IUPUI grad reflects on obstacles he overcame after arson attack

Manoj Rana, an engineering student from India, almost lost his life in an intentionally set house fire in 2005.


An Indiana University Kelley School of Business Indianapolis student, who was a victim of a horrific crime, reflects on the obstacles he overcame as his graduation date approaches. 

Manoj Rana, an engineering student from India, almost lost his life in an intentionally set house fire in 2005. 

Rana’s neighbor, Steven Allen, was sentenced to 220 years for starting the fire that killed Allen’s wife and baby, as well as Rana’s roommate, Prabhat Signhal. 

Rana and Signhal, who was also an engineering student from India, lived together while attending Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind.  In the early morning hours of July 2, 2005, Signhal awoke Rana, alerting him of the fire.  According to court documents, Rana attempted to run down the stairs of the apartment complex but encountered smoke and lost consciousness. 

Firefighters found Signhal dead in the bathtub of his apartment, but they were able to rescue Rana, who was located between the third and second floors of the complex.  Rana sustained burns on 95 percent of his body and did not believe he would survive.

“I’m lying on that gurney and I thought about my family and why I came here—to get a good education,” said Rana.

Four months later, Rana woke up from a medically induced coma.  He was later transferred to Wishard Hospital in Indianapolis for rehabilitation, which he completed almost three years after the fire.  

Despite a painful recovery and nearly 60 surgical procedures, Rana decided to go back to school to get his MBA.  After receiving an impressive score of 700 on his Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), Rana decided to enroll in the Evening MBA program at Kelley Indianapolis, which is ranked No. 4 in academic quality by Bloomberg Businessweek.  

“I was still trying to figure out if I would be able to take the full course load,” said Rana. “At Kelley Indianapolis I could study part time and comfortably figure out my course load.”

Rana excelled in school and received the Academic Excellence Award, an award presented to the student with the highest GPA in the Evening MBA graduating class. 

“I don’t feel I’ve done anything special,” Rana said when asked about his incredible story. “I feel that all I’ve done is survive.”

Rana’s graduation will be an emotional reunion with his family.  The graduate’s family will travel from India to watch Rana reach this milestone.  The last time Rana saw his mother was when he was fighting for his life in the burn unit.

Rana will graduate on May 13 at 1 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. 

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