Last week, I learned of my friend Sujal’s passing. He died in an accident in Uganda, and my mind is still reeling with sadness and shock. Part of me still can’t believe that he’s gone.
Sujal had been working in Kampala, Uganda on AIDS research and education at the time. It was the last of the many good, world-changing things he set out to accomplish. He was killed when a car struck the motorcycle taxi he was riding. (The story was featured an msnbc.com article about international roadway safety, and also written up in the local paper in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he attended school.) I found Sujal’s blog chronicling his time in Uganda. Tears streamed down my face as I read about all he was doing, and how happy he seemed.
Sujal and I attended high school together and worked alongside each other in student clubs. Even at 16, he was eloquent, organized, passionate and vocal about helping those who were suffering in the world. Many of us remember him well for his relentless work on global health and his ability to lead, even when we were in high school.
There were many wonderful things about Sujal I had forgotten. Reading through the old AOL instant messenger conversations, I started to remember them all. We had talked about serious things, like poverty in Africa, as well as random stuff like bad reality TV shows. No matter the topic, he always had insights that I hadn’t thought of.
In our serious talks about what it would take to change the world, he would quote famous leaders like Che Guevara. “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolution is guided by a great feeling of love,” he once told me. Ghandi was one of his favorites: “The planet has enough for everyone’s need, but not everyone’s greed,” he once shot at me when were were debating economics and the scarcity of resources.
When the powerful call-to-arms “World on Fire” music video went viral, he sent me the link, and talked of how it made him want to leave school, roll up his sleeves and begin assisting the poor.
In high school, Sujal juggled a staggering number of things, all while keeping up his grades. Some of it was stuff most high schoolers do — he worked at Subway for a summer, and once in a while hooked us up with sandwiches. But most of it what he did, whether it was college-level lab research or volunteering in his spare time, was extraordinary. Continue reading