Remembering Pritam Adhikari with Locks of Love

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“My name is Indira Adhikari from Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Before two weeks we have donated our hair to Locks of Love through Great Clips Salon. 15 of us had filled up the donation form too. … We donated our hair in the name of Pritam, one of our brothers who passed away due to cancer. We are remembering and appreciating him by donating our hair in his name.”

So wrote Pritam’s sister Indira to the Locks of Love, an organization that serves financially struggling families in North America. The Locks of Love provides natural hairpieces to their children under age 21 who are suffering from long-term hair loss due to any medical diagnosis, including cancer.

L-R: Hema Adhikari and Hari Adhikari Neupaney after cutting their hair (Pictures courtesy: Indira Adhikari)
L-R: Hema Adhikari and Hari Adhikari Neupaney after cutting their hair (Photo courtesy: Indira Adhikari)

When Pritam Adhikari died this year on January 5, news of the scholar-hero-friend’s death at age 22 quickly spread to family, friends, teachers, and coworkers worldwide via word of mouth and social media. Born in Bhutan, Pritam grew up in the Bhutanese Refugee Camp of Beldangi-II in Nepal, when his 100,000-person community was ethnically cleansed from its homeland. When Pritam’s family joined the growing Atlanta Bhutanese refugee community in 2008, he took advantage of every opportunity to achieve his early childhood dream of becoming an aerospace engineer. Applying to colleges in 2010, Pritam wrote in his personal essay, “Life circumstances required me to follow a long, nontraditional route toward my goal, and though I am financially poor, mentally, I’m rich!” He passed away two days before he was to begin studies at Georgia Tech.

Bhola N. Adhikari, Pritam’s father, praying after lighting 23 candles on Pritam’s 23rd birthday (Picture courtesy: Indira Adhikari)
Bhola N. Adhikari, Pritam’s father, praying after lighting 23 candles on Pritam’s 23rd birthday (Photo courtesy: Indira Adhikari)

“We lit 23 candles at home — one candle for each of his years on earth”

Though their hearts were broken, Indira, joined by her sisters, cousins, and friends, quickly turned the staggering loss into a project honoring Pritam’s life and legacy of hard work, diligent study, and loving kindness. They committed to “donating our hair in his name on his birthday, August 23, because he would have turned 23 years old this year,” she explained.

“I hope our donation will help somebody”

For nearly half a year, “Team Pritam” reached out and coordinated donations around the USA. They conceived a plan, set a goal, and reached it while working, studying, and helping their families and communities in the challenging work of resettlement. In Indira’s post on Facebook’s Bhutanese Refugee Atlanta Group, she encouraged people to donate. “I hope we will get the chance to reach to lots of people who knew Pritam,” she said. “I think that most of them would love to donate their hair because the little donation will help to bring a smile to those little “Cancer Survivor Girls” and others.”

Indira Adhikari holding the thank-you postcard Locks of Love sent (Picture courtesy: Narayan Subedi)
Indira Adhikari holding the thank-you postcard Locks of Love sent (Photo courtesy: Narayan Subedi)

Now, after successfully completing their project, Indira hopes to reach many Bhutan News Service readers and encourage them to help others “even if they do not have nothing with them.”

Team Pritam: the Donors
From Georgia: sisters Hema Adhikari, Indira Adhikari, Yamuna Adhikari, Hari Adhikari Neupaney; cousins Rhea Sharma, Shavika Subedi; Friends Uma Acharya, Radhika Gurung, Sabitra Khatiwoda, Doua Morris; and Great Clips Salon at Northlake Crossing, Tucker, Georgia

Rhea Sharma after cutting her hair (Picture courtesy: Revaz Sharma)
Rhea Sharma after cutting her hair (Photo courtesy: Revaz Sharma)

From Texas: cousins Dambari Adhikari, Yashoda Adhikari

From Pennsylvania: Bedi Dhital, friend

From Ohio: Asha Gurung, friend

Indira gives special thanks to Doua Morris, Director, Refugee Women’s Network, where Indira worked this summer. “When I told Doua about Pritam’s story and what we were going to do, she was eager to join us. I was touched by her willingness to help us.”

Congratulations to all the donors for cutting their locks to make wigs and hairpieces to help children hold their heads high in dignity and joy.

Author’s note: Deep thanks to Indira Adhikari for contributing to this article by sharing with me the project from dream to realization via private messages on Facebook and email, and for contributing the photos and providing descriptions and credits. Indira studies in the Nursing Program at Georgia Perimeter College, Atlanta, Georgia.

4 Tamar OrvellTamar Orvell writes and creates multimedia content to help individuals, teams, and organizations communicate effectively with diverse audiences. An active volunteer with at-risk communities, she is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel, where she lives in Tel Aviv. Readers can reach her at [email protected]