My Speeches at Memorial Gatherings in India and America

A Tribute to My Father, Nagabattula Satyam

(the following is a tribute that I wrote and read out to close friends and family during a memorial gathering at our home in India, on July 3rd, 2001)

    My father, Dr. Nagabattula Satyam, died on Saturday, June 23rd, 2001 at 7:15am in Bangalore. He died of an asthma attack, followed by a heart attack. He was 62 years old. His death was sudden and unexpected, but appears to have been peaceful, although it also appears that he suffered through the night. He died without his family by his side. It appears that he also suffered, silently and alone, the past few years at least. He confided in a few people, but it appears that he silently bore much more in his heart than we could imagine, without telling anyone. Vidyasagar, Gayathri, Jaisoor and Seshadri were in essence his family during the times he was alone or needed help. For their boundless, unconditional caring, help and support, I thank them and salute them from my heart. I thank Madhava Rao Uncle and Auntie for the same.

    My father is the finest man I have ever known, and his spirit will always be alive in my heart. He was a self-made man of extraordinary magnitude. He was extremely intelligent, highly educated and tremendously successful. He rose up from a humble village called Ithakota in the interiors of Andhra Pradesh, to working overseas for international organizations such as the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Bank. He has been a tremendous source of strength and inspiration for me, and one of the hardest things for me to reconcile is how someone so idealistic, noble, intelligent, heroic, warm and larger than life, could be reduced to a small, frail man, damaged and beaten down by age, illness, time and fate. My main consolation is that despite all this, he left peacefully and in radiance, while still active, working, independent and in full control of his faculties, and while life was as best as it could have been.

    Dad, come what may, you will always be my hero, and my best friend. You will continue to inspire me, and give me strength during times of trouble, wisdom during times of confusion, laughter during every moment, and light and warmth always. You were the best.

    I sometimes wonder where you are now. Are you floating, light and free, somewhere far away? Or are you still around us, closer than we think? You were an agnostic, and you used to say, "I don't know if there is a God, or if there is a heaven or hell, but if there is a heaven, I am going to heaven." Your integrity and honour gave you that confidence. I am sure that one way or another, you are in heaven, free of the troubles that you endured in this world.

    I miss you, Dad, and I always will. But I remember the profound peace and dignity on your face, and the light in your eyes, and I trust that you have gone to a better place. Know that in spirit, you will live on forever in the hearts of all of us whose lives you have touched.

    Being an agnostic myself, I say, "If there is a God, then may God grant your soul everlasting peace, and in whatever comes next, may you lead a better life, filled with good health, happiness, love, wisdom and strength." You will truly be blessed because of the blessings you have given all of us. You will be respected, honoured and remembered always, because of the amazing person that you were. And you will be loved and held dear for time immemorial. May you rest in peace.

[Notes: I should have said "time eternal" instead of "time immemorial" in the last paragraph above; secondly, I am no longer agnostic as declared above, and have since converted to Roman Catholicism; thirdly, I  founded the smallest school on the planet and named it "Satyam Academy", in honour of my father; lastly, the speech below was given after I became Christian.]


A Tribute to My Colleague, Elle Janet Plato

(the following is a speech that I wrote and gave during the memorial gathering at our home in the US, on June 13th, 2016):

Dear friends,   

    We have gathered here today to honour Elle Janet Plato, to remember her fondly, to grieve her tragic death, and to celebrate what was best and memorable about her. Let us take a moment to remember her silently in our thoughts.

    I first knew Elle as Larry, and met him while I worked for ANS, like many of you. What struck me the most was his formidable storehouse of knowledge and his strong opinions. It seemed that he knew everything about everything, and would cover every last detail in discussing a topic or dispensing advice. My fondest memory, however, is shortly before Larry and I became colleagues once again, this time at the local branch of Cisco Systems which was headed by Mark Knopper. I was walking down Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor at around lunchtime, and I ran into Larry Plato, Larry Briggs and late Tim Richey. They were having lunch outside one of the restaurants. All three of them had left the ANS that had become UUNET, and were now working for Cisco. After saying hello, Larry [Plato] asked me if I would like to work for Cisco. One email led to another, and the group interviewed me over lunch. A lot of fun was poked at Larry by his colleagues, but he took it all in stride. Then someone commented to me that if I ended up working for Cisco and the code did not work, I could always blame Larry. Disagreeing, I smiled and said, "Larry's always been nice to me." Then Larry looked at me and said emphatically, "Larry being nice to you is a function of Larry liking you." I laughed it off, but he has indeed, always been nice and kind to me, and my memory of that simple, witty comment is the one that I treasure the most. By the time Larry decided to undergo a gender change and become Elle, we were no longer colleagues, but we kept in touch sporadically, mainly through Facebook by way of comments to posts. From the photos, she looked happy and seemed to be doing well. I was now a full-time stay-at-home homeschooling mother, and she had moved to California and Wisconsin. I eventually left facebook, but from mutual friends, it seemed like she was doing well and nothing was amiss.

    I was shocked and saddened to hear that Elle took her own life, and it seems that one considers such a recourse only when all hope is lost for a future of lasting joy, love and peace. There is never a guarantee that these things will last, and our lives are filled with moments where promises are broken, friendships lost, our standards questioned, our limits pushed, and our faith in prevailing goodness tested in a world filled with confusion and evil. But as my father once said during one of my own dark moments in life long ago, "Ups and downs are a part of life, and it is our aspirations that keep us going in the face of failure or difficulty. So never stop aspiring, no matter what you go through in life." I pray that wherever Elle is, she will soon find peace in her soul, freedom from distress, and the miracle of love that heals all pain. I hope that she will discover wisdom, strength and inner peace to seek refuge in her own soul and have there her heaven despite whatever she faces, no matter how dark or bleak the future may seem. I believe that death is not the end, I pray that Elle will lead a better life in whatever comes next, and I hope that someday, somehow, we may meet again.

    May you rest in peace, Elle.