Akash Dube's life, though short-lived, is an inspiration to anyone wanting to make a difference in the world.

Google “Akash Dube” and you will find nothing amiss. The first hits are about the Terry Fox run annually conducted at IIT-Madras, his facebook profile along with his LinkedIn page. There are even a couple of hits of YouTube videos; that of Akash addressing various school assemblies to spread awareness about cancer and pull in a crowd for the marathon.

Google “Akash Dube” and you would think this is the story of yet another over-achieving teenager. You would think he was a high school senior who spearheaded the Chennai wing of the world renowned run and then went on to join Stanford for college. You would look at him in awe, wondering how one so young could have done so much.

A fighter

But look closer, you will see an older link calling for platelet donors for him. You will read that Akash's leukaemia in fact relapsed and his parents were, at one point, frantically calling out to donors in the U.S. Read a little more and you will know that Akash Dube of Terry Fox Run fame was known to be a cancer survivor and an activist for the cause.

Unfortunately, Nature works in mysterious ways; ways Man has not yet been able to comprehend. Akash Dube, a symbol of courage and resolve for so many cancer patients across the country, succumbed to the very disease earlier this month. A freshman at Stanford, this 19-year-old spent the last few months in the hospital, battling against the disease and undergoing multiple rounds of intensive chemotherapy. Doctors, friends, family and well-wishers alike spoke with awe at Akash's sheer grit and determination in face of such adversity. Believing “today's research is tomorrow's cure”, he even volunteered to be put on a trial drug in an effort to help the cause of eradicating cancer even in his last days.

A campaigner

Akash was the kind of person you took a liking to immediately. As Dr. J.S. Rajkumar, Chairman of LifeLine Group of Hospitals says, “Akash had the gift of changing negativity to positivity. He could think of other patients even in the knowledge that he himself had to undergo treatment. Such selflessness is incredible.”

Forever smiling and always approachable, he was the face of the Run to everyone in Chennai. After bringing it to the city three years ago, he raised upto Rs. 50 lakh over that period of time and donated it to the Tata Memorial Cancer Centre in Mumbai. During the run, he was always in the forefront, fielding questions, meeting the media, networking with the big-wigs who regularly participated and spending time with the scores of students at the Run. Even for those who met him only for the one-off minute or just saw him from a distance on a stage, Akash Dube was the face of a potentially cancer-free future.

The Rotary Club of Madras East (RCME), a constant source of support for the Chennai run, has vowed to continue working for the cause in the years to come. The Chennai Terry Fox Run family has promised to keep Akash's dream alive. Ask Murali Krishnan, an RCME member who was at all three runs, about the future of the run and he says, “Akash lived to spread the word (about cancer) and today, the message of the run is only stronger. We have already lost Akash. We do not want to lose any more.”

An inspiration

Akash Dube wanted to wipe out cancer. He wanted a world where no one would know of this six-letter fiend, a disease whose grip seems to only be tightening around us with each passing day. Akash envisioned a world where cancer is spoken of in the same breath as the bubonic plague and tuberculosis; as epidemics that ruined thousands of lives in the past but also as diseases that man no longer needs to be afraid of.

Google “Akash Dube” and you will hardly hear of the fact that he is no longer with us. Perhaps even Google knows Akash is a fighter who did not go down without a struggle. He would not have wanted his death to deter anyone from working towards the cause. In fact, contrary to that, he would have wanted to use his death as one more reason to strive on.

Akash Dube was a teenager, just like you and me. Yet, he fought for what he truly believed in and worked towards the greater good. He had a vision, a mission and a road map. Akash Dube taught us that no hurdle is too much to cross, no goal is too big to aspire towards and there is no such thing as overambitious.

RIP, Akash. We miss you.

Yashasvini is a student of IIT-M.