Students' deaths hit hard at Hopkins Indian community mourns loss of three in I-95 holiday crash

November 30, 1998|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

When Sameer Jadhav, 26, a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University from India, was invited to travel with friends to North Carolina for Thanksgiving, he declined because he felt he had too much work to do.

That decision might have saved his life. Early Saturday morning, three of his countrymen and fellow students died and two others were seriously injured when their rented Ford Escort slammed into a bridge abutment on Interstate 95 in Howard County on their way home from North Carolina.

"It could have been me," Jadhav said yesterday. "Then again, if I had been there, maybe there would have been two cars. It's just such a random thing that has happened."

Jadhav -- and other members of the close-knit Indian community at Hopkins -- spent much of the weekend making phone calls and visiting Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, consoling each other and the survivors.

Killed were Bhavesh Gandhi, 21, of Bombay; Jithesh Parameswaran, 24, of Cochin; and Swaminathan Jayaraman, 26, of Madras.

The driver, 23-year-old Abhishek Agarwal of Bombay, was in serious condition yesterday at Shock Trauma, according to hospital officials, and the other injured student, 22-year-old Veera Venkataramani, was in fair condition.

"It's been a daze," said Shankar Narayan, 22, a graduate student at Hopkins and a friend of the students who were killed. "We are in a daze."

Jadhav's roommate, Amitabha Bagchi, said his friends left North Carolina about midnight Friday. About four and a half hours later, just south of Baltimore County where I-95 intersects with Interstate 895, the car ran off the road and into a bridge abutment.

Bagchi said he and other friends suspect that Agarwal fell asleep at the wheel. Police investigating the crash could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Hopkins spokesman Steve Libowitz said the bodies of the dead were being flown to India yesterday, but he did not know about funeral arrangements or memorial services.

Friends remembered their dead countrymen as good students, full of fun and ambition.

'Full of life'

"It is a cliche to say that someone is full of life," Bagchi said of Parameswaran. "But he was always up for anything. He was full of life."

Parameswaran came to Hopkins last year and stayed with Bagchi for several days while he found a place of his own, Bagchi said.

Parameswaran planned to get his master's degree in computer science next month and move to Dallas, where he was to start a job in a research lab, Bagchi said.

According to his home page on the World Wide Web, Parameswaran had a 4.0 grade point average and was a member of the Tae Kwon Do Club at Hopkins. Bagchi said his friend also loved cricket and volleyball and spent hours surfing the Internet.

Parameswaran hated to talk about himself but loved to talk about others, Bagchi said.

"He always had the best stories," he said. "He knew all kinds of stuff." He said his friend was also a "romantic" who liked poetry.

Parameswaran's Web site has links to sites of Urdu and Hindi poetry, as well as links to numerous magazines, including the Economist, India Today, Newsweek and Time.

Parameswaran's home page features some of his favorite quotations, including "Lead me not into temptation. I can find it myself" and "There must be more to life than sitting around wondering if there is more to life."

A 'cheerful' person

Amitabh Chaudhary, a computer science student who said he knew Parameswaran well, said he was a "cheerful" person who was "also in some senses very wise and mature and a person you could depend on."

Jayaraman, who came to Hopkins in 1995 and was earning a doctorate in material sciences and engineering, also had a 4.0 grade point average, said his friends. They remembered that Jayaraman used to joke that "having a 4.0 isn't important, but I have one anyway."

"Swami was a really funny guy," Narayan said. "His jokes used to crack people up."

Narayan said Jayaraman was almost finished with his doctorate at Hopkins.

Narayan said his friend planned to graduate, return to India to find a wife and then get a job on Wall Street as a financial analyst.

"He has a very strong math background," Narayan said. "He is like a math wizard. He was cut out for the job. He had really good plans, and he was working toward them."

Bagchi said Jayaraman loved limericks and cricket.

Cricket fanatic

"He had an inexhaustible supply of Bengali limericks," Bagchi said. He also said that "when it came to playing cricket, [Jayaraman] was fanatic."

"You could talk cricket with him for hours on end," Bagchi said.

Gandhi started at Hopkins three months ago, friends said, and was working toward a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering. Narayan said he was "really an intelligent guy" and said people in the computer science department referred to him as "the theory guy" because that was his strength.

"His professors really liked him," Narayan said. When his friend wasn't studying, he said, he liked to play cricket and listen to music, especially Hindi music.

Bagchi said he called Gandhi's mother to tell her the news Saturday and was so upset by her reaction that he could not bring himself to call the other parents and passed the task to others.

"It was terrible," he said, remembering her screams. "From now on, whenever she thinks of this, she is going to hear my voice."

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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