Karmaker shows this can happen here as well as there, now as well as then.

We are fortunate, as Canadians, as Calgarians, as post-secondary students, to be among an elite minority, locally as well as globally. Many of us are aware of this and appreciate it, however we fail to see the tragedies surrounding us. Perhaps it’s the guy you last made eye contact with in MacEwan Student Centre, or the girl you let pass before you in your noon lecture.

That’s the point, we never know who might be struggling just to make it through the day.

So please, take a moment each day to be thankful for what you have, and make the effort to be happy and courteous to others. For someone taking it a day at a time, a smile or a door held could make that arduous task infinitely more bearable.

The Graduate Students’ Association has established the Kaluda Karmaker Memorial Fund to help Rita and her unborn child bear the financial burden they are now facing. The response has been depressingly underwhelming to date, as only $550 has been raised over two months. Please, forgo the morning coffee for a week or a pitcher or two at the Den and lend a hand. Every last donation helps.

Questions and donations should be directed to the GSA office (MSC 350) or to GSA VP Internal, Kevin Douglas at


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