Slain Indian student Abhishek Bhat’s family flying to the US for funeral

In happier times: Abhishek Bhat (center) seen with his cousin Abhineet (left) and another cousin Gurushree during a childhood trip to an amusement part in Mysuru. Photo courtesy of the Bhat family.

Mysuru native’s parents worst affected; Cousin’s family would never send him to America now.

On Thanksgiving Day, as millions of Americans celebrated and cherished their family ties, a 25-year-old young student from Mysuru, India succumbed to mindless gun violence.

Abhishek Bhat had spoken to his family, back in India, on phone barely minutes before he was shot dead with no one knowing that this would become his final good bye call.

When shortly thereafter the family received a phone call about Abhishek’s death, they could hardly believe what they heard.

The news of the California University student being shot dead at a San Bernardino motel where he was working part-time sent shockwaves in the US as well as in India .

Abhineet Raghavendr, Bhat’s first cousin who is devastated by the loss, told the American Bazaar that Abhishek’s small family —mom, dad, younger brother — will be flying to the US for his funeral. Abhineet’s father and another uncle would also accompany them.

“Both his parents are devastated. The younger brother is trying to stay strong,” Abhineet said talking about the family’s struggle in coming to terms with Abhishek’s  untimely death.

“We come from a strict Brahmin family, we consider it a sin even to kill animals,” he said. “Abhishek’s parents can’t seem to digest the fact that their son was killed by a gun shot.

“If it was an accident or something, it would have been still understandable. This is murder. The only time, anyone in our family has ever picked any instrument that can harm is when we chop vegetables with a knife.

“This blow is too devastating for the entire family. None of us are able to sleep or eat.”

Abhishek Bhat
Abhishek Bhat; image via GoFundMe.com

“We had to give sleeping pills to Abhishek’s dad to put him to sleep for some time,”  Abhineet said. “He goes to bed crying and he gets up crying.”

The family learnt about the tragedy with a phone call from one of Abhishek’s friends who works in the same motel.

“The place where my cousin was working at the time of the incident wasn’t even his regular work place,” Abhineet said. “He was covering for a friend at the time of the incident.”

The family apart from dealing with the untimely loss is also concerned over the delay in cremation due to the ongoing investigation.

“We are conducting the funeral in Los Angeles in an electric crematorium,” Abhineet said. “In our religion, we are supposed to cremate the body immediately. Also, because he lost his life unnaturally, his spirit should be calmed.”

“The problem is that the investigation is taking a lot of time,” he said. “We wanted to shift his body to a private hospital of someone we know, but the US government says that it’s difficult as his body is evidence itself.”

“We have also started a GoFundMe for him and his family.”

Asked if the American authorities have been helpful, Abhineet said, “Yes, they are doing their best. Also, my brother is a graduate from MIT, Boston, he’s been in touch with the (Indian) consulate in that area.”

“But, for now, the biggest concern is that we receive the body as soon as possible.”

Among other logistical problems, the family is facing is that the passport of Abhishek’s younger brother Abhishresta’s expired recently. They are trying to get his passport renewed and have also applied for a US visa.

“We have informed the (Indian) external affairs minister and the home minister. The local state ministers are helping us with the visa and passport.”

Remembering his cousin Abhineet said, “He was a very sweet lad. Growing up, I wanted to be with him and play with him all the time. He used to treat me like his own brother. We used to speak for hours on video call even while he was in the US.”

About Abhishek’s family background, Abhineet said, “My uncle (Abhishek’s father) runs a Yoga center in Mysuru and is an established Yoga teacher.

“But my cousin had big dreams. He wanted to retire his father from the job and take care of the entire family on his own. He fought with his parents and had gone to the US to study.

“We as a family warned him and asked him to stay safe. He used to work day and night to earn and provide for everyone in his family,” Abhineet said. “He never complained about anything and always wanted to see his family smiling.

“He wanted to earn and provide more so that his younger brother could study medicine. He had big dreams and he worked very hard for it.”

On how the family reacted to the tragedy, Abhineet said, “It hurts us even more because the man who shot him didn’t even have a reason to shoot.

“Apparently, my brother (cousin) just asked him to vacate the room. God know, what was going on in that room. But 15 seconds later he was shot.

“Abhishek had gone to the hotel that day to cover for his friend. For now, the CCTV footage is being withheld as it is evidence and it could go viral.”

Asked if the authorities in the US were in touch with the family, Abhineet said, “The detective in San Bernardino, involved in the case is being very helpful.”

On why the family in Mysuru, did not leave immediately after the incident, Abhineet said, “They (American authorities) tell us that since it is Thanksgiving no one is going to be there. Everything starts from Monday.”

The tragedy will also go on to shape many future decisions of the family.

As Abhineet who just finished his mechanical engineering said “I wanted to work for a year and then apply to an Ivy League college in America. Obviously now my parents are never going to send me to America.”

(As told to Zofeen Maqsood.)

ALSO READ:

Fundraiser started for Indian student Abhishek Bhat shot in US on Thanksgiving Day (December 1, 2019)
Indian American student found dead in Chicago University garage (November 25, 2019)

Indian student dies in a pool accident at University of Rhode Island (February 26, 2019)
Indian student stabbed to death in US by Indian roommate (July 19, 2016)
Indian-origin student of Rutgers University killed in off-campus shooting (April 12, 2016)

Indian American youth Amritraj Singh Athwal facing death penalty for murder of Indian student (December 21, 2017)

Indian student dies in a pool accident at University of Rhode Island (February 26, 2019)

Man accused of murdering Indian American student Pravin Varughese appears in court (November 20, 2017)

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