Three Speeches in Three Decades ... (in my 20s, 30s and 40s)


In my 20s:

    Good evening. I would like to thank all of you for being here to share this special moment with Kevin and me. This is the happiest moment of my life, not just because I am marrying Kevin, but also because I have all of you here tonight. My dearest family and friends, you have made me what I am today, and I would like to thank you for all your help, strength and inspiration throughout my life. I love you more than you could know. Being so far away from you, all I have are memories of times past that have kept me happy and content. Until today. Thank you, for being here with me this evening.

    I would like to thank my parents, who I believe are the finest human beings I have ever known, and who are also two of my closest friends. Mum and Dad, thank you for everything. You have been the “wind beneath my wings, and I would be nothing without you”. I have soared because of your priceless love, which goes unmatched, and in my eyes, truly unprecedented.

    My dear, beloved friends, know that I always “think of you” fondly, and cherish our memories during “every waking moment”. Life would be a bleak place without all of you. Like my friend Jeff said, “Life is all about people, and I believe I have been blessed with the finest of people”. He could not be here tonight since he had to go to Europe, but I would like to thank him for this thought. I would like to thank all my bridesmaids - phenomenal women that they all are:

    My maid of honour and childhood friend, Harina, who travelled all the way from Bahrain to be here, with me and for me. Thank you for cracking my aloof armour, and showing me that emotions needn’t be feared, or hidden.

    Brechje, for coming all the way from Holland to be with me. And for all the letters through the 16 years that we have been apart, between Tanzania, Holland, India and the U.S. Thank you for your loyalty.

    Maiyon, thank you for the walks, the talks, the dreams and the laughter during our years here at university and after. Thank you for filling the void of being so far away from my family and friends and familiar ground.

    Serpil, thank you for the strength during my weak and weary moments. Your energy is infectious. Your friendship is invaluable.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all my other friends who have been there for me, through thick and thin, near and far, and for making my life a beautiful, alive, healthy and happy place to be.

    Niranjan, for being solid as a rock. And letting me lean on you when I was tired to live.

    My good friend Jeff, for unwittingly keeping alive my faith in humanity, without having to do anything. And for filling my life when I needed it.

    Yasmeen, who is currently in London and could not be here. Our memories haven’t faded in my heart.

    Srivathsan, for all your generous, incredible help during my first years here, and for being there when I need you. I can never forget all that you have done for me.

    Meera, for the good times at school and home, and for all the help and happiness while we were still growing.

    Valli, for all your help and intellectually crazed debates. You keep my mind alive.

    Sathya, my childhood friend, who could not be here tonight. Thank you for your love. I wish you and Shankar the best with your newborn twins.

    I would also like to thank my family friends, Kapila Auntie and Uncle, Kodali Auntie and Uncle, and Prasad Auntie and Uncle for all your kindness, help, accommodation and support during my first days in America, and for your continued support and affection. I will never forget the delicious homemade food, the rides, the parties, the sweaters, gloves and blankets for my first winter here, and most of all, your making me feel I was at home.

    I wish to take a moment to remember Kevin’s grandmother, Mrs. Edna Fauber, who passed away early this year. Grandma, thank you for believing in me and loving me. I loved you too. I think you know.

    I have known Kevin’s aunt, Barbara Bean, only for a very short while, but I would like to thank you for making the beautiful wedding programs, and for opening your heart to me.

    I want to convey my appreciation to Kevin’s parents for their untiring assistance and kindness during the last phase of planning our wedding, and for all their love and generosity.

    Last but not least, I would like to thank Kevin, my dearest love, for being mine. You are the “resolution of all the fruitless searches”. With you, I have found myself.

    Thank you, and may God bless you all.



In my 30s:

    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.



In my 40s:

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.

    [silence]

    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.

   

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