Ashna isn't coming home


The last photograph: Ashna Shakya (third from left) with her friends before boarding the plane on 12 March in Dhaka. Only Samira Byanjankar (far left) survived the crash along with Princy Dhami (not in the picture). Saruna Shrestha (second from left), Algina Baral (second from right) and her cousin Charu Baral (right) also died. Photo: Bangladesh Mirror

It is the final day of MBBS examinations at Ragib-Rabeya Medical College Hospital (RRM-CH) in the Bangladesh town of Sylhet for Nepali medical students.

The students were completing five long years of their medical school, they were stressed yet excited to be graduating. They were even more thrilled to be going back to Nepal to their families.

Dipa and Ashna were worried about the exams. Ashna, being the calmer one and the stronger willed among the two, told her not to fret and just focus on her studies. All along, Dipa had depended on Ashna’s support.

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Ashna tells Dipa about her early morning phone conversation with her mother in Nepal who had wished her good luck for the final exam, and how much she was looking forward to seeing her home soon. Ashna told Dipa she felt confident after the call, and was sure her exam would go well.

Dipa flew back to Kathmandu on the same day after her exam, leaving Ashna with her other friends who were flying on the next day.

On 12 March in Kathmandu, Dipa got a call from her friends still in Bangladesh saying that a flight from Dhaka had crashed. Dipa thinks it is a joke, until she hears it was the US-Bangla Airlines flight her friends boarded. She turns on the tv, and the news is all over. She finds out Ashna is among 11 of her friends who died.

Dipa hurries to hospitals and helps families to identify their daughters, her friends. Despite the vast sadness welling up, she suppresses her emotions as she tries to comfort the parents and relatives.

On Tuesday, Dipa builds up her strength to go and see Ashna’s parents in Patan with four other friends who were at school together. Ashna’s mother Rupa Shakya is sitting on the floor, and her face lights up briefly when she sees Dipa and her daughter’s friends. She extends her arms and gets hugs. The tears flow, as she mumbles her daughter’s name. Seeing this, Dipa’s pent-up emotions erupt in a flood of tears. Face pressed against her knees, Dipa’s hunched shoulders are convulsed with grief.

“I still have 14 months of internship left in Bangladesh,” she sobs, “how am I going to complete it? I do not want to go back to that place now, what is the point? I don’t have anyone to lean on …I should have forced Ashna to fly back with me.”

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