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Hundreds mourn slain Langara College student, Manraj Akalirai

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A mourner pays her respects at the memorial for Manraj Akalirai on Elgin Street. Photo: Ben Bulmer 

“He just didn’t deserve it”

Hundreds of mourners crowded into the Riverside Funeral Home in Delta on Sunday to remember the life of Langara criminology student Manraj Akalirai.

Akalirai was only 19 years old when a group of men slew him with a sword in East Vancouver on Jan. 23. Five men were held in custody by police but released after two days.

During the cold grey Sunday afternoon, mourners, many dressed in white — the traditional East Indian colour of grieving — walked silently through the drizzle into the funeral home.

With the huge parking lot full, cars lined the streets leaving some attendees with over a five-minute walk just to get to the gates of the building.

A candlelight vigil was held on Jan. 30 at Elgin Street, close to where Akalirai was murdered. Over a hundred people poured onto the sidewalk and stood between parked cars whilst friends and relatives laid flowers and shared fond memories at the site — which has now become a memorial.

“I went to high school with him. I’d known him since we were kids, he’s just a kind guy — [a] quiet guy,” said Satveer Dhaliwal, a former classmate. Although Akalirai was known to police, Dhaliwal said he had “never heard a single bad thing about him.”

“He was a really good guy, he never hurt or harmed anybody, he was always happy, he just didn’t deserve it,” said a man who described himself as “one of Akalirai’s best friends” but didn’t want to be identified.

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Mourners lit candles and brought flowers and messages to Akalirai’s memorial on Elgin. Photo: Ben Bulmer

Langara counsellors offer empathy and support

It can be a psychological burden to lose someone in a violent manner. Grief can be compounded when a person dies in something as dramatic as a murder, according to Langara counsellor Paula Obedkoff.

“There’s a lot of anger that goes along with [grief] especially in violent situations,” said Obedkoff. “There’s grief and there’s loss, but in a violent situation there’s an element of surprise and shock and an element of powerlessness,” she said.

“When you lose someone very quickly you never have a chance to make amends,” said Obedkoff.

Counselling is very little about advice and more a process of listening and witnessing a person’s story — it provides emotional support and allows people a safe, confidential environment for people to work through grief, Obedkoff said.

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Candles were lit again Wednesday morning at Akalirai’s memorial site. Photo: Ben Bulmer

Often the people in your life aren’t always great listeners and although they care, counselling allows a person extra support and empathy, she said.

The Langara counselling department is open for appointments between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 3:30 p.m. Friday. The department also has daily drop-ins between 11a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Reported by Ben Bulmer

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