The refrain started at an early age, whispered as he pinched her chubby cheeks. On the days he couldn’t see her -- because he left at one dawn only to return hours before another -- he towered over her bed and tried to channel his dreams into hers. When she outgrew his lap, the message crescendoed into screaming matches over school dances, missed curfews and C’s in calculus.
Don’t be like me.
Premkumar A. Walekar had dropped out of college. He worked two jobs. He bought a lottery ticket every day.
”I don’t want you to go through what I go through,” he’d say to Andrea, his firstborn.
On Oct. 3, shortly after his 54th birthday, he was shot and killed as he pumped gas into his taxi in Montgomery County, among the first victims in the Washington area sniper shootings. In life, his message often fell on defiant ears. In death, it falls on dutiful ones.
Tomorrow, Andrea Walekar, 24, will graduate from the University of Maryland University College, an event her father had anticipated for years. She thought about dropping out herself last semester, her studies forgotten in the stream of flowers, visitors, casseroles and interviews. Then she remembered what her dad would have wanted, what he always wanted.
Six days after his death, she e-mailed a professor, pledging to return the following week: ”My father really wanted me to finish school and he was looking forward to my graduation. So this will just motivate me more.”