Bhutia used to say if you are hard-working, do not give up your American dream
Friends from India's north-east living on the US west coast as well Tibetans attended the funeral of Tshering Bhutia who was killed in a college shootout last week. Ritu Jha reports
About 50 friends, family members and people from India's north-eastern regions paid their final tribute to Tshering Rinzing Bhutia, 38, a student from Sikkim who was among the seven killed in the Monday, April 2, shooting at Oikos University, a religious college in northern California.
On Saturday afternoon, Bhutia's body was brought in a silver casket to the McAvoy O'Hara the Evergreen Mortuary in San Francisco for a prayer service before his body is flown to his native place, Gyalshing in Sikkim, by Air India.
Bhutia's body will be reaching his home just a day before his 39th birthday.
"His body will be going to Chicago and from there it will be reaching to Bagdogra airport, Sikkim, at about 1.30 pm on April 11," Anand Kumar Jha, consul (community affairs) at the Indian consulate in San Francisco, who attended the prayer service and helped set up the funeral home and clear the documents required before releasing the body, told rediff.com. "It's a new experience for us officials. The consul-general is doing what he can," added Jha.
Bhutia's nephew Karma thanked everybody for coming to the funeral service and recalled, "My uncle was very smart and hard-working." Karma, who lives in Los Angeles, is doing his masters in electrical engineering from UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He recalled that when he came to the United States a year ago, Bhutia came to meet him in Los Angeles. "He was very helpful. He used to say if you are hard-working, do not give up your American dream."
Bhutia, a nursing student, was killed when the shooter stole his car outside the university's parking lot on Monday morning at about 10:33 am.
Image: Thepo Tulku, member of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, writes his tribute to Bhutia at the funeral service
'I wish he had come late for class that day'
Bhutia was hard-working too, but unfortunately, "He never realised his American dream," said Bhutia's friend. She said he was always late in class as he worked nights at the San Francisco International Airport, but the day of the shooting he was on time. "I wish he had come late for class," said his friend, wiping her tears.
Also at the funeral service was the owner of the residential hotel where Bhutia had been staying for the last six years and some of his friends from there. "Just three days before his death, he said, 'Patelbhai, one day I will be like you'," Navnit Patel, who owns a hotel in North Beach, San Francisco, said. "I never ever saw him having argument with anyone. He is a sober man and many times, he paid his rent in advance." Patel said he used to tease Bhutia saying, get us free medicines when you become a doctor.
The hotel manager Prem Patel said, "I learned about his death when I switched on the television at 11 am. I called on his cell phone to find out where he was." An hour after the incident, the media landed up at the hotel saying Bhutia was a suspect in the shooting as the killer snatched his car. "I denied it, saying impossible. He carries no gun. I was confident, I knew him for the past several years," he told rediff.com.
Image: Friends from the noth-east at Bhutia
'We are here for Bhutia'
Bhutia was planning to visit India in November and had plans to get married. "He was waiting for the nursing course to get over in June," said Prem Patel. "Till today I cannot not believe he is no more."
Members of the Tibetan Association of Northern California attended Bhutia's prayer service and also helped organise the rituals. "Bhutia used to visit us, so we are here for him. He was a simple man, religious and hard-working," said Thepo Tulku, member of the TANC.
Another friend of Bhutia from Sikkim, Tsering Tamding, said, "We do not feel safe. The US government should have control of guns in California."
Neeraj KC from Nepal said, "I am attending the service because my uncle and Bhutia's uncle back home are friends."
Meanwhile, the Oakland police on Friday confirmed that a weapon used by one L Goh, 43, matched the serial number of a gun purchased by Goh. He has been charged in the fatal shooting of killing seven people and injuring three.
On April 4, Goh was formally charged by the district attorney's office with seven counts of murder under special circumstances, and three counts of attempted murder.