It is starting to rain, as it did on the Walk for Jalal last year. I walk in silence alongside Cara and members of Jalal’s family. I breathe in the crisp Boston air, and smell the rain, the ocean, and the maple trees. I have never seen Autumn as dramatic as in Boston, and the trees drop leaves of intense yellows, oranges, browns and reds. I am reminiscing, contemplating, and remembering the events of 3rd December 2011.
In November, Cara and I went to Thailand with the intention of emigrating there (this didn’t work out). On December 3rd 2011, we attempted to save the life of a man who was snorkeling at Yanui Beach in Phuket. He passed away later that day. That man’s name was Jalal Alamgir.
Jalal was an Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Massachusetts Boston, and was newly married. He obtained his Ph.D from Brown University. In 2007, he led a campaign protesting the detention of his father by Bangladesh’s military-led caretaker government. He cycled 85 miles for the Pan-Mass Challenge to raise funds for cancer research, inspired by the experience of his mother’s treatment for cancer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He was part of several projects with the United Nations Population Fund, the Watson Institute for International studies at Brown University, the Southern Asian Institute at Columbia University and Center for Policy Research. He loved music, cricket, and kept up great relationships with many family and friends.
At the time of his death, he was working on several research projects ranging from political violence and justice in Bangladesh and Pakistan, foreign policy of Bangladesh, the representation of values in Indian foreign policy, and the relationship between authoritarianism and globalization in Myanmar. This is why the Walk for Jalal and the Jalal Alamgir Memorial Fund were started; to raise funds to support scholarships and lectureships that reflect Jalal’s teaching and research on issues of democratization, social justice and human rights.
The events of December 3rd 2011, and the events that followed, profoundly impacted my life. Last year, Jalal’s family contacted me, and flew Cara and I to Boston to attend the third Walk for Jalal. We met his mother and father, his brother, and many of his extended family. We were treated like royalty, and embraced with an overwhelming amount of warmth, kindness and generosity. We heard music Jalal made, were given books Jalal had contributed to, and heard stories about his life and how he had affected and influenced other people’s lives. I wish that I could have met Jalal. In the ways mentioned above, I feel like I have experienced some of his presence; I feel like I have met some of him.
This is the reason why we were in Boston again this year, and we attended the fourth Walk for Jalal this past Sunday. I feel honoured to be have been included in remembering Jalal, and to build friendships with his incredible family. I am humbled, and all I can say is thank you to them.