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26 Feb 2017

Do we belong, widow asks - A searing question for America

Sunayana Dumala
TT, Feb. 25: The wife of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the Indian engineer shot dead in a Kansas bar, has sought "answers" from the US government and "everyone out there" about stopping hate crimes in America.
"I have a question in my mind: Do we belong?" Sunayana Dumala was quoted in the Kansas City Star as saying at a news conference organised yesterday by Garmin, the company where Srinivas, 32, worked as an aviation systems engineer.
Sunayana, who was to fly back to India for Srinivas's funeral, said she wanted to return to their Olathe home to fulfil her husband's wishes for an American life and "me being successful in any field I choose", the newspaper reported.
But before making that decision, "I need an answer," she says in video footage of the news conference that shows her pausing repeatedly to control her emotions.
"I need an answer from the government; I need an answer from everyone out there: What are they going to do to stop this hate crime?"
Many in America and India have linked the shooting to President Donald Trump's harsh tone on immigration but the White House has rejected the charge.
Sunayana, who like Srinivas had secured a degree and a job in America, said she often worried about media reports of hate crimes but her husband would, with his usual optimism, brush away her concerns.
"We've read many times in newspapers of some kind of shooting happening everywhere (in America). And we always wondered, how safe?" she says in the video. "I, especially, was always concerned: Are we doing the right thing of staying in the United States of America? But he would always assure me that only good things happen to good people. Always think good...."
Sunayana described Srinivas, who would have celebrated his birthday on March 9, as a "very passionate" person and "a lovable soul". "His passion was aviation. He wanted to succeed so much in this industry and wanted to do so much for this country. He didn't deserve a death like this," she said.
Sunayana spoke of how Srinivas had come to America with "lots of dreams" and how "we got our dream house" in Olathe, described as a hub of South Asian immigrants where 84 languages are spoken.
"We were planning to have kids; I wish we had one so that I could have seen him in the child. Now... I just have his memories - that's it."
Srinivas's boss at Garmin, Didier Papadopoulos, said: "Genuinely, he was - if not the best - one of the best people I've ever met in my life."
Arrested suspect Adam W. Purinton, 51, had allegedly abused Srinivas and his closest friend and Garmin colleague Alok Madasani, 32, in the bar and later returned to shoot at them and fellow customer Ian Grillot, 24, who had stood up for the Indians.
Alok, walking with crutches, made a surprise appearance at a company vigil in honour of Srinivas on Friday morning and received a standing ovation from the 200-odd Garmin workers present, the Kansas City Star reported.
"There wasn't a dry eye in the place," the report quoted company spokeswoman Carly Hysell.

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