A student tragedy

By James Keller

Tragedy found in the wake of a student’s death is often measured by its impact on the campus community. However, the recent passing of University of Calgary Chemical Engineering graduate student Kaluda Karmaker is evidence those touched by a life can extend their mourning and remembrance outside the academic realm, and towards those most affected.

Earlier this year, Karmaker, a PhD student nearing graduation, passed away after suddenly falling ill. Karmaker is survived his wife, Rita, who has been particularly burdened in months following.

"Rita doesn’t have anyone in Calgary, as far as family is concerned," said family friend and U of C Electrical Engineering graduate student Debashis Chanda. "She is also expecting a baby soon, so that’s another thing on her mind. She’s very much upset and worried about her future."

It was for this reason that Chanda, along with fellow graduate student Naresh Bajaj, approached the Graduate Students’ Association to set up a memorial fund to provide short term assistance for Rita as she tries to adjust to a troubling financial situation.

"Karmaker and his wife are both international students, and they did not have life insurance. This left the widow in quite a bind," said GSA Vice-President Internal Kevin Douglas. "Of all the groups that wanted to do something, the GSA could have the best impact making it public around campus."

Rita is a SAIT student, and the two relied heavily on Karmaker’s scholarships for financial support. The fund will most likely run from three to six months, with money delivered once a month. Since the start of the fund, with the GSA’s own contribution of $200, about $500 has been raised.

Although, according to Chanda, the response from the university community simply hasn’t been enough.

"I don’t know exactly how much people are responding, but as far as I can say it is not good enough," Chanda said. "I don’t think [students] are taking the proper initiative."

Chanda has known the Karmaker family for the better part of a year, meeting at a concert in which the couple performed–Kaluda on the tabla, and Rita on the harmonium. According the Chanda, Karmaker enjoyed his time at the U of C.

"He was happy. Before he expired, he was presenting two papers and he was having a fun time," Chanda remembered. "He was happy to be ending U of C; he was starting to write his thesis."

Coping with the death of a student is certainly not new to the GSA. According to Douglas, two graduate students pass away each year, and when possible, the GSA tries to help. Beyond the fund, Douglas thinks the circumstances surrounding the incident may promote change within the GSA.

"We are looking at possibly being able to offer life insurance," said Douglas, adding that their international status also present special circumstances not faced by other students. "International students in general face a lot of barriers, and we want to eliminate those as much as we can. Perhaps they didn’t know the issues surrounding life insurance."

Donations to the Kulada Karmaker Memorial Fund can be made in person at the GSA offices at MacEwan Student Centre Room 350. Cheques can be made payable to the Graduate Students’ Association, with a memo mentioning the fund.

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