The New Zealand family of six month old Aaron Chhetri had celebrated his rice-feeding ceremony, or anna praasan as it is called in the Nepalese language, only five days before his life was cut short in a tragic road accident yesterday evening, an Auckland-based community leader told southasia.com.au.
The rice-feeding ceremony is a massive, jubilant event for any Hindu family. It marks the day when a baby is given food for the first time in its life – a memorable life event.
The boy, his father Tula Ram Chhetri, sister Jessica Chhetri and mother Mon Chhetri were returning home to Christchurch when their car collided with another vehicle leading to the tragic death of the mother and son. The 44 year old father, who was driving the family car, and his 10 year old daughter Jessica were flown to Christchurch Hospital.
Before being brought by the New Zealand government as part of a multi-national resettlement programme of Bhutanese refugees, the Chhetris were in the UN-supported camps in Jhapa district of Nepal. They arrived in Christchurch in March 2008 and had well-adjusted to their new country.
A statement released by New Zealand Police indicated that the car driven by Mr Chhetri hit an oncoming vehicle after approaching State Highway 8 south of Twizel, “The driver has slowed at the intersection and has pulled out on State Highway into the path of an oncoming vehicle travelling south towards Omarama.”
The three passengers in the second vehicle also had to be transported to hospital, two by helicopter and one by ambulance.
Mr Chhetri is a community leader who works as a liaison officer for a local agricultural college. An ‘extremely popular’ figure among Christchurch’s 300 plus Nepalese-speaking Bhutanese refugees, the father of four is said to be a very community-oriented person. His 37 year old deceased wife also used to work in the community but had given up job since Aaron was born in order to care for him.
“He has regained consciousness. Doctor has said he is out of danger,” the president of Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) Baburaja Maharjan told southasia.com.au on Wednesday. Jessica would be released today, he further added.
The four members of the family were returning home to Christchurch after they dropped their eldest daughter Srijana Chhetri at Dunedin where she was set to attend University of Otago, the Auckland-based community leader said over telephone. Eight year old Vidhya, another daughter of the Chhetris, was fortunately with their relatives at the time of the tragedy.
Mr Maharjan remarked he did not know the tragedy-stricken family personally but knew of it through his friends within the Non-Resident Nepali Association. “One of my NRNA colleagues works very closely with the Bhutanese community in Christchurch,” he told southasia.com.au. The community of Bhutanese refugees is very tight-knit given the small number of them in the city, he pointed out.
NRNA New Zealand has just set up an account to help out the bereaved family, Mr Maharjan said. Anyone wishing to extend financial assistance to the Chhetri family can do so by using below bank details:
ASB BANK 12-3066-0148917-01
Account Name: NRNA