By Carlos Po
The taking of a life never seems fair, and when it’s someone close to us, someone who never even got the chance to graduate high school, it serves as a grim reminder that life is no guarantee and can be cut short with little notice.
Navi Bhandari was a sophomore about to end the year when unexpected medical complications arose over spring break, leading to his hospitalization.
Tragedy struck the Bhandari family on April 12, and ISM’s superintendent Mr. Toze visited the family the following day. Navi’s funeral on April 15 was attended by roughly 60 students and several faculty members, despite the short notice and its placement during a time when they could be expected to be relaxing on a beach or touring colleges instead.
Resuming school on Monday was an almost surreal experience, as the assembled high school, typically a jumble of different uniforms, all wore white as per Hindu mourning rituals. Seeing the principal, Mr. Dickinson, whose presence normally strikes fear into the hearts of students, whom the high school had all seen make aggressive speeches on stamping out prejudice, openly stop talking and dab his eyes, gave everyone present the sense that normalcy would not resume for some time.
Walking into the AMR, which had been transformed into a memorial to Navi, one truly understood what this boy meant to his friends, his teachers, and everyone who knew him.
Dozens of paper cranes surrounded a yearbook photo of a smiling sophomore, perfectly preserved in the amber of a moment. The cranes symbolized the faith shared by all that Navi is now somewhere much better than any of us could imagine, and the healing process that will have to take place within everyone. Whiteboards were adorned with countless letters in all shapes, colors, and sizes from students and staff, recounting fond memories and little lessons in living he constantly gave.
“Navi was one of those truly kind and curious students,” recounted Mrs. Thompson, his English teacher. “Always had questions, for me or his peers. He was also the kind of student who would stop on his way out the door with another random question.”
She recalled his penchant for memorable compliments, such as, “That was a very wise idea!” or “I really enjoyed in that presentation when you…” and lamented that with his loss, a sense of collective goodwill departs as well.
And it’s not just high school feeling the shock. Dr. Lacson, his 8th grade math teacher, had something to say about Navi’s character. “Navi Bhandari was, by far, the most courageous ISM student I’ve ever met. He refused to use the elevators. He always used the stairs. He didn’t want to use a rolling bag, he wanted to use a backpack. When I asked him why, he said it was because he wanted to be like everyone else.”
Dr. Lacson continued, “He was a remarkable boy. He was fluent in German and as smart as a doctor as a result of his many surgeries in Germany for his condition. Of all the students I have ever taught at this school in the nine years I have been here, I have never seen courage like that young man.”
He concluded, “May God rest his soul.”
And, of course, his 10th grade peers feel the impact as they lose a classmate who helped them study for Biology, gave them advice on author presentations in English, and debated with them in MUN. Alec Cortes, one of his close friends, said, “Navi was a really unique person, and he had many ways to make us happy. We all didn’t notice that until, you know, he left. But I guess now we can say that for sure, he really left something with us, and we’d never forget it.”
It is unanimous among those who knew Navi that he was a true Bearcat. He constantly inspired people, made them laugh or feel good about themselves wherever he went, and served as a constant reminder to everyone that you don’t have to let something negative define who you are. You can rise above it if you choose, and we thank him for personifying this truth.
Personally, Navi, I didn’t really know you too well. We passed in the hallway without saying a word at least once a week. I heard plenty of hilarious stories about you. But, even knowing only that much, I can say that this rightly feels unfair. Seeing the impact it has on teachers and students alike is gut-wrenching. To Navi’s parents, I can’t even begin to imagine what this must feel like.
I realize this quote is really cliche among Lit students, but Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I believe that those of us that you touched will keep a bit of you with them wherever they end up. On behalf of the class of 2017 and the entire ISM community, farewell, Navi Bhandari, and “shine on, you crazy diamond.”