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Harvard Affiliates Gather to Honor and Remember Ahmed S. Gondal ’18 and His ‘Radiant’ Smile

By Lucy Wang, Crimson Staff Writer

Around 40 Harvard students and administrators gathered in Kirkland House’s Senior Common Room Thursday night to honor Ahmed S. Gondal ’18, who died suddenly earlier this week.

In an email sent over the House mailing list Wednesday evening, Kirkland’s faculty deans Thomas C. Conley and Verena A. Conley wrote that Gondal “passed away unexpectedly at home in Pakistan.”

Gondal, whom close friends and family members called “Shujju,” graduated from Harvard in May with a concentration in Government and a secondary in Economics. During his time at the College, he served on the Honor Council for three years and was a member of both the Cricket Club — leading the group as its captain in 2016 — and the Debate Team.

On one side of the room Thursday stood a table with pens and stationery. Administrators encouraged attendees to write remembrance notes, which they promised to send to Gondal’s family in Pakistan. Those in attendance spent most of the evening sharing stories about Gondal, often tearing up as they spoke.

Many fondly remembered Gondal’s ever-present smile.

"He had this radiant smile that he would have on his face every time I saw him," Kirkland resident dean Soha Bayoumi said.

Friends said Gondal had plans to pursue a career in public service in Pakistan. During his four years at Harvard, Gondal maintained a steady and serious interest in his childhood home. He rose through the ranks of the College’s Pakistani Students Association to become its president.

He wrote his senior thesis on the cybersecurity of the Pakistani electoral system. And he served on the board of the Harvard Pakistan Forum.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, members of the Pakistani Students Association wrote that the group plans to hold its own memorial service for Gondal “in the coming weeks.”

Farhan U. Javed ’18, who served as co-president of PSA with Ahmed, spoke at the memorial service Thursday. He detailed one of his favorite memories of Ahmed, describing the time the two of them drove across Cambridge to pick up desserts for a club dinner.

Javed and Gondal had ordered “gulab jamun,” a dessert consisting of fried dough covered in a sugary syrup that Javed said is very popular in South Asia. Javed said Gondal could seem somewhat formal — but that he had a playful side and his playfulness was on full display during the car ride.

“We were just blasting Pakistani music, driving 400 gulab jamun through Cambridge back to Harvard Square,” Javed said. “But when we got back, we opened the trunk and the syrup from the trays had fallen all over the car.”

Rida Qadri, who coached Gondal through a successful debate career in high school, also attended and spoke at Thursday’s gathering.

Qadri is now a graduate student at MIT and lives in Cambridge with her husband, Feroze H. Shah. The couple has known Gondal since 2011. Qadri and Shah, who Gondal used to call his “adopted parents,” said Gondal loved McDonald’s chicken nuggets, barbeque sauce, and Coca-Cola. Wherever he went, they said, he was always looking for a can of Coke.

Qadri remembered travelling to Ireland and Mexico with Gondal as he competed in international debate competitions. She said Gondal always jumped forward to lend a hand, no matter what was going on.

“He was very tiny but always wanted to help,” Qadri said. “We did a lot of moving around, and he called himself ‘muscle man.’ He would always say, ‘Muscle man will be there.’”

—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22

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