They remembered him as a scholar, an Indian immigrant who came to New York to study economics and find his own piece of the American dream.
At his funeral Sunday afternoon, mourners recalled Sunando Sen as a shy, quiet presence, whose strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit had pushed him to open his own printing business just six months ago.
Dozens chanted Hindu prayers and sang in Bengali in honor of Sen, a graphic designer who was killed Thursday after he was pushed onto the tracks at a Queens subway station by a woman who authorities said told them she targeted Sen, 46, a practicing Hindu, because she hates Muslims and Hindus.
New York City Police called the death an "isolated incident," but it has rocked the region's Indian community, many of whom have expressed dismay at being labeled terrorists.
"This is shocking," said Anjoy Ghosh, 58, a former roommate of Sen's. "We cannot believe it. He loved New York."
The air inside the funeral home was thick with smoke from burning incense as Sen lay inside a bluish-gray coffin. His body was mostly covered by a bright orange holy shawl; dozens of roses and carnations flanked his body inside the coffin.
His accused assailant, Erika Menendez, 31, of Rego Park, remained jailed after a judge ordered her held without bail during her arraignment on second-degree murder as a hate crime in Queens Criminal Court Saturday night. Mendendez told detectives she attacked Sen because she "thought it would be cool" and because of her long-standing prejudice against "Muslims, Hindus and Egyptians," whom she blamed for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, prosecutors said.
Hate crimes committed against Muslims are down 21 percent from last year with 14 cases reported in 2011 compared with 11 reported so far this year, said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.
It's doubtful police will step up patrols in areas that have many Muslims, Hindus, South Asian or Middle Easterners because of the crime, said an NYPD spokeswoman, adding this was an isolated case "from a person that apparently has mental health issues."
A spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney's office said Sunday Menendez will undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The results of the evaluation are due Jan. 14, at Menendez's next court appearance.
Meanwhile, those who knew Sen gathered to celebrate his life at the Coppola-Migliore Funeral Home in Corona Sunday afternoon.
Lopmudra Guin, 34, of Parsippany, said she hadn't seen or spoken to Sen in more than two decades, but was alerted to his death after her mother saw his photo in the news.
"It's very difficult for us," she said. "Back home [in India] our families are very upset with this news."