Monday, September 14, 2009

For Rashmi

Below are remarks that I read earlier today at a memorial gathering for Rashmi Bhure, a 2009 graduate of COA who died last week. It was incredibly difficult and sad to write, and very hard to read aloud.


We gather today with heavy hearts to mourn the passing of Rashmi Bhure and also to remember and celebrate her life. I knew Rahsmi as her teacher and her academic advisor, and I am grateful to be able to share some memories and reflections in the company of others who knew her and cared for her.

Our thoughts today are with Rashmi's mother and her sister. Know that all of us at COA offer you our deepest sympathies. You are in our thoughts, our prayers, and our hearts.

I extend my condolences to students, both here in this room and spread out across the globe, who have been touched by Rashmi's life and feel the pain and loss of her death.

I also acknowledge four of my friends and colleagues who in recent months worked especially closely with Rashmi: Sarah Luke, Rae Barter, Lucy Creevey, and Todd Little-Siebold. I know these last few days have been challenging. Your care and guidance meant a great deal to Rashmi. It means a lot to me, too. You have my deep gratitude.

Rashmi was my advisee since her first days at COA. She began her studies here focusing on development and economics, feminism and gender studies. She took challenging classes and did well. Like many COA students, she arrived on campus with a vision for a better world, and was exploring paths to conceptualize and realize that world. Her professors praised her curiosity and sincerity, her thoughtful comments and interactions in class.

I got to know Rashmi directly as a student when she took my Calculus class in her second year. The material was not easy for her, but she challenged herself to understand. And she succeeded, and she left my class understanding Calculus. But Rashmi was on her way to learning that economics and calculus and policy were not her true passion. The type of change she was interested in could not be measured by a derivative. Her dreams and hopes were too big to be measured in dollars and utility functions.

A turning point for Rashmi was the Popular Psychology class she took with Rich Borden. I think she was surprised to find that the study of psychology resonated with her in a way that economics did not. She then planned a residency, the equivalent of three independent studies, for the subsequent fall. She chose to call this project "Approaches to Emotion in Ancient Indian and Western Psychology." Under the guidance of Rich Borden and Jen Munyer, Rashmi sought to understand and synthesize Eastern and Western approaches to emotion, the mind, and the self. Rashmi wrote that this residency was a transformative experience and helped her make sense of her COA education and her life. She found this work intellectually satisfying, stabilizing, and on more than one occasion expressed gratitude for the support she received from Rich and Jen and the opportunity to craft such a project.

Rashmi spent most of the next several terms in India, doing internships and a senior project with various self-help and microfinance organizations, and also with a youth media group. She completed her senior project, titled "The Microfinance movement: Studies in India," and this July was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. I am so proud that she made it.

I will remember Rashmi as a kind and gentle young student. Rashmi was acutely aware that she straddled religious and cultural worlds. She patiently lived in this superposition—humble, curious, and delicate. Rashmi had remarkable grace, not only in her physical comportment but in the way she strove to make a path through a world that for her was too often difficult and frightening.

As teachers we are used to students coming in and out of our lives. It is part of the rhythm of our profession. But no teacher expects to say goodbye to a student in this way. I struggle to find words for my confusion and pain. I feel I have so much to say, and yet there is nothing that can be said. There is no category to which the emptiness belongs, no calculation that makes sense of it, no words that lessen the loss.

We cannot fully know the forces that breathe life and love into an otherwise still earth. But we do know that it is right to dedicate our time on earth to nourish those forces so that their light burns a little more brightly.

We cannot fully know the darkness that took Rashmi from us. But we can seek solace and warmth in friendship, fellowship, and community.

And we cannot possibly know Rashmi's pain during her last days or hours. But we know that beauty and love endures in even the darkest of times. We can hold each other a little closer, give thanks, and treasure each, deep breath.

Rashmi, we love you. We miss you. And we will remember you always.

3 comments:

mirzalas said...

Gracias Dave

I will definitely miss Rashmi. She was a great friend and a wonderful person I am keeping her smile in my mind.

Anonymous said...

I knew Rashmi for a few weeks last year when she was here in India for a summer internship. I had received an email from her earlier this year when she was in India. After that there was no correspondence from her side though I had written back to her. I was just looking up on the net to see what kind of projects she was involved in at the moment as she always was into something interesting.
I was shocked to read this instead. I would very much like to know how I could get in touch with anyone who throw some light on what actually happened.
I pray form her mum and sister.
RIP, Rashmi. I will always remember your thoughts, your kindness and smile. :)

Bea

dave said...

Bea,

Send me an email and I'll see if I can find contact info for you. You could also try contacting Mahinda UWC. They might know how to get in touch with her family.

dave