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'A great loss': Red River drowning sends wife, daughter into mourning

Kunti Pradhan and her daughter Usha, 14, reflect on the loss of husband and father Hari Kumar Pradhan, 32, of Fargo, who drowned in the Red River this week. Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 3
Hari Kumar Pradhan, 32, was found in the Red River near south Fargo's Lindenwood Park by the Cass County Dive and Rescue Team on Monday, Aug. 7. It was the third drowning in the river this summer. Special to The Forum2 / 3
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FARGO — Kunti Pradhan got a call from her husband Monday afternoon. He told her he was going fishing on the Red River, that he'd be home soon.

Less than an hour later, Kunti was cooking dinner for him, a meal of goat meat and dal, a traditional Nepali soup. She was interrupted by a knock at the door.

It wasn't her husband, Hari Kumar Pradhan, rather Fargo officers informing her that Hari had been in an accident.

"A car accident?" Kunti said. "Is he normal?"

No, the officers said. Her 32-year-old husband had drowned.

How could that be, Kunti thought, when they had come so far in life, thousands of miles from the Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal where they spent 19 years.

It was in the camp where she met and married Hari. There, they had their only daughter Usha, who is now 14 years old — the same age as Kunti when she eloped with Hari, her classmate.

Officers escorted Kunti and Usha to the river banks Monday, Aug. 7, at Lindenwood Park where Hari had been fishing with friends and decided at about 1:35 p.m. to go for a swim that turned deadly. He became the third drowning victim in the Red River since June.

Rescue boats searched all afternoon for him, then at about 6 p.m., Kunti heard another knock.

This time it was officers telling her that Hari's body was found.

"I want to see my dad," Usha said, to which officers told the family they could not see him in person.

Instead, an officer used Facetime to show Kunti the body so she could identify her husband.

"I couldn't look. I didn't cry, I had to control her," Usha said of her mother.

Rather than revel in the remaining weeks of summer before entering her freshman year at West Fargo High School, Usha is dealing with the death of her father.

On the kitchen table where the family would have shared Monday's meal together, now sits a glass jar near Usha's new school planner and class schedule. As tradition, relatives and friends from the Bhutanese community are collecting donations in the jar to cover funeral costs.

Now knocks come regularly to the door of their south Fargo apartment with a steady flow of people offering condolences and traditional Nepali cuisine. However, Kunti has been fasting all week as part of the mourning process, she said, which is a cultural tradition.

The 29-year-old widow was still wearing black on Thursday, the day after the funeral. Through a translator, she said she hasn't been sleeping well, "can't make any decisions," and stopped working her two jobs to grieve.

"It's a great loss on the family," she said.

The Pradhans moved to Fargo two years ago after spending their first four years of freedom in Pennsylvania. They came here for job opportunities and because they thought it was safe.

"I don't know what to say. I feel bad," Usha said, adding that her parent's love story, however, makes her happy.

"He was kind to everyone and funny. When he's mad, he smiles," Usha said.

Kunti said now she has "no other choice" than to accept the unfortunate fate.

Her husband spent many hours fishing with friends and sometimes he went swimming, she said. He enjoyed decorating, cleaning and maintaining a small garden on their apartment patio.

This weekend the local Bhutanese community will gather as the Pradhan family hosts a ceremony to release Hari's soul to the heavens.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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