Vinay Passes

I’m sorry to report that Vinay Chakravarthy passed away this morning.

SAJA has a statement from his family / friends –

“We are devastated at our loss today,” said a spokesperson for the Chakravarthy family. “Vinay was an amazing soul who inspired all of us with his will to live. We take some comfort in knowing his journey may have saved lives through the campaign, and in all the lives he touched with his love and spirit.”

Vinay’s last post, dated May 12, 2008, sounded promising and like Sameer hinted at a return to normal life at home

After the procedure I was transferred back to the regular floor and my diet was slowly advanced to normal! I am doing well so far and will be transferring to a physical rehab center here in Boston to get my overall strength back. I hope to be home for good in 2-3 weeks! The rehab facility will provide 3 hours of physical therapy seven days a week, quite intense but should be better for me in the long run.

His wife, family, and friends are in our thoughts and prayers.

[Previous Vinay & Sameer coverage]

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Warrior-scholar falls

Last week the nation lost Michael Vinay Bhatia to the war in Afghanistan (an IED of course). To say he was a unique breed of “soldier” would be an understatement:

Michael Vinay Bhatia, 31, was serving as a social scientist embedded with troops in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program.

HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro said, “He was an example of a brilliant scholar who could have made his job and done well in the U.S., but who of his own accord discovered our program and volunteered to participate as a team member fully understanding the risks. This makes him a hero three, four times over…”

A magna cum laude graduate of Brown University, Bhatia was a doctoral candidate at Oxford University. “He had a lot of integrity as a scholar in terms of studying conflict and its impact on civilians and he was willing to take that into an operational field,” said Sarah Havens, a former Brown classmate. “He was adamant that that was the right thing to do.”

Bhatia’s dream of making a difference also took him to war-torn East Timor. But friends said they believed Bhatia was looking forward to a peaceful life back home. “I got the sense this was the last hurrah for him,” Havens said. “He was building his nest egg and looking for academic positions in the States for when he came back…” [Link]

I first heard about the Human Terrain Systems Program in an NPR story a few months ago (worth listening to). The idea is quite brilliant, the type of idea that our disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could use more of if we want to see a real turn around. The basic purpose of the HTS teams is to learn about the people and customs of a region so that they can advise the military on how to win hearts and minds, not through bluster, but through mutual understanding:

  • HTS was developed in response to identified gaps in commanders’ and staffs’ understanding of the local population and culture, and its impact on operational decisions; and poor transfer of specific socio-cultural knowledge to follow-on units.
  • The HTS approach is to place the expertise and experience of social scientists and regional experts, coupled with reach-back, open-source research, directly in support of deployed units engaging in full-spectrum operations.
  • HTS believes that achieving national security objectives is dependent on understanding the societies and cultures in which we are engaged. [Link]
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In Memory of Sameer

Sameer Bhatia passed away peacefully this morning.

On his wedding day

The words of Kumar Bhatia, Sameer’s father:

It was difficult to see him suffer like this…It seemed to me that all the prayers, blessings and love form everyone were allowing him to ride the ship of prayers and blessings through turbulent waters which otherwise he would have had to swim through on his own. ~

Sameer, his bride, his loving family and his battalion of devoted friends are in our thoughts and prayers. Continue reading

Arthur C. Clarke, RIP (with excerpts from a novel)

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke died earlier this week, at the age of 91. He was one of the best-known sci-fi writers of the 20th century, the author behind 2001: A Space Odyssey, among many others.

As is well-known, Clarke moved to Ceylon/Sri Lanka in 1956 — in large part for the year-around access to diving — and remained there until his death. The locale inspired at least one of Clarke’s novels, Fountains of Paradise:

Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008, having emigrated there when it was still called Ceylon, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in Colombo. Clarke held citizenship of both the UK and Sri Lanka. He was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. Living in Sri Lanka afforded him the opportunity to visit the ocean year-round. It also inspired the locale for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, ultimately will be his legacy, more so than geostationary satellites, once space elevators make space shuttles obsolete. (link)

I first read The Fountains of Paradise many years ago, and I pulled it off the shelf this afternoon for a refresher. There is an intense opening, set in the classical period, 2000 years ago, involving a “Prince Kalidasa,” who does not seem to resemble the actual Kalidasa (who was not a prince, but a poet). And there are some rich descriptions of the island of Sri Lanka (named “Taprobane” — Tap-ROB-a-nee — by Clarke). Continue reading

Everlasting be your memory, Bevin

Bevin.jpg Bevin Varughese passed away today, in New York.

We posted about his fight with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia back in October, a few weeks after his cancer returned. A bone marrow transplant was his only hope for survival. I wish I had had the time to post more about the drives his determined friends put together, all over the East coast, in order to save their friend.

Bevin never found a match.

After two rounds of chemotherapy, he caught an infection; now he is gone. Many of you lurkers either grew up with him in New York, attended church with him, or knew him from his days as a student at Temple University, in Philadelphia. I’ve heard from a few of you, about this heart-breaking loss:

He fought so hard and was always so positive, with a smile on his face despite enduring the worst of health conditions. He never once complained.
I still remember him from college. I had the biggest honking crush on him but I was too scared to talk to desi guys. He was really nice, though…

I’ve also heard the now-cliched phrases about “the good dying young” but more than that, I’m struck by how gracious and optimistic Bevin was, until the end. I don’t know why we lose certain people, when or how we do, but I do know that we can’t keep letting this happen. I implore you, if you are not already part of the National Marrow Donor Program, to consider becoming a committed donor. It’s too late to save Bevin, but you might save someone else, who is just as loved and cherished.

My thoughts and prayers to his family, friends and the strangers who didn’t even know him personally, but did amazing things like run marathons in his name. May Bevin’s memory be eternal. Continue reading

Scrabulous: Dead App Scrabbling

I’ve mentioned it before, but for those of you who weren’t aware, I’m addicted to Scrabulous, the Facebook application which allows me to play multiple games of Scrabble with several of you at the same time, and at our leisure.

Scrabulous is so fabulous, I ditched Friendster and MySpaz out of my desire for it; I had no need for such retrograde networks, not when Facebook was so superior– and the whole basis for its superiority is this stellar timesuck. If you read the message boards on the “official” Save Scrabulous group or under news articles about the game, I’m not the only one who has embraced Facebook out of my nerdier impulses, nor am I the only one who is twitching in a corner, rocking back-and-forth over this:

The saga of Scrabulous is nearing an end…[link]

I can’t bear to contemplate it. Better I edify you as to why this tragedy is occurring. Hasbro is not pleased that their game is suddenly so popular, not when they have no part in the fun. Never mind that they were stupid for not sensing the untapped desire of millions of word-nerds for protracted online Scrabbling, they’re using words like “licensing” and “stealing” to rain on our vocabulary-littered parade.

A flurry of behind the scenes deal-making has been going on between Hasbro, Scrabulous, and Electronic Arts, which has the license in the U.S. to the online version of the game. Hasbro is trying to get Scrabulous to sell itself for a song to Electronic Arts, or else shut down completely by the end of the day today. [link]

The Calcutta-based brothers behind the awesomeness, software developers Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla are trying to find a way…

Scrabulous has been trying to shop itself to other buyers as well, but its legal liability is scaring away any potential white knights. Unless it gets some sort of reprieve or agrees to sell to Electronic Arts, Scrabulous will be no more, despite the more than 46,000 Facebook members who have joined the “Save Scrabulous” group. What choice does it have, really, but to sell? [link]

Lest you think this is a tiny sort of tempest, consider these numbers:

Scrabulous was started in 2006 as a standalone site operated by a pair of 20-something Calcutta, India-based brothers, Jayant and Rajat Agarwalla, but the game exploded when they created a Facebook application that currently boasts 2.3 million active users and soon became the workplace productivity drain du jour. It’s currently the ninth most popular application on the site. [link]

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Sir Edmund Hillary (1919 – 2008)

Hillary and Norgay.jpg

One of the first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest is dead at 88. On May 29, 1953 Sir Edmund Percival Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made history.

Snow and wind held up the pair at the South Col for two days. They set out on May 28 with a support trio of (George) Lowe, Alfred Gregory and Ang Nyima. The two pitched a tent at 8,500 metres (27,900 ft) on 28 May while their support group returned down the mountain. On the following morning, Hillary discovered his boots had frozen solid outside the tent. He spent two hours warming them before he and Tenzing attempted the final ascent, wearing 30-pound packs. The crucial move of the last part of the ascent was the 40-foot (12 m) rock face later named the “Hillary Step”. Hillary saw a means to wedge his way up a crack in the face between the rock wall and ice, and Tenzing followed. From there, the following effort was relatively simple. They reached the summit at 11:30 am. As Hillary put it, “A few more whacks of the ice axe in the firm snow, and we stood on top.”
They spent only about 15 minutes at the summit. They unsuccessfully looked for evidence of the earlier Mallory expedition. Hillary took Tenzing’s photo, Tenzing left chocolates in the snow as an offering, and Hillary left a cross that he had been given. [wiki]

His own words (via CNN):

“Another few weary steps and there was nothing above us but the sky. There was no false cornice, no final pinnacle. We were standing together on the summit. There was enough space for about six people. We had conquered Everest.
“Awe, wonder, humility, pride, exaltation — these surely ought to be the confused emotions of the first men to stand on the highest peak on Earth, after so many others had failed,” Hillary noted.
“But my dominant reactions were relief and surprise. Relief because the long grind was over and the unattainable had been attained. And surprise, because it had happened to me, old Ed Hillary, the beekeeper, once the star pupil of the Tuakau District School, but no great shakes at Auckland Grammar (high school) and a no-hoper at university, first to the top of Everest. I just didn’t believe it.
He said: “I removed my oxygen mask to take some pictures. It wasn’t enough just to get to the top. We had to get back with the evidence. Fifteen minutes later we began the descent.” [CNN]

Hillary was so humble, he refused to say who had reached the pinnacle of Mount Everest first, until well after his dear friend Norgay passed away. He was diffident, too: Continue reading

September 11: Everlasting be their memory.

Six years ago, after the attacks, a Humvee rolled up to my apartment building, which was seven blocks from the White House; we were not allowed to leave, for our own safety.

Six years ago, we entered an age of terror which we are also not allowed to leave, ostensibly for our own safety.

Six years ago, 3,000 innocents boarded a plane or went to work, as if it were any ordinary day; they never returned home.

reflecting pool.jpg

At 8:46 a.m., the moment the first plane struck the North Tower, a bell was sounded, as it has for six years now, and the gathered masses bowed their heads. [NYT]

Let this be a space for remembrance, for respect and for grieving, if you need. Everyone who reads this blog lost something six years ago, even if they didn’t “directly” lose someone in New York, D.C. or Pennsylvania; this space is for your thoughts, on this appositely grim day. Continue reading

Obituary: WIDWNR


I am saddened to report the sudden and unexpected demise of our beloved friend, Whoa– is dating White not right? (July 28, 2007 -August 1, 2007).

Right was born in an indie coffee shop, in the heart of Washington, D.C., via the twin modern miracles of a stickered, 12″ iBook and wifi. In his short life, he profoundly affected many mutineers; Right challenged long-held assumptions, enlightened us about dozens of subjects and was a welcoming, tolerant figure in our community. He will be missed.

In lieu of flowers, Right’s grieving family humbly requests that when SM does its annual plea for donations to keep the site going, a la PBS/NPR, you contribute a rupee or two in his memory, especially since his Mother HATES ADS AND WILL NEVER AGREE TO HAVING THEM ON THIS SITE.


I had to close the uber-thread. :(

Many of you are writing to me, letting me know that you can no longer access it. Not sure what’s going on, but I can’t see new comments, either, which means I can’t moderate…so unfortunately, the party is over…not that I needed to do a lot of moderating in the first place. :)

I am delighted; considering the provocative subject material, there was far less ickiness, trolling or flaming than one might expect. All credit for that goes to you.

Thanks for one of the most lively, fascinating and relevant discussions we’ve ever had– and don’t fret, my pets…plenty of you left comments which could be spun off in to so many different threads, about queer dating, seduction via bharatnatyam, evaluating what’s worse– emasculation or exoticization, outting Iyengars, South Asian inter-religious/regional relationships, where to find B-Boy/punker Punjabis, how to procure puliyodarai, internalized self-hatred as evidenced by externalized comment-stupidity, whether I-Bankers are evil, where to find the mythical straight-haired, hyper-maintained desi goddesses whose knickers disintegrate for private equity types, San Francisco’s alternately sucky/fantastic dating scene and of course, HAIR.

More of all that, soon. In the meanwhile, pour a little sum’n out for “Right”, the next time libations are flowing. Sigh. Time to cue Tupac:

Rest in peace young homie, there’s a heaven for a G… Continue reading

“Trashed” Grandmother Passes Away.

A heart-breaking update to my previous post, “On Respect for our Elders“:

A SICK 75-year-old grandmother who was thrown in the garbage by her relatives in India last week has died, officials say.
Chinnammal Palaniappan, died on Sunday in a home for elderly people where she was taken after being rescued from the garbage dump in Erode town, 400km from Chennai, capital of southern Tamil Nadu state.
Palaniappan had told her rescuers that on July 19 she was taken from her home by her grandsons and on waking up found herself among a heap of rotting garbage.
“She was improving after she was fed and given necessary medicines in the facility but on Sunday evening she developed breathing problems and died,” an official said.

Thanks for posting this to the news tab, Anonymous. At least she’s finally at peace.

If anyone hears news regarding the worthless family who did this despicable deed, please let us know. I can’t be the only one who is interested in their fate, and how the TN government proceeds with this tragic case. Continue reading