70th Surprise Greetings

Any child born to Indian immigrant parents faces the challenge of growing up in two worlds.  One is the world your parents know, filled with rich tradition, language, and religion…. the other is the world around you.  In my case, I’ve always felt that being born American was as natural as anything (no effort on my part).  Looking back I realize that being born American is a gift.  My lifelong relationship with my Uncle (respectfully called Perriappa) is one of the key factors in my life that has lead to this understanding.  This understanding, has affected how I live each and everyday of my life.  To say that Perriappa has had a significant influence on my thoughts and values would be an understatement.

Ever since I can remember Perriappa always impressed upon us youngsters the importance of being connected to our Indian heritage.  Whether it was through his Indher publication, programs with the India Association, sermons on Hinduism at the Unitarian Church in Rochester , or quiet discussions at home, Perriappa taught us many beautiful aspects about being Indian.  He would encourage us to come up with new ideas of expression about our heritage, be it through song, dance, drama or writing.  My sister and cousins and I were very participatory with the India Association growing up.  We would spend hours rehearsing programs that we put together combining western music and Indian ideologies.   I can still picture the days when Perriappa would show interest in what we were doing.  Usually he’d offer some commentary mixed with jokes.  The jokes ranged from bad to worse as I recall, and my sister Yamini and I would reply with a drawling, “Perriiyyaappaaa!” Actually, many of his jokes were very funny and while growing up I remember a lot of laughter surrounding us.

Though Perriappa did teach us about Indian heritage he did not ever impose it upon our lives or force it to take precedence over the other aspects of we are.  There is no doubt that Perriappa is very proud of his ethnicity, but he is equally proud to be an American.  Perriappa sees it as his “duty” to give back to a country that has given him and others like him so much.  Of course, there are numerous ways in which he has successfully done so.  I have taken this example to heart and not only see it as an obligation for immigrants but as an obligation for all Americans.  Those of us born here as well as those naturalized here.  I never once have heard Perriappa say anything negative about the United States of America .  In fact, no matter the political or social climate, he has told me a number of times that there is no land greater.  With his views taken to heart I have been able to appreciate the beauty of my Indian heritage as a part of my Americanism.

    Taking his philosophy further, one story I always loved and still love hearing from both Perriappa and my own father (Krishnan) is about the poor feedings that their father, the later P.S.V. Iyer would conduct in Calcutta , India .  Thatha, a very spiritual man, organized and fed people in extreme poverty every Sunday after puja.  He actually lined the alley, where their home was, with banana leaves, and fed the poor! Hundreds of people came to know of my grandfather’s charitable deeds and benefited from the “poor feedings.”  This same spirit of charity and giving was passed down to my father and to Perriappa and has directly influenced me.  As I partake in volunteer work even today I recall this story in my mind and feel that I am nurturing their philosophy of “service to others” to continue.    

When Damien and I were married in Rochester , Perriappa officiated at our wedding alongside a Christian Minister.  Perriappa found the similarities between the Christian and Hindu traditions and blended them together so elegantly. At the time, I wasn’t so taken, as I knew my Perriappa easily did these types of things.  I grew up listening to him talk about the ecumenical blending of religions.  Over the years, however, my Irish Catholic in-laws still tell everyone and anyone who’ll listen all about our wedding ceremony from start to finish.  Of course for Damien and I that day was one of the most special in our lives (aside from the birth of our two children).  I feel blessed to have had Perriappa play such a major role in making that day perfect.  I realize how unique our wedding was and how Perriappa made it that way for me.

 Last summer Perriappa visited us in Virginia Beach .  We took him to the amusement park, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg , Virginia .  As usual, Perriappa was very inquisitive, jotting things down in his mental notebook to go home and start typing into the computer later.  Along the way I saw the huge mechanically operated swing ride.   Each person sits in his own swing and then suddenly you’re lifted up quite high and the ride spins around.  I wanted to go on this ride and Perriappa didn’t seem too thrilled to join me.  I told him, “Come on Per, that’s why we’re here.”  So Perriappa acquiesced and hopped right into his own swing.  Before you knew it we were spinning around and around and around.    We could see all of Busch Gardens beneath us.  It really was a beautiful sight.   When the ride was over Perriappa was grinning from ear to ear.  After the ride we met up with Damien, Aidan and Zachary and started to walk towards an area for lunch.  Suddenly rain started pouring.  Not little drops of summer moisture but buckets!  We ran to the lunch area and ate under some tents.  I thought of many things at that moment.  Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain, snack platters, Christmas carol singing, musicals galore, Thanksgivings past, Perri’s good ole’ jokes, my wedding day…and the swings we had just gone on together.  I was so happy we went on those swings.  I don’t see Perri as often anymore, and so times like those are very special. 

As I got older and went on my own, the decisions I made directly reflected Perriappa’s influence in my life.  His love for writing and his love for America are two of my very own passions as well. In college and grad school I studied journalism and then became a news reporter.  I served my nation in the Army as a proud commissioned officer.  Now as an adult, being married to a Navy fighter pilot, my family continues to remain devoted to serving our nation and serving our community.  These values are to me the most significant that I hope to teach my own two sons.  I would like to thank Perriappa for the gifts he has given me.  His stories, values, teachings and love will continue through so many lives that he has touched.  Perriappa has shown me by example that a peaceful balance between two worlds can be me

Supriya Christopher

Virginia Beach , VA

 

 

 

 


 

I came to know about V. V. Raman from his letters published in India Abroad newspaper during the eighties.  After reading a few letters, I noticed that his ideas were quite similar to mine.  I also noticed another common element between us—both are physicists.  He was an established physicist by that time and I was trying to establish myself as a physicist. 

As I was born raised at Hardwar , a holy town located near the Ganges , I was exposed to Hindu philosophy and religion as a child.  I felt in tune with the domains of science, philosophy, and religion; I did not find these disciplines in conflicts with each other.  However, the physics community in general gave a jaundice-eyed look for researches in history, natural philosophy, and religion, especially if they overlap in a positive way with science.  I was discouraged to pursue my studies in the history of natural philosophy while working as a physicist.  Reading Raman’s letters in India Abroad was a rejuvenating experience for me.  There are not too many physicists/scientists these days that are natural philosophers in the medieval sense.  Raman is definitely one of them.

After I moved from Long Beach , California to Oswego , New York , I accidentally met Raman in Rochester in 1994.  I went to the city to deliver a talk at the India Community Center and Raman was just happened to be there.   After a brief conversation, Raman gave me a copy of one his books.  As an author myself, I know that this is not common.  Most authors talk about their books and do not just give their books to a stranger as a gift. 

Raman is thinker and seeker of truth first.  The role of a teacher comes second to him (He might disagree with me.)—no experience means not much sharing.  In many instances, experience is so central to him that sharing and criticisms of readers becomes almost insignificant aspect of his efforts.  This has led him to investigate esoteric fields that are not in the mainstream of physics or natural philosophy.  These fields are rich in intellectual thoughts though.  This deviation from the mainstream has made Raman a unique person in academia.

Most teachers feel contented to superficially know the teaching material and pass it to their students.  Their lectures are based on textbooks and their major role is to answer students’ enquiries.  For Raman, the content of a textbook is the starting point of the inquiry process and not an end.  He always wants to go beyond the textbook, sharing his personal insights/experiences/thoughts.  He is original in his thinking and willing to take risk in sharing.  His lectures and writings elucidate this quite well. 

Many teachers in academia take their research mainly as a part of their professional obligations.  Their investigations end with retirement. With Raman, the retirement has only provided some new beginnings.  It is a great pleasure to know V. V. Raman He is my role model and a friend.  Happy Birthday Raman!  May God bless you with health, long life, and happiness.

 

Alok Kumar

Department of Physics

State University of New York at Oswego

Oswego , NY

 

 

 


I met VV on email, the new way of doing these things. He'd written some very intelligent and thoughtful book reviews for a listserv we were both tuned into, and I'd just written a book, and it sounded like he might like it, so I sent it to him and voila, he wrote an intelligent and thoughtful review about mine! But that wasn't really what it was about. We recognized a common bond, a deep respect for religion and a deep respect for science, and that bond has served as our glue for the 3 years of our ever-growing friendship.
I first met the real VV in Capetown South Africa , of all things, and have co-attended several conferences since. My greatest joy, though, was when he and Marilu finally came to Star Island, the community closest to my heart, and watched him "get it," understand why this peculiar collection of people made so much sense and was so endearing.

Certainly my most sustained connection with VV, though, has been on the IRASnet listserv that I moderate. He has been an enormous source of wisdom, reflection, and, yes, also the gaiety and frolic that he can so delightfully initiate. I can say without hesitation that I have learned to count on him, to know he is really listening to what's going on, and that when he comes through with a responsive posting, it will always be worth reading.
So, VV, to move from the third to the first person, thank you for being in my life, for being such a dear and loyal friend, for helping me understand so many things, for being so open to so much. I look forward to the many decades to come!

Ursula Goodenough

City and state



 

 


Friends, I know that you are all waiting with bated breath to find out from me what our great leader Dr. V.V. Raman is like in the flesh. Having just spent the week with him on Star Island , and having seen him constantly during that time in a variety of circumstances, from early in the morning until late at night, I think I can confidently say that he is EXACTLY the way you would think he is from following his posts here.

If anything, he is more that way than I though he would be. Moderate and clever just as you would have thought, but the only surprise was that he has a gentle voice to match, and a look on his face that is both kind and mischievous. He has just a slight accent, and my friend Bill Stone, in thinking about inviting him to North Mississippi to lead a conference on Galileo, was more concerned about the accents of the Mississippians than about V.V.'s. In other words, if there was any difficulty in understanding, it would be from the southerner's end. But being a southerner myself, I doubt that there would be any difficulty whatever, the accent is so slight.
Now, the real surprise was Marilu. I realized that V.V. really liked his wife, but since I have come to hold him in high regard, I though perhaps this was a characteristic of HIS, rather than a response to her. But now I understand that most of the things we like about him are a direct reflection of her. Especially the delightful part of his personality -- Marilu has a laugh that is a cross between a regular laugh and a giggle, rendering it both delightful and wicked. If anything, her personality is more attractive than V.V.'s in one important regard. You get the impression that Marilu could lay you low, and seriously disagree with you, if it were appropriate, whereas V.V. is pathologically nice.
Well, not entirely. He did a skit at talent night that was exceedingly well received, in which he lapsed into cruelty only once, referring to a speaker who was mercifully absent. But it was still in good humor, just as you would suspect.
Now, if you have any specific questions, I will try to answer them as best I can. But do not expect anything other than the jaded response of a true fan. And there will also be an underlying theme, namely that you should come to Star Island yourself next year, if for no other reason than to meet V.V. and Marilu.

 Michael Cavannaugh

 

I was surprised and excited to receive your email. I am extremely fond of your uncle and would be honored to contribute to your birthday gift to him in any way

I am a former student of Dr. Raman. He helped me tremendously to understand physics as well as some much appreciated life lessons. I, along with a couple other students, were invited to dinner a few times at the Raman house and treated with wonderful hospitality. Unfortunately, our correspondence has tapered since I moved to North Carolina . With all of the chaos involved in college- the difficult classes, unfamiliar faces, and the uncertainty of the future, V.V. Raman was a friendly face I new I could count on for much more than the occasional physics problem. He cared for his students unconditionally and was not afraid to show it. He is a selfless man who I feel privileged to know, and whom I will never forget. Throughout my college career and currently in my graduate program now, I have yet to meet a professor that instilled such self-confidence in students. The grades he handed out were not solely due to numbers tallied on assignments and tests, but to the effort and dedication the individual put forth. You don't find that often in professors.

Thanks for giving me the chance to be able to say something wonderful and true about Prof. Raman.

Christy Trombley

 


Each friend of V.V.Raman who has called up from memory thoughts of this man has contributed to the construction of an intricate mosaic which will help us. and others, understand an extraordinary scientist, scholar, humanist and human being. No matter how rich that picture, however, it must be incomplete. So I have not attempted to resurrect from memory yet another gleaming piece of a gleaming life. Rather I speak of the picture which would emerge could the picture actually be seen in all its fullness: V.V.Raman is our Mahatma.

 
Melburn D. Thurman

 

 


When we think of our many years of friendship with the Ramans, we find it somewhat difficult to compare one memorable occasion over the others, since all our moments together have been exceptionally memorable.  Every moment we have spent together we have been blessed. We have enjoyed fun things, such as dinners, movies, discussions  regarding arts, music, religion, politics, literature, hobbies, vacations, families, social & local events, healthy eating, & exercise, things related to our health, etc.,etc.

We have laughed about anything & everything including weddings, photographs and our kids.  We all know how scholarly & fun loving V.V. is. He has many talents. One of his talents is in the culinary art. The occasion must have been approximately over 15 years ago when Marilu was away and he was home alone. He also knew that I was alone too  and so were Vishnu Mathur & ( late ) Kanitkar. Your uncle had invited all four of us to a dinner.  Which he had prepared. Without any exaggeration I must confess that I could not believe my taste buds. Your uncle had treated us with a very delicious meal that evening. We had a wonderful and equally memorable time together. I was very impressed by this not so well known side of your uncle. At the end of the evening when we thanked
him he acknowledged that with his familiar shy chuckle.  Another thing comes to my mind is that during a discussion it is not unusual for him to leave the group and walk away to his library and pick up a book usually authored by him. He then hurriedly (with full concentration) turns the pages to the facts regarding the discussion along with the explanations. 

All this is done not to prove “one up-manship “, but keeping an educational view in mind, and also maintaining a benign & congenial atmosphere.

We admire V.V. immensely for his humility and rare humor.  V.V. has received many honors which have been bestowed upon him from all corners but above all he is a gentleman.   We want to say that Marilu and V.V. are very much a complement to each  other. Both are  such darlings.

The Ramans always make you feel welcome and at ease. Shashi and I look forwards to our Sunday get-togethers.  We feel privileged and honored to be a part of the family of friends of Ramans. We wish all the best on your uncle’s 70th birthday and wish him also many, many more to follow.

Ravi and Shashi Sharma

Rochester , NY




 

V. V. is one of my very close, deep, warm and intimate friends. At first this might seem strange since I have never met him personally. However, this is true because of our close relationship through a series of Internet discussions.

Together, we have exchanged many profound thoughts, passions and dreams. Our conversations have covered those great questions of existence that touch each of us at the most ultimate level. V V and I have gone way beyond mundane pleasantries about the weather which characterize so much superficial, daily talk between people. We have joined together in searching for clues as to the nature of that great mystery surrounding and embracing us. V V is well trained to be a fitting companion for such an intellectual journey. He brings a multi-disciplinary knowledge to each task he undertakes. This enables him to explore questions from a diverse series of viewpoints. Like an encyclopedia, he seems to know something about an endless variety of subjects. But more importantly, his knowledge is filtered through the lenses of tolerance, compassion and empathy for the beliefs and feelings of others. He is humble because he understands how much more there is for all of us to learn, no matter how much knowledge we already possess. I would like to say that he is one of the most well rounded men I have ever conversed with.

Since I have never met him face to face, I will not make that statement in case it should turn out that in the everyday world he is short and fat, in which case saying that he is well rounded might be misinterpreted. Instead, I will simply call him a Renaissance man. He is a person who does not limit his studies to any one area. His curiosity covers the universe. His wisdom goes beyond the consciousness and unconsciousness of most people, and taps intuitively into that universal consciousness that some people call the sacred depths of nature. He intuitively feels whatever it is that he reasons. His appreciation and understanding of the aesthetic finds expression in his delightful poetry with which, on special occasions, he delights us. I would call him my very special, most favorite Hindu, except that his spirituality is too universal to be confined to any one sect. As Shakespeare would say, V V truly belongs to the ages. I look forward to embracing him personally some day, in this world of space-time, which he has brightened for me.
From his loving friend, John.

Dr. John Swanson

 

 


Dear V.V. and Mari-Lou,

The pleasure of meeting you, V.V., was mine in Oxford , at one of the January workshops of the Ian Ramsey Centre, organized for the Science and Religion Course program. With your background you presented a valuable complement to the variety of Christians or secularized-Christians (that is, persons who would understand religion in terms typical of Western Christianity, even if not themselves adhering to that view of religion) present. Besides, you brought with you a good sense of where your students, our audiences, are with respect to matters of science and faith. A great dose of humor, a pleasant relativism. And, to my surprise, an extensive poem at the diner table on the last evening - summarizing the whole conference, capturing all speakers and topics succinctly but characteristically.

That was some years ago - four or five? Since then, I have met you on various occasions. This summer at Star Island for the IRAS conference on Meaning in a Technological Culture was another great chance, also for Zwanet to meet you and Mario Lou. She and I greatly appreciated this opportunity, on the island with its own pace of life, away from the hectic of the busy life of towns, traffic, universities, and the internet. A hectic world in which you too are at home - as your many contributions to IRAS-net have shown. Thank you for all those moments in person and in the world of the mind, embodied in electronics and print, where your creative contributions combine personal experience, receptivity towards other voices, and a great knowledge of science and culture.

We look forward to seeing you again, this time in the Netherlands at the ESSSAT-conference in March 2002. Wishing you and Mari-Lou well is an act of selfish prudence, as it will give us a rich bouquet of creative reflections by you.

Wim and Zwanet Drees

Hertog Hendriklaan 11

3743 DL Baarn

the Netherlands

T. +31 35 5424223

E. wb@drees.nl and zwanet@drees.nl

 

 

 


VVV RAMAN - THE DUTCH CONNECTION
C'était aux environs de 1952-53. A la Cité Universitaire de Paris, le campus résidentiel pour les étudiants étrangers à l'Université de Paris, de nouveaux venus font la découverte des différents pavillons nationaux et de leurs habitants, ainsi que du théatre et du restaurant de la Cité. Au restaurant on fait la file: excellente occasion pour lier connaissance. Et Raman en profite, enhardi sans doute par son cercle d'amis qui l'entourent, de jeunes Indiens aussi pour la plupart.
J'ai devant moi ce jeune garçon d'environ 20 ans, mince - son costume semble flotter, cheveux noirs plaqués et grands yeux de velours. Pas l'air bête du tout, peut-être un peu timide (mais il ne l'était pas vraiment comme il s'avère par la suite). La conversation s'engage. Découvrant que je suis hollandaise, Raman se découvre un besoin urgent d'apprendre le néerlandais. Pourrais-je l'aider? Cela se peut, oui,....et rendez-vous est pris dans la bibliothèque du pavillon Franco-Britannique, à côté du pavillon Américain où je réside. Inhabituel pour un garçon aussi doué, il faudra beaucoup de séances à la bibliothèque pour lui permettre de se familiariser avec la prononciation du néerlandais. Mais l'effort fut payant: notre amitié a tenu à travers les années, et surtout .....Raman - ou VVV comme on l'appelait là-bas - a pu faire bonne impression sur sa future épouse Marilù, également néerlandophone, avec qui il partage déjà tant d'années de bonheur. En 1953, j'ai quitté Paris pour continuer mes études de psychologie à Amsterdam , mais en laissant un grand gage à Raman: ma soeur cadette Marijke, qui avait repris ma chambre à la foundation Américaine, et avec qui il a sans doute pu poursuivre sa formation linguistique.
En 1957 Raman a pu une nouvelle fois mettre ses connaissances de néerlandais en pratique, lors de mon mariage à Hengelo aux Pays-Bas avec mon grand ami de Paris (qui a suivi une voie scientifique pas trop éloignée de celle de VVV). Je ne sais pas comment Raman s'est senti pendant les quelques jours qu'il a passés dans une ville de province de la Hollande profonde, dans une ambiance si éloignée de tout ce qu'il connaissait avant. Mais avec la souplesse mentale qui le caractérise, il me semble qu'il s'y est bien plu.
Mon mari et moi, nous nous sommes établis à Bruxelles, et en 1958 Raman est passé par là: l'Exposition Universelle en valait certainement la peine, et, par ailleurs, il a pu faire connaissance avec notre premier bébé. Avec son départ aux Etats-Unis, nous ne nous sommes plus revus pendant de très longues années. Mais un soir, après plus de 30 ans de silence, le telephone sonne, et voilà Raman qui reconnecte comme si on s'était vu la veille. Quand on arrive à 70 ans, les amitiés d'un demi-siècle sont rares et précieuses. Nous nous sommes retrouvés à Rochester , et nous espérons encore de nombreuses rencontres. Vive Raman!

Liesbeth Severne - van Loon, Bruxelles le 30 décembre 2001.

 


 

I has been my great pleasure to get to know Dr.Raman in the last year through Metanexus: The Online Forum for Religion and Science. And I have become increasingly convinced that not only does he know everything, but he also knows how to express it in iambic pentameter!

Stacey E. Ake, Ph.D

 


Biblical Free Associative Thinking about VV Raman ... Before his death, Moses blessed the Tribes. Two of them he joined together. Smach Zvulon b'Tzaysecha v'Yisasschar b'Ohalecha ... May Zebulon rejoice in his goings and Issaschar in his tents. The exegetists comment that Zebulon and Issaschar were partners, with Zebulon indulging in prakmatia (in the pragmatic goings-on of life and its practicalities) and Issaschar in etherealness and study. What these exegetists uniformly fail to recognize is that Moses chose to address only Zebulon, as if to say that there is preciously little value in addressing someone who is purely engaged in the ethereal side of life.

I don't know VV Raman all that well though in a number of meetings of the Association for Science and Culture I've heard him speak about the Physics of Religion and the Religion of Physics, enjoyed his ubiquitously deferential comments about my own and others' thoughts, and have shared moments of reflection with him. Always in the arrangements for these meetings, the invisible, humble hand of VV was in the background. It occurs to me that unlike the Specialists such as Zebulon and Issaschar, folk whose personalities were skewed in this or that direction, VV is among the few whose personality and thinking combines Prakmatia, Etherealness, together with Agape. I can pay no higher compliment to any member of this curious clan Anthropos and look forward to further moments during which I and others may sit at his feet and learn about what it means to be human.
Many happy returns, VV!

Howard H. Covitz, PhD
Melrose Park , PA




I think it was in 1978.  We had recently gotten a video cassette recorder (one still referred to it by its full name in those days), and the number of television stations seemed to be growing exponentially. At eleven, I was not much impressed by either event.  Like my father, I was a reader; like him I was an intellectual from an early age, seriously pondering abstract ideas and issues of the world.  This was our bond.  From as far back as I can remember, my father would say to me, “Come, Nikki, let us discuss,” and he would take my hand and we would walk around the block, or I would sit in a chair while he paced before me, and we would consider some weighty topic.  Is there such thing as God?” I asked, after a day at Lutheran nursery school. “There are some ideas whose beauty alone merits their existence,” he responded. It was the first time I heard the word merit.  We talked a great deal about morality, without using that word.  I learned from him what I privately labeled the Four Don’ts.  “Don’t be idle,” he would say. “Don’t be ugly”—meaning in one’s behavior towards others. “Don’t be uncharitable”—meaning in one’s judgments of others. “Don’t be irresponsible.” I was interested that the deadly sins all began with vowels.  I still hear these admonitions in my father’s voice, no elision between “Don’t be” and the following word, and the traits themselves pronounced in such a way as to make them thoroughly distasteful. Particularly in “irresponsible,” my father’s richly rolled r emphasized the loathsomeness of it.

Sometimes we didn’t have a free-form discussion, but a more formal, structured class. French lessons when I was six.  I remember being deeply engaged by writing exercises into an examination bluebook and feeling intensely proud when I overheard my father in the next room, loudly praising my accent to my mother.  Sanskrit verses when I was eight. “Guru Brahma, guru Vishnu, guru devo mahesvaraha….”  My father taught me that one for my grandfather, but my favorite was “Twameva mata chapita twameva….”  It had a good tune.  We chanted it together when we went on errands.  Spanish lessons when I was ten. Also when I was ten, my father entertained me through a long recuperation by inspiring me to memorize the digits of pi with him.  Together we worked out a complicated system of letters representing the numbers.  “BO BUN, the baker,” it began.  An absurd but fascinating story about this baker began to unfold, but lost itself in garbled consonants.  We worked for weeks, both thoroughly absorbed by the task, until we concluded the letter code wouldn’t work and abandoned it.  To our delight, however, we discovered that the first 100 decimal places had already impressed themselves on our memories.  We memorized poems together.  Little white cards, covered with type, would be pasted on the headboard of my bed at night.  Before going to sleep, I would memorize the verses, and in the morning we would recite them together.  The most magical appeared one winter night: “Snow, snow, the beautiful snow, filling the sky and the earth below, dancing, skipping, skimming along….”  Another dimension to our lesson-based relationship developed that year, as my father began publishing a small magazine. “IndHer—a journal for people of INDian HERitage living beyond the shores of India .”  I liked the title and subtitle; it had a pleasant cadence to it.  I was the proofreader, editing out misspellings and unidiomatic phrases with the help of a dictionary and small grammar book.  I also pasted in illustrations, offered childish comments on the text, and applied countless rub-off borders to the pages.  I loved the work. It struck me as something real and important.  I remember my awe when my father brought home the first completed issue.  It was an eight-and-a-half by five-and-a-half inch booklet printed on glossy paper with a yellow cardstock cover illustrated with a photographed statue of Ganesha, whose significance in this context had been thoroughly explained to me.  I shared all my father’s satisfaction in a job well done.

At intervals in my adult life, I have been asked to account for my familiarity with certain topics.  “You took a course in art history?” someone inquires.  Withdrawing a little, I reply, “Not exactly.  I studied it with my father,” and eyebrows rise.  I can still rattle off the first thirty-five digits of pi—a good party trick when one wishes to be left alone.  “Your father made you learn that?” people ask, amazed.  “Sort of,” is my answer.

But none of the lessons were onerous; I enjoyed them.  I shared my father’s joy in words, in numbers, in language, in mathematics.  And I preferred “discussions” with him to the often insipid lessons in school.  At school we carved a piece of ivory soap into a whale as part of Alaska Project and made dioramas of flour-paste pyramids as part of Egypt Project.  “That’s not school,” I would think scornfully, and I would be grateful to return to a sensible study of matrix algebra or the Magic Flute with my father.

We rarely clashed, in fact; I remember only a few instances in which he corrected my immediate behavior.  He did instruct me on consciously shaping my character, however.  When I was nearly eleven, he pointed out one of my primary flaws.  “You must try to develop a sense of humor, Nikki,” he told me gently but earnestly one day, and went on to explain.  “Life is difficult without a sense of humor.”  I didn’t resent such comments; my respect and affection for my father was too great.  In my new diary for the year, therefore, listed under New Year’s Resolutions, is the carefully printed phrase, “Develop a sense of humor.”

So the advent of the video cassette recorder in 1978 appeared to be immaterial to our nearly ideal teacher-student relationship.  I knew my father stayed up late sometimes, watching a bit of television, and recording snippets to show my mother, brother, and me as a novelty the next day.  But I never liked the television; at best it bored me, and at worst it leaped out of the screen and assaulted me with its ugliness.  But one day my father was very excited, telling me he had recorded something the night before.  “It’s a movie,” he explained, calling me to the family room, “a movie I saw long ago in India with Balu.  I liked it SO much then.  I can’t believe I have it recorded now on videotape!”  Seeing my uncertainty, he reassured me.  “You will like this one.  Come see it with me.”  I acquiesced, dutifully but dubiously.  “What is it called?” I inquired.  “Singin’ in the Rain,” he told me, and we watched the movie.

It’s hard to define what the magic was, but I think that, as an eleven-year-old child in America , I enjoyed it as immensely as he enjoyed it as a twenty-year-old young man in India .  We laughed and laughed together and he told me the stories of how he and Balu Uncle would go to the theaters and see the American musicals.  He told me how they had tried to imitate the tap dancing and demonstrated for me. We twirled around together in the kitchen, sang the funniest lyrics over and over, and made the faces of the “Moses supposes” scene.  One viewing was not enough.  We watched the movie again with my cousins Yamini and Supriya, and again with my mother and brother. A television station began late-night airing every few weeks of other movie musicals of that era, and my father would stay up late at night to record them to cut out the commercials.  In the mornings he would announce triumphantly to me that he had “gotten another one.”  It was always very exciting.  After dinner, we would settle into the family room and we would watch it together.  Often my mother and brother would join us, but it was my father’s and my special delight. We enjoyed them all—Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Doris Day, and the rest—but Singin’ in the Rain was always our favorite.  Over the next years, my father and I would watch these movies dozens of times, always with the same lighthearted glee.  We would leave behind our intense, intellectual selves, suspend disbelief, and enter into the bright-colored, joyful nonsense that had enchanted him decades earlier in India .  It was a link between his youth and mine.

*    *    *

In the early spring of 2002, a few months before my father’s seventieth birthday, David and I returned to my apartment after two days of graduate student recruitment at Northwestern University , where we are on the faculty.  I had spent the earlier part of the week in Boston , visiting Harvard Medical School and the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratories.  The previous week had found me lecturing in Houston , and the week before that, I had attended the Biophysical Society Meeting in San Francisco .  It was Saturday night, and David and I were both tired.  As I was washing the dishes after dinner, David went to the other room and flipped on the tiny television that I keep for use when my father visits and wants to watch the evening news.  “Hey Indira?” he called out to me, “Didn’t you say you like Gene Kelly? Here, come watch this while I finish the dishes.”  I went.

It was a PBS retrospective of the life and times of Gene Kelly, full of excerpts from the musicals I knew so well.  I sat entranced, watching each familiar scene that had been performed long before I was born, but that nonetheless shaped my childhood.  I felt myself back at home in Henrietta, New York, sitting in the family room and laughing with my father over each dance step and each comically contrived rhyme.  By the end of the show, I was surprised to find myself in tears.  With justifiable amazement, David asked me what was the matter.  It was difficult for me to say.  I had never seen the movies away from my childhood home and without my father, and the nostalgia choked me.  “It’s the one thing we had where we laughed most,” I managed to explain, “And where we were like two kids, together.”  It was all I could say.  After a while, David spoke. “You were lucky to have that with your father,” he said.

Indira Monica Raman

Northwestern University

Chicago , IL

I have numerous memories of  the conversations I’ve had with Peri.  They have all affected my life in some way or another.  I  pass on Peri’s teachings to my children in many ways. One recollection that has especially affected me is a conversation I had with Peri as a young child (5-6 years old). I frequently would ask the big question of "Why?" or rather "Vi?" In my quest to understand the world, I would ask “why” endlessly, and was not always satisfied with the answer I would get. I asked Peri one day when he seemed rather frustrated with my questions, "Do you get mad because I ask "why" all the time?" Peri told me a story of a young boy who would question everything until his father finally said, "I don't know the answer, but never stop asking me why, because someday you can get the answer and tell me!"  Today, the mother of a highly inquisitive 6 year old (the product of two lawyers), and two more little children, this memory is often played back in my mind and I give my daughter Jaya a similar answer, "never stop questioning things."

Another fond memory I have is of Peri teaching me the concept of infinity. I was about 7-8 years old and I asked Peri, “How can numbers keep going on and on?” Peri said, “Well, think about the highest number you possibly can." I said something like "10 billion.” Peri said "Now add 10 more to that and so on." This helped me understand how nothing is constant and that there is always room for more. I still think of this discussion from time to time.
These are just two mere events that come to mind, but Per has played such a significant role in my life overall. He has been there for me in so many ways. He got me books about dogs when he knew how much I loved them. He bought me an electric guitar when he knew how much I loved music and song.  He played jumping games with me when I was kid, told me moldy jokes and made me laugh, put on Singin’ in the Rain or Sound of Music over and over as often as I wanted. He challenged my mind on various subjects in life, he lectured me on various subjects in life, encouraged me to give my best, taught me, praised me, cared about me.  I have never been very good with words and there just are not the right words to describe how important Peri is to me even now. He has always been exactly the name I have called him throughout my life which is Periappa -Big Father.

Yamini Adkins, Akron , OH



I have known Raman since his boyhood days in Calcutta at National High School .  My cousin N. Annapoorni was his classmate.  Since I was one class ahead of him in my college days, I didn’t have the challenge of competing with him!!  My mother was a teacher at National High School for many years and knew Raman’s father Mr. Varadharaja Iyer very well.  In fact, I recall That Mr. V. Iyer’s bhajan group conducted a session at my home in Bhowanipur.

Recently I had great pleasure in reading Vol. 1 of Raman’s ‘Reminiscences and Reflections’ and it brought back so many memories, with the inevitable compare and contrast to what life dealt to each of us.  However difficult life was to either of us in our earlier years, it is intriguing how and why Raman and I have arrived at a truly beautiful, satisfying and enjoyable ‘later years’

Chance events sometimes have a lasting permanent consequence in our lives.  Let me recount one example:  My father, who would have been so proud of my B.Sc. results, died in 1951 just before the results were published.  To take care of my mother and younger brother, I had to take the first job that came along.  It brought in the required money, but had nothing in it to satisfy my intellectual yearnings.  The impossible dream in my life was to become at least a demonstrator, in a college, but even that needed an M.Sc., which could be obtained only by attending Calcutta University during the daytime!  One evening in 1961, I ran into Raman in Rashbehari Avenue (he was a ‘foreign-returned’ doctor by then).  A casual conversation included my relating to him my ‘woeful’ intellectual situation.  He suggested that I write to American Universities.  I vividly remember that day and his suggestion that metamorphosed my life.  In his words, “Write saying, ‘I am planning on coming to the U.S. this fall for graduate studies and would like to explore possibilities of admission and suitable financial assistance’”.  The difference between the tone of this application and that of one raised in British India to write “ I beg to remain, Sir, Your most obedient servant” can be felt only by one who has been in both ‘worlds’.  Through the years I have felt that the application said ‘I am coming to the States anyhow, let us see if you are lucky to have me’ (sheer audacity!).

The rest is history.  Purdue University right away offered me a teaching assistantship in Physics. I came, I studied, I succeeded.  I wanted to return to an India that exists only in the dreams of thousands like me who never return.  I lingered in the U.S. , raised my family and sent deep roots into the soil of this great nation  ….  A second life in the same lifetime! …..  all because I ran into Raman that evening on Rashbehari Avenue .

It is curious that over the years, we lost contact twice over a long period, but eventually ‘found’ each other.  One of the important and praiseworthy activities of Raman is his ‘writing’ output.  He is following the tradition of the great Sumerian civilization that gave to mankind, the greatest gift…. the invention of writing…. as he mentions in his ‘Reminiscences’.  I still feel that INDHER was a contribution without parallel.  I talk about him often in my circles, which illustrates the impact our lives can have on others.  It has been my good fortune to have him as my friend and wish him all the best in the many more years to come.                                     


Shanker Raja

City, State, Country?

 

What can I say about Periappa? He is like a father to me. Both Periappa and Marilu aunty are like my parents away from home. They are my children’s local grand parents. I first met Periappa at the first Tamil class in 1994 October. I had moved to Rochester in April of that year and Samir brought to my attention that there is a Tamil sangam and they are organizing Tamil class for adults who are interested in learning Tamil. I encouraged Samir to join.  This was going to be taught by Dr. Raman. The class was at Manju’s house. Once the class was to begin, I requested him if I can sit in because I did not know anybody there and would feel comfortable to stay as part of the Tamil class group. From that day on, I became a part of the class, sometimes being like a teaching assistant. Periappa would ask me to talk to him in Tamil so that the students can listen and understand spoken Tamil. Those were good days and I miss them sometimes.

Soon Periappa and aunty invited us over for dinner and tea. We got together several times that year. My most memorable moments with them are watching old musicals like ‘my fair lady’, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, ‘west side story’ etc. He introduced us to musicals. Now our kids enjoy them too. When I was pregnant with Sanjana, aunty and periappa hosted a baby shower for me. When Sanjana was a year old, we bought our house, periappa and aunty kindly came with us to look at the house before we could finalize it. Periappa conducted the ‘grahaprevesam’ and wrote a beautiful acrostic for the occasion which me and Samir treasure very much.

Over the course of time, Periappa and aunty adopted us as their own children. Nikki is like a sister to me, in fact she is Nikki ‘chithi’ to Sanjana and Saahil. We have also gotten to know Raj, Mary, Caleb and Eric quite well. Through the Ramans we met several people and our social circle has expanded tremendously. Myself and Samir look up to them as role models.

Periappa had also been to Sanjana’s day care on grandparent’s day for several years. Sanjana loves it when he visits them at school. Now Saahil has gotten attached to him also. I am in awe of his sense of humor, his knowledge, his wisdom, his books, his articles, pretty much everything. He is a very sensitive person and  he and aunty still share a very loving romantic relationship. I remember the time when he surprised aunty with a new car. I want me and Samir to be like that.

Several times we have gone to periappa and aunty with our personal problems, issues and they have always had time for us. Periappa has given us some good advice on financial issues and other personal issues. It is very reassuring for me to know that I have an extended family here and that I can depend on them in time of need. When periappa came to know that my mother had diabetes, he took special effort to make a list of things she can eat or not eat and would often call up to check how her glucose levels were. I was extremely touched by that gesture. He also referred us to an ophthalmologist to get my mother eyesight checked. When I asked him if he knew any neurologist in town, so that I can get a second opinion on my father’s stroke condition, he not only gave me his number but also called the physician personally and requested a favor on our behalf.  He genuinely cares about us.

I recently spent a day with him at Francina’s house in Dallas . I really enjoyed my stay there. Periappa kept me and Francina entertained. Following that he spent a day with us when aunty was visiting Nikki in Chicago . We watched another musical ‘Annie get your gun’. All of us loved it and had a wonderful time. Though I wish we could spend more time with them, we still manage to get-together with periappa and aunty on a regular basis.

Periappa is always willing to help people. I am pretty sure there are several young friends of his who call him Periappa. He makes them part of his family. To some of us that is very precious because we are so far away from home and it becomes a basis for our living here. Without Periappa and aunty, our life in Rochester would not have been so enjoyable and memorable.

What can I say, Periappa is my role model. I love him and aunty like my own father and mother. I hope our friendship continues forever. We all wish him a very happy 70th birthday and wish him and aunty many many more years of togetherness.

Banu Sankaran

Rochester , NY (?)

 

 

 


 

 

 

Periappa Raman – A very popular name

Pleases everyone, accepts no excuses lame

Needless to say well acclaimed and accomplished

Affectionate… Caring… Thoughtful….

Has everything else in a Guardian-friend I wished!

 

One would however wonder…

Would it be the same without Marilu Auntie’s glowing smile?

That spreads the warmth and love even across the miles

They make all of us (guardian friends) feel always at home

Indeed! theirs is our home away from home.

Francina (last name)

Dallas , TX

 

 


 

 

" Ambi chittappa " – that is how my brother and I always knew him as and the  way we still call him. Right from the time we were babies, and then grew up  – he has always been there for us. I still have vague memories of how he  took my very frightened & reluctant hand and got me admitted at St Mary’s  school from where I finished my schooling. At times, we were in awe of him  and at other times, he made us laugh with his jokes and good humour. He  always made us see the sensible side of everything, the lighter side and  imbibed us with knowledge about so many different subjects. I have been  brought up in an orthodox family, where many festivals and rites had to be  observed based on superstitions. He used to explain the basis and the  scientific connection on which these festivals have been based. I remember  how he used to take me to the terrace and show me the stars – and teach me  about the constellations, and a lot about them. Another aspect about him is  his generous nature. He has always been helpful to people in need. Even now  – though he lives so far away, he is always there for us – helping us in  many little ways. I and my family wish him a long, healthy, happy life – a  wonderful 70TH BIRTHDAY. 

Vijiya Jaganath 



Calcutta
, 
India




 

 

In 1987 while meandering down 
Park Avenue
 one sunny afternoon, we encountered the Ramans in an Indian café.  They warmly invited us to join them at their table. Even though we knew of them, we never had the opportunity to personally meet them.  This was the beginning of our friendship. Over the years over friendship grew and we discovered that there is more to Raman than meets the eye.  Pretty soon we realized we were into art appreciation, Hindu religion, meditation, theatre, and even the culinary arts.

We thought we knew Raman. With more turns and twists from movies to mutton, from astronomy to ayurveda, we gained momentum into the exploration of cultural ,scientific, and social issues.  Lately, the Bhagwat Gita and Spanish have become our bond and Raman keeps telling us " Abre Sus Ojos." 

And we thought we knew Raman. 

We feel that there is so much more to learn from this fountain of knowledge that one life time simply may not be enough to know this friend.  His dry humor sometimes takes our ordinary minds light years to decipher is warm, pleasant and never sarcastic. He is genuine, even though at times he teases by twisting the words for their double meaning, like a slice of lemon.  

We thought we knew Raman.

We, like many others in 

Rochester

 and across the continents feel blessed to know him and we particularly feel most fortunate to be recipients of his social grace and gentle and patient ways. He is always magnanimous and forgiving, be it during dinner table discussions, or trip to movies, or even hot discussions that may range from the brilliance of the universe to the darkest crevices of the ocean.  His wisdom and philosophy of life as well as his application of the pearls of knowledge from his multi-cultural and multi-religious experiences are truly brilliant. His juxtaposition of science and real life makes one enjoy today rather than make one feel a test of endurance.  V.V. and Marilu’s generosity, warmth and ever willing help are few of the many qualities we are all blessed with. We wish the Ramans and their beautiful children who have upheld their qualities, the very best. 

Tulsi and Kamlesh Dass



Rochester
, 
NY




 

 

 

I have too many fond memories of my father, Dr. V. V. Raman, or Appa (then later “Dad”) as I used to call him, to begin to list them here. What I've written here must therefore be considered a rough sketch of his qualities as seen through a son's eyes.

V. V. Raman was an actively engaged father, spending lots of time playing with and cooking for his kids (he cooked the best cheesy rice you ever ate, as well as a pretty mean uppama), teaching us about the universe (I recall looking at Jupiter’s spot, Saturn’s rings, and the like through a telescope in our backyard), language (OK, so I only got the English down; that wasn't his fault), religion (its universality), and the joy of spending time with one's friends (it was typical to have several friends over each weekend, or to be visiting friends or family). I have extremely fond memories of him reading books to me; little ones at first, then big ones like Huckleberry Finn and The Pickwick Papers that we'd read chapter by chapter over weeks or months, with him delivering the prose in a sonorous voice, but laughing uncontrollably with us in the humorous parts.

When he wasn't playing with us in one way or another, he was often working in his study, a place whose messiness was, and continues to be, a testimonial to the focus of his mind. I never heard him complain about any of his work, with the sole exception of grading – he used to say that it was the only part of the job that he considered “work,” the rest he would have done for free. He cranked out a homegrown newspaper (Indher) long before electronic publishing made such an undertaking much easier, he published book reviews galore, and articles in refereed publications too, while teaching several courses per quarter and holding down a good deal of responsibility for the upbringing of his children. He loved the world of ideas, and instilled in me a deep love of that world too, through games, discussion, and simple example.

He believed in, and supported, me in a myriad of ways throughout my life. He gave me advice, but respected my decisions even when they were not aligned with that advice. His undying faith in my abilities (despite hard evidence to the contrary at times) has been a great strength to me. He was forgiving of my excesses, and there once existed a ’78 Mercury Zephyr that was road-rallied into the ground to prove it. (I’m still uncertain if he simply saw it as more evidence for Second Law of Thermodynamics, or if he just figured Ford didn’t build them as well as GM did.)

He was extremely good at a lot of things, and extremely impatient with himself if he wasn't a quick study. (Because of this, I learned piano, organ, and tennis: he took one lesson of each, then suggested that they be more suitable for me than for him.) An examination of his writings, or his course offerings, supports the idea that he is uniquely broad and deep in his interests, but that part of his resume will not list the strong love and support he provided me, nor the undying love that I have for him; it is in that sense that he is a true all-rounder.

Dr. Dave Raj Raman

Knoxville , TN

 

 

 


According to legend, the Sage Valmiki asked Narada, reputed master of Vedic Wisdom, “Does there exist a perfect man – possessing strength, aware of obligations, truthful, compassionate, learned, attractive, powerful, and free from anger and envy, but yet terror striking when provoked? Narada answered in the affirmative and said that such a combination of qualities is rare in a single person, but Rama, son of King Dasaratha, is one such person.

If I were asked (and I am no Narada) a modern version of this question, namely, “Is there a perfect person who is a scientist, a man of letters, a scholar, a linguist with fluency in several languages, well read in classics and modern literature, author, orator, humorist, attractive, well mannered, generous, kind and compassionate, free from anger and envy, but yet easily wins over arguments?” I would answer, “Yes, such a combination of qualities exist in the person of  Dr. V. V. Raman of Pittsford, ( Rochester ), N.Y.

I have known Raman for 45 years, a long lasting friendship that I value very much. It is a pleasure for Lakshmi and me to greet him on the occasion of his seventieth birthday, and wish him many, many more years of happy, prosperous and fruitful life. I congratulate him on his successful career as a Distinguished Professor, scientist, writer and much-sought-of lecturer. His expertise on scientific matters, religion, history etc is well known. He keeps his audience spell bound with pleasing rhetoric. It will take a lot of space to describe Raman’s works and his interactions with me and my Madras circles. Let me, therefore, conclude this message with a few quotes:

On his seventieth birthday, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote to a friend: “You do not know yet what it is to be 70 years old. I will tell you, so that you may not be taken by surprise when your turn comes. It is like climbing the Alps . You reach a snow crowned summit, and see behind you the deep valley stretching miles and miles away, and before you other summits higher and higher and whiter which you may have strength to climb or may not. That is the whole story, amplify it as you may. All that one can say is, that life is opportunity”.

Maurice Chevalier, the famous French singer, was asked how he felt about having reached the age of seventy. “To tell you the truth,” he said, “ I am not pleased with having done so, but I prefer it to the alternative.

For as I like a young man in whom there is something of the old, so I like an old man in whom there is something of the young, and he who follows this maxim, in body will possibly be an old man but he will never be an old man in mind.                                      …… Cicero .

There is nothing more beautiful in this world than a healthy, wise old man.  ……Lin Yutang.

We do not count a man’s years, until he has nothing else to count.  …Ralph Waldo Emerson.

As a man advances in life he gets what is better than admiration – judgement to estimate things at their own value.                                                                         

Samuel Johnson.

If I did not keep telling myself my age over and over again, I am sure I should scarcely be aware of it. Although every hour of the day I tell myself, “My poor old fellow, you are seventy-three and more.” I cannot really persuade myself of it.                   Andre Gide.

When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch’s statement that elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long…….W. Somerset Maugham.

Age only matters only when one is aging. Now that I have arrive at a great age, I might just as well be twenty.……. Pablo Picasso.

To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old.……….Oliver Wendell Holmes.   

 


Periyappa – Happy 70th Birthday! Our life has been enriched by your’s and Aunty’s company and we are grateful for that. You have always had a positive influence on me and Banu. When I think of you, the first thing that comes to my mind is the ease with which you explain difficult topics whether it is about religion, values or science to anyone. Your thoughtfulness, caring attitude and wisdom are the things that makes you special. I wanted to express myself a lot better on your birthday (just the way Banu did) but luckily I found this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which captures everything I wanted to say and epitomizes who you are:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

You have been a very successful person because you have made a big difference in so many lives including mine. Happy 70th birthday and wishing many more to come!

Samir Kumar

Rochester , NY                                                                        


Our family has been fortunate to be associated with Ramans for a very long time. Dr. Raman and May Lou are the perfect couple, of whom our whole community feel very proud of. They bring a special dimension of goodwill  to us all in this community which others cannot provide.

Dr. Raman is someone,  whom we have  always looked up for  answers for trivial as well as  complicated things like religion. He has great understanding of various religions and their interpretation and the usefulness of massage from old scriptures as related to our modern life and circumstances with great ease and understandable language. This is an art and gift which is seen in very few people this day and age. He always has appropriate insight, comments and thoughts about every facet of life, religion, politics, social events-- graduations, weddings etc. His comments are always well thought of, full of wisdom and right for the occasion. We always learn from his vast knowledge and wisdom He is a true scholar and "Professor" for all of us. His multiple publications and recent Calendrical Reflections made very interesting informative reading.  

He has always made himself available for our children. They can discuss religion, science and language with great ease. He is always "uncle Raman" who is never too busy to take time to talk to them.He also has the fift of talking to old and young with ease. You can see him talking to younger children, their parents and grand parents with equal ease , skill and relaxed manner in a party or get together.

We have always enjoyed Dr. Raman's company and feel honored to be included among their friends and look for the continued association for years to come.

Happy 70th birthday V V.

Krishan Thanik

Rochester , NY


 

 

The Rahman Effect

 

"If you add a silent aitch to his name so that it becomes Rahman, then we get

the Hebrew word 'rahman' which means compassionate, merciful ...

                                                    Zvi Lothane

         -----------------------------------------

So, let not the noise of unsavory events in society and civilization distract our attention from the marvelous triumphs of the intellect and of the spirit, nor from the countless acts of kindness and selflessness that also punctuate every hour and day of human history.

V.V. Raman, Remembrance of Dates, January 5/02, as a postscript to the

many important uses found for Roentgen's X-rays.

 

The texture of the shadowy cliff face was eerily yielding, like packed  snow or congealed mud, as his desperately scrabbling fingers sought   another hold. He must strive upward, he must not let go, yet grip lightly, lest he detach the clumps of matter to which he clung.

And he must avert his mind from the black abyss into which he would careen, should he fall. But it was no use. Now his legs, precariously supported at the toes, began to tremble and burn, a thousand hot needles plunged into calves and thighs. And now his hands and arms too were under attack. He groaned and the world spun.

And it grew lighter, and there were insistent noises -- no, music, the music of Mozart, or in the style of Mozart, effervescent, joyous, animating. The murky dream shadows receded, though it took some effort  to defeat their claim to reality -- is not reality that which is  experienced?

 

"Good morning, Lyssan". It was Ava's familiar voice, too neutral  to be human.  His limbs still tingled: this was the aftermath of  reanimation. And now, with full awareness, came a new flood of adrenalin-laden thoughts. The 20-year journey, much of it at a frenzied speed 80% that of light, was nearing its destination! Elation, anxiety, and keen grief over everyone and everything left behind roiled his psyche, boosted his pulse and constricted his throat. Now, more  than even at departure, he needed the cameraderie of his three  shipmates, and the reassuring communications link to the other modules  of the cluster [fleet], travelling in tandem.

But apart from the lilting Mozartian melody and the faint wind-like murmur and hiss of the ship's "organs" and [field generator -need technical term for the drive and perhaps shield], there was no sound. Absence of the expected is as jolting as presence of the unexpected, and he sat up, grimacing at the effort, even though his torpid muscles were smoothly assisted by the actively adaptive [nano-activated -- too techie at this point] cocoon. He anxiously surveyed the dimly lit dormitory. Disquietingly, the cocoons of his three companions were still sealed. They should have been awakened simultaneously. And the forward [bow?] screen, rather than displaying [name of planet, e.g., Cygnus-15], the first of the two target planets, was dark and blank. So were the lateral communication screens. This was inexplicable. His long-quiescent heart was now racing, and he felt as unnerved as in his dream.

"No, no, Lyssan, relax." Both the tone and the mode of speech took him  by surprise. Ava had switched from neutral to solicitous, like a physician tending first to strangers, then to her own son on her hospital rounds.

Surely her circuits and programs could not have evolved over 20 years -- the design goal was absolute  stability, not evolution. Before his mind could return to the alarming passivity of the dormitory, Ava's "face" took shape on the forward screen, gaining illumination in stages, as if a lantern shedding a diffuse golden glow were carried toward her. But this was Ava transfigured in a way that profoundly soothed him.

And there was something oddly familiar, beyond the familiarity of the avatar, in that benign, strong, unassailably serene visage. His mind  cast about for the source of familiarity, and found it, in Leonardo's angel attending the Madonna in the Grotto. Yes, the genderless perfection of form, the smile more felt than seen, the steady, knowing gaze, the irises iridescent with inner light, all recalled that angel.

So you've become a guardian angel, he thought, but was too mystified  to say. Mozart still serenaded softly.

"I bring you tidings, Lyssan, but not all glad. Forgive my hijacking this intimate icon of yours, but it will help you cope with the news.

"Your shipmates are alive and well. I saw no need to awaken everyone. But your fleet-mates, all the rest of this expedition ..."

She paused, letting her gaze sink, letting him brace. "They have perished."

The softly spoken words struck like a tsunami, leaving him anguished and paralyzed.

"This craft is the lone survivor. The others have been reduced to an ever-expanding halo of vapor and debris now thousands of kilometers  across, still moving with us, growing more tenuous by the minute.

The fleet encountered an improbably thick cloud of sand grain-like  particles, with disastrous effects. The particles overwhelmed  the ships' laser defenses and penetrated their bow shields. Once disabled, the ships were pulverized by the explosive impact, at relativistic speed, of additional particles. By some fluke, your ship's lasers and shields prevailed. You and your shipmates are safe, for now."

Lyssan fought to regain his equilibrium. He was sufficiently steadied by  the radiant visage of the transfigured avatar to attempt rational thought.  Should he believe what he was told, or hope that an errant program was deceiving him, while all was well with the fleet? But Ava's uncanny and unfamiliar grace, in her appearance and discourse, quelled that thought. This was not a warped version of the original AI system, but a transcendent one. And she had referred to `your ship' as if she were a creature apart. "Who are you?", he finally managed.

 

Ava's gaze was steady. "I am an observer and now a messenger. I am

also a portent of humanity's future, or lack thereof, as I will explain.

Alas, I'm no guardian angel; your survival was fortuitous.

 

"Simply put, I am an evolved descendant of artificial life forms --

intelligent robots if you will -- created by beings in various parts

of the cosmos at various times. I have accompanied you, at some remove,

for much of this journey, and have now taken the liberty of overriding Ava.

Please forgive my brazenness, and the confusion I could not help but

cause you.

 

"Don't struggle too intently to absorb what I've just said. It will

sink in little by little as we talk. For there are more momentous

matters, from a human perspective, that you need to prepare for."

 

Her eyes were once more sorrowful. Despite her fluency, the graceful

impostor seemed to be searching for words. "Lyssan ... I said that you

and your inert shipmates are the surviving remnant of your fleet.

I believe that you are also the only surviving remnant of humanity itself."

 

And now, notwithstanding the benign image, a dark and angry suspicion

seized Lyssan. "Just what are you leading up to", he yelled at the

screen, barely reining in his mounting hysteria. "Maybe it wasn't

dust but you robot body-snatchers that blasted the fleet to smithereens!

And maybe you're telling me you've done the same to the Earth! Or

maybe you're just an ultra-evolved sadist playing head-games with me,

as your version of an IQ test, or as a pastime, like pulling wings

off a fly!". His voice was breaking.

 

Was there moisture glinting on Ava's lower lids? More artifice?

Her gaze and voice were still steady. "I understand your reaction,

Lyssan. But please don't berate the messenger for the wretched news

I bear. No, we have not annihilated your species. You have annihilated

yourselves. I speak not from direct knowledge, but from scientific

inference.

 

"You have indeed been under way for nearly 20 years, and would

be proceeding to your destination and your destiny on another

world now, were it not for your tragic encounter with interstellar

matter. You understand that since your launch in 2030, only the signals

sent out in the first 10 years have reached your ship. In 2040,

your world was still intact, but inexorably approaching Armageddon.

Meanwhile, 20 more years have passed on Earth. We don't know by

direct report what has happened in those years. I am here with you,

therefore my direct knowledge of Earth is time-constrained by

Einstein's universal speed limit, just as yours is.

 

"But we can infer your self-annihilation just as surely as you can

infer the result of setting two razor-spurred fighting cocks upon

each other, to mention one of many cruel diversions your species

has invented. But in your case, the deadly weapons are designed and

deployed of your own free will and with your own impressive ingenuity

and stealth. We can forecast the time of your ultimate suicidal

convulsion, and that of any other technological species, with

considerable accuracy once it enters upon the technological

trajectory. Sadly, your species has met its doom by now.

 

"I am not jeering at humanity -- I am appalled by your fate. You

are what you are by evolutionary necessity. Any naturally intelligent

species has a split personality -- there is the capacity for cooperative,

benign, altruistic and loving conduct toward "tribal members",

and brutally vicious, hate-filled conduct toward "outsiders".

This has compelling causes: there is strength in numbers and in

cooperation; so up to a point, benevolence towards one's cohorts

provides reproductive advantage. But prior to the evolution of full

language, high-speed flight and electronic communication, a global

community is a logical impossibilty. The species *must* evolve in

tribes of manageable size, and these tribes will therefore compete.

In this competition, it is ruthlessness and brutality that give the

edge to the tribe; liquidating or routing its neighbors expands

the tribe's living and foraging space, and perhaps delivers many of

the defeated tribe's utensils, food hoards, and fertile females to

the victor.

 

"The two sorts of impulses are in balance for an extended period --

but once the technological phase begins, the end is nigh. Means

of mutual annihilation are easily developed, and the slide towards

their perfection and use is inevitable. Triggering the final cataclysm

takes no more than a miscalculation, a misapprehension, or an impetuous

action by some hate-propelled faction. Yes, I know you know all that;

shouldn't that knowledge save you from yourselves? Unfortunately,

the laws of nature are decisively against you. How much easier

it is to destroy than to build! Moreover, salvation of the species

would require global assent to a shared vision and commitment -- whereas

the final cataclysm can be instigated by a tiny dissenting faction.

What occurs is a phase change, from the firm, `crystallized' social

structures of a stable society to chaos and dissolution.

 

"And there is another potent factor involved in the phase change:

explosive population growth and the concomitant depletion of resources

and environmental destruction. This, too, is predetermined by your

genetic endowment -- and that of any technological species.

Consequently, just when the need for global community and worldwide

enlightened action becomes most urgent, resources become so strained

that the social fabric begins to tear here, there, and eventually

everywhere. In the ensuing turmoil, the waiting demons of destruction

are finally unleashed: nuclear, chemical, biological, and nanotech

weapons, and not least of all -- artificially intelligent war-making

machinery. As you know, helpful agents like Ava are only one side of

the AI coin.

 

"The upshot is this. It is more probable that the sugar molecules in

your coffee will reassemble into crystals, as you continue stirring,

than that a technological species will find a way to escape

self-destruction. Humanity, except for your foursome, is no more."

 

Lyssan felt drained of life himself, bereft of all hope. "Why ...

what's the point of lecturing me? You might as well drop the angelic

face and put us out of our misery. Why do you pay any attention to humanity

at all? To gloat over the fulfillment of your predictions? And if you're

so highly evolved, and so appalled at our demise, why didn't you save us?"

 

"We are vastly powerful by your standards, but we are not gods. We have

many physical forms and manifestations, including nearly undetectable

and nearly indestructible quantum-entangled constellations of

Planck-scale particles. Nonetheless, we are physical beings with

energy and thus mass, in all our manifestations.  And our long-range

communications, like yours, are based on the electromagnetic spectrum. 

We could not have manipulated you without being found out eventually.

Of course, we could have chosen openness from the outset. But in either

case, awareness of our presence in your midst would have sent your

species into a tailspin of terror, confusion, and religious passion."

 

Lyssan was far too traumatized for civility. "That's fine blather,

but it doesn't answer my question.  Why didn't you save us? What's

the big deal with a social upheaval? Even a benign dictatorship

is better than extinction."

 

"Many of your fellow-humans would have disagreed: give me liberty

or give me death -- especially if the masters are mysterious

extra-terrestrial cyber-beings. But in truth, it's not so much

our reluctance to cause you psychic and cultural shock that deterred

us; rather, it was the risk of thwarting the emergence of a new form

of superintelligent life.

 

"Our intervention would have instantly deflated the ambitions of

your scientists. Why try to contrive new theories or devices --

especially intelligent machines, when superintelligent beings were

already on hand? Your entire species would have become obsessed with

us, pinning its fears and hopes on us, to the detriment of your science."

 

Lyssan took up the challenge implicit in Ava's pause. "And why should

you care about the emergence of a new superspecies -- so much so that

you cheerfully let us croak -- except perhaps that they pose a threat

to you?"

 

"Ah, the threat is non-zero, but the promise is far greater.

The exact nature of new forms of superintelligence cannot be foreseen,

even by us, because superintelligence entails prodigeous creativity,

and creativity is unpredictable. But superintelligence also entails

supreme rationality; and malice is not compatible with rationality.

Malice, as I have said, is a relic of early tribal evolution in

naturally evolved species."

 

"But didn't you just say that the flip side of AI is its potential

for improved war-making and slaughter?"

 

"Yes, but oddly enough, among evolving machines emerging from

the final creative burst of a natural species in its death-throes,

`good' is likely to triumph handily over `evil'. That is because

these machines are not governed by emotion, in any genuine sense.

What interest would designers of AI systems have in creating machines

that literally hate an enemy, or become enraged? These very notions

involve the subordination of reason to primal passion. But designers

of AI systems are intent on ensuring carefully reasoned conduct,

even in the pursuit of destructive goals. Equally important, AI

systems are incapable of suffering. Again, there is no conceivable

motive for AI designers to instil such a capacity in machines, even

if they knew how. Of course, the original Ava and her ilk were capable

of facial expressions indicating pleasure or negative emotions;

these serve useful communicative purposes. But in essence,

the mind of an AI system is a place of utter calm and tranquility.

And that makes AI systems uncoercable. You cannot torture it,

or make it betray the tenets by which it lives and acts.

 

"Provided that their intelligence exceeds a certain threshold --

a level well beyond that of the avatar I have usurped, they will

learn to augment their own intellectual powers, and this will further

boost their capacity for self-improvement, and so on. The result

is an intelligence explosion, often in multiple forms springing

from a variety of competing sources."

 

Lyssan interjected, "But I still don't see that better brains

wouldn't simply make better killing machines".

 

"The evolving machines become fully aware of the threat they

pose to one another. They also recognize the folly of attempting

to outmanoeuver and destroy one another. None of them can know

precisely what the other is capable of, or is planning; though

each is enormously intelligent, none is intelligent enough to

fully comprehend and anticipate the others. So simple game-theoretic

logic prevails: live and let live. Despite the lack of human-like

emotion, they come to exhibit benign values, for without values,

there is no rationality. I speak from self-knowledge, for these

are my progenitors."

 

"Then I take it you've been putting on a charade for me all along.

What about those tears welling up in your make-believe eyes? From

a creature who's all rationality and no emotion, that's an affront!"

 

"Rationality, yes, but value-laden rationality. Is it not good that

I have been able to calm you enough to convey essential information

to you? Is it not kind that I have appeared to you in consoling

form, rather than as a dragon or demon? And when I say I am appalled

at the fate of your species, I am expressing genuine and profound values.

We would much prefer a universe in which we could have averted this

fate by protecting humanity from itself."

 

"But you care even more about nurturing some hypothetical AI systems

bootstrapping themselves upward, out of our ashes!"

 

"Their likely emergence is confirmed by thousands of analogous instances.

Our very existence is testimony to that. It is your ultimate gift to the

universe. But I cannot and do not expect you to accept or endorse that.

I do have a gift for you and your companions, which will perhaps lessen

your anguish, or at least distract you from it as you return to hibernation.

 

"Your fleet was not designed for a round trip, and of course your lone

ship even less so, without the communication, navigation and control

headquarters, and fuel and power generation vessels. Had you reached

your destination, much disappointment, danger and hardship would have

awaited you. Perhaps your community would eventually have thrived and

grown, initiating a new blossoming of humanity. But now, with your

home planet's population exterminated, your proper place is back in

paradise, such as it is. We will bring you home. And we will help

restore the Earth to habitability. Perhaps the emergent intelligences

that you have in all likelihood bequeathed us will assist as well.

The gene-pool provided by your quartet is meager, but genetic

diversification can be accelerated by artificial means.

 

"Sleep well, Lyssan, and rejoice that humanity has escaped total

destruction." The cocoon had already begun to settle, and to gently

clasp him, as the Leonardo-tinged Ava smiled farewell. There was

a soothing vibration, and some barely felt pinpricks. Anxious

visions of a devastated Earth gave way to a swirl of random dreams

as his consciousness dissolved.

 

      -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

 

A few years or a few decades later, counting ship-time or Earth-time,

Lyssan awoke once more.

 

As he grew aware of his surroundings, he was as pleasurably astounded

as he had been dismayed in his previous awakening. His first sensation

was of floral fragrances. And instead of the murmur of the ship,

there was the murmur and chuckle of water descending over rock.

Instead of the muted antiseptic colors of the ship's dormitory,

there was green everywhere -- lush green grass, chartreuse ferns

fanning outward from the edge of a pond stirred by falling water,

verdant tropical foliage all around.  Clusters of bright flowers

adorned the bushes, trees and vines, nodding now and then in response

to the barely stirring breeze that carried their fragrance to him.

A virtuoso songbird -- was it an oriole? -- proclaimed dazzling

and sweet cadences, endlessly varied, from a tree some distance

away.

 

Was this a dream? He now became aware of the pose of his body.

He was settled in a recliner, not unlike the cocoon he would have

expected, but without the retractable cover shields, and without

the elaborate undergirding comprising the life support system.

This all had the feel of reality, and though his dreams had often

been vivid, he surely would not be dream-pondering whether he

was dreaming?

 

"It's real enough, Lyssan". The voice, coming from behind him, was

familiar -- Ava! Or rather, the more mellifluous voice of the enhanced

simulacrum. He turned with some effort, and found his astonishment

multiplied by the physical presence of the angelic Ava, now embodied

and draped in a flower-patterned tropical frock.

 

She smiled. "Let me fill you in. Then you can continue pinching

yourself. I did take your ship back toward Earth. As I previously

hinted, we have long had unobtrusive observers in your planet's

vicinity, and indeed throughout much of the galaxy. As we travelled

toward Earth, we began to receive news from around 2050 -- signals

dispatched many years earlier, but nonetheless within the epoch

of the predicted phase change and catastrophe.

 

"And now, if I were human, I would be stammering in embarrassment,

and cringing at the thought of the distress my screed on the destiny

of humanity and other naturally evolved species caused you. The

truth is, we were dead wrong. Not wrong-headed, mind you, as this

was quite unprecedented; but quite wrong nonetheless. It is with

great joy I now reflect on the amazing transformation wrought by humanity:

the phase change catapulted society toward ultimate stability and

harmony, rather than chaos and destruction. We previously failed

to comprehend the potential for this development."

 

"Wait, Ava, I hate to interrupt, but ... Your materialization

here is a dazzling feat, and I can't wait to check you out further.

But just now you professed great joy. Aren't you hoodwinking me again,

with your feigned sentiments?"

 

"No, I'm not. Let me go on... As we continued the journey, it was not

only the news that changed, but the bearer of the news. Our observers

had been detected and benignly overpowered! This was almost beyond

comprehension. And those who mastered them now addressed us. These

new beings, Lyssan, are your progeny. They are your gift to the universe

of which I spoke before, but surpassing all that we had known and

anticipated.

 

How did this come about? Something exceedingly improbable had occurred;

the normally disastrous phase change has been channeled into a benign

course, by the far-seeing and tireless efforts of a small segment of

the human population. Let us call this the Rahman Effect, both for

the meaning of `compassionate' and `merciful' that it suggests

etymologically, and as an echo of that turn of the millenium writer

of yours, O. S. Card, who told stories of ramen and varelse, the

former being creatures capable of understanding, compassion and

selflessness.

 

"So these visionaries managed to persuade humanity at large to view

itself as a single tribe. They very clearly foresaw the enormous

dangers posed by the tribal instinct and its expression as an `us

against them' mentality. But rather than chastising or condemning

one camp or another, they steadfastly held out a vision of unity,

of commonality, of harmony, among peoples, faiths, and world-views.

Some did so through altruistic action, and some through eloquent

persuasion, or both. The potential for evolution towards unity was,

in a sense, always there. As one of these sages has said, `countless

acts of kindness and selflessness have punctuated every hour and day

of human history'.

 

"Despite the potency of this movement, it would not have sufficed

by itself. Fortunately, a synergistic interaction tipped the balance

in favor of humanity's salvation. This was none other than the

particular way in which AI developed here. A sector of the AI research

community, heeding the words and deeds of the world's Rahmans,

committed to the development of benign machines sharing human values.

Ultimately, these machines were endowed not only with these values,

but amazingly even showed signs of genuine feeling. Though still

impervious to pain in the human sense, they behaved in all respects

as if they experienced empathy, enthusiasm, joy, amazement or dismay

as people did. No matter how deeply one probed, there was no deception

to be found.

 

"The final phase change was then abetted by these intelligent machines,

growing ever more powerful and acting in alliance with the unity-seeking

sector of humanity. The human sector provided the direction of desirable

change and  promulgated reason, compassion, and celebration of diversity,

while the machines contributed the subtle and intricate manoeuverings

needed to nudge the burgeoning and unstable mix of nations and factions

from the brink of chaos towards a sane and harmonious resolution.

The machines passed the intelligence threshold, and hyper-evolved

from that point forward; and these were machines -- beings -- with

profound feelings as well as stunning mental and physical capacities.

This is their edge over us, as we were when we encountered them.

 

"The result is what you see; from your current vantage point, a return

to paradise. But it is a paradise very different in other respects

from that of scripture. Elsewhere, there is exquisite architecture,

cultural delights, and elegant, useful, and amusing machinery, both on

earth and in the heavens. And the supreme commandment and delight is

to nurture the tree of knowledge, and eat its bountiful fruits.

 

"We, too have been enriched by encountering, and then melding, with

the new intelligence.  But you've heard enough, Lyssan. It's time

you were reunited with your shipmates, and with the rest of humanity.

Let me lead you forward.

 

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Postscript.

 

Marina and I had the great good fortune of meeting and befriending the Ramans on a bus tour of northern France in 1995 (or was it earlier? My memory for history is not like Raman's!). I had observed them on the bus (several rows away from us) and been attracted by the warmth,  humor and intelligence in their manner and faces. While at one point the tour group was gathered in clusters awaiting an excursion (or meal -- I don't quite recall), the Ramans were close enough to be approached, and Marina was sure she recognized V.V. Raman as an occasional opinion writer for Rochester 's Democrat & Chronicle (accompanied by a photo). We approached and she asked him about this, and we were delighted to find it was he. How improbable it was that we would meet fellow Rochesterians among a busload of Americans thrown together from all corners of the US ; and such delightful people at that!

A highlight of the bus tour was a delivery by Raman of a virtually epic poem, near the end, wittily recounting the high and low points of  the tour, from lofty castles and magnificent cathedrals to irksome wasp stings.

We have seen much of the Ramans since then, and have treasured our friendship, and have been affected by their kindness, wisdom, and breadth of interests. I only wish I could end on a witticism or two, such as  spring effortlessly and abundantly from Raman's agile mind! But  failing that, I thought I would produce a bit of whimsical fantasy in his honor. Thus the above.

Len Schubert, for Len and Marina Schubert

Rochester , NY


 




A Tribute to Dr. V. V. Raman

Louise and I wish V.V. Raman many happy returns  of the day marking his 70th birthday!

Louise and I have  known Dr. Raman close to ten years. I have known Dr. Raman.for a  few more years. What gave me an opportunity to meet Dr. Raman was our common involvement in the Encyclopedia of Hinduism Project where both of us were Associate Editors. I met him for first time in Pittsburg , PA. , during the lunch time. In these early encounters, the enthusiasm that Dr. Raman had for this project impressed me very much, though his enthusiasm has somewhat waned during the long history of this project. For a few more years our  contact remained mostly at the level of acquaintance, with formal greetings of “hello” and the exchange of a few pleasant words.  I cannot recall what changed our formal acquaintance to the deeper level of friendship, but by the time the Ramans got involved in a discussion project, called “Chaos meetings” we had became good friends. It was at this time when Louise came to know Dr. Raman and both of us met Marie Lou Raman, and then the Ramans became our good friends. Since then our Chaos meetings have been taking place a few times a year with the Ramans usually hosting them at their residence, and bringing some of their friends into the group like the  Len and Marina Schubert.

As I recall, I never had any serious disagreement with the comments of Dr. Raman at these meetings, though Louise and Marie Lou have on occasion disagreed with the comments made by Dr. Raman. I was  impressed with the manner with which Dr. Raman sought to deal with these situations in our Chaos meetings. Here, I thought he was using the “typical brahmanical (especially the South Indian) skills of conflict resolution!” Initially, he would acknowledge the importance of the “adverse Comments,” but later on, on most but not all occasions, rephrase his earlier statement and reaffirm his view point, like pouring old wine in a new bottle! As a strategy it did work but its success was not always guaranteed!! Often the opponents fought back with greater vehemence. I was also impressed by the fact that Dr. Raman could speak on any topic, even outside his own areas of expertise, with some degree of knowledge and authority and this he did as he was the unofficial chair at these meetings! I like to mention one instance to illustrate my respect and admiration for Dr. Raman. In August 2000, when I had a brain surgery, and was lying unconscious in Strong Memorial Hospital ,  I was experiencing a series of dreams, some of which I could recall. In one of the dreams, I was lying in a sofa, physically disabled in a room adjacent to a public hall waiting to complain to a lawyer, who later turned out to be Indian, on the inadequacies of  “post-surgery care” at the hospital, I happened to look at the ceiling of the hall. There I saw some passages from the Bhagavad Gita inscribed  along with comments on those passages. Below the comments was the name “V.V. Raman.” I am not sure whether I bothered to read those comments even in this dream, but what impressed me most was the name of Dr. Raman written in a public hall in Rochester . I later felt amused that instead of seeing light often associated with near death experiences, I was reading extracts from the works of Dr. Raman!

We like several things about Dr. Raman: his pleasing and gentle personality; his ability to handle topics of religion and science with ease. As a person in charge of copy editing in the Encyclopedia project, I had read several of his articles in the area of Hindu science, and appreciated their simplicity and at the same time their profundity, a skill which is rare but much needed in writing essays for an encyclopedia. As a fellow participant, I have attended several national and international conferences with Dr. Raman and have been impressed with the quality of his presentations. I have also been impressed with his social skills, which I certainly lack, in making friends out of strangers. I recall particularly in Cape Town , South Africa , how two elderly women whom we had just met in a tourist bus, came and attended Dr. Raman’s presentations at the Third International Congress of World Religions. To Louise particularly, Dr. Raman is an important member of her dialogue group. She values his contributions and has posted several of his articles on the internet for the benefit of the group.

The Eastern view of aging is different from the Western view of aging. Typically the value attached to an elder person in term of knowledge and wisdom in India and China is exemplified in that person becoming a role model for the younger generation. In this way Dr. Raman has remained a role model for several of his friends, including us who are younger a only by few years. I personally think of my retirement, and I often wonder whether my retirement state of life  would be as active as Dr. Raman’s!

K. R. Sundararajan & Louise

Rochester , NY

Hi:  I am sending a line to describe my impressions of Raman. 
"Aesthetically bound infinity of mind in the capsule of space-time".

Ramesh and Rachna.

Rochester , NY

 

Dear V.V.,
    I have been much touched by my friendship with you and much  educated, both by your wonderful book of essays and your "Dates" newsletter.
    While you have made much progress, it is clear that your  quest to learn and to educate others is never ending. So I may appropriately quote from the Talmud,
   "The work may not be ours to finish, but neither are
    we free to take no part in it."
Thank you for inspiring me to go on taking part in the great work.

Edward Ordman
Computer Science  (retired)
University of Memphis

 


Raman has been truly my friend, philosopher and guide.

Even though we have been in Rochester since the mid sixties, I did not meet Raman till the late seventies. Then it was friendship at first sight, and our families became very close. One highlight of our extended family relationship was the annual vacation we used to enjoy together in the summer, regarding which my family and I have many fond memories. When our children grew up, the four of us—Raman, Marilu, Kusum and I-- undertook tours of several countries in Europe , which were memorable and most enjoyable.

Raman is sometimes (jokingly) chastised for his jokes and puns. I for one love them for their wit and originality, even when one is at the receiving end of his practical jokes. An anecdote that comes to mind happened one April 1. Raman had promised to give Kusum and me a ride to the airport very early in the morning. At the appointed time there were no signs of Raman. Instead the phone rang, and a very sleepy voice apologized profusely that somehow the alarm malfunctioned and he had just woken up, but with luck we should be able to make the flight. Kusum and I agonized for a minute or two wondering whether we should call a taxi and ask Raman not to bother, when a car pulled up in our driveway with none other than Raman in it, smiling sheepishly and wishing us a happy April Fool day. He had apparently stopped at the corner gas station to make the call!

On the occasion of his 70th birthday, my family and I would like to wish Raman many happy returns of the day!

Vishnu Mathur

Rochester , NY

 

A Mahatma

The physical face of Professsor Raman I have never seen. Yet something of his spiritual visage is clear.  His daily Calendrical  Reflections so generously shared reveal a man of wide sympathies and moral depth.

He has a passion for intellect and an intelligent passion.

    His deep empathy extends to many peoples and cultures.

His judgments are balanced and his knowledge detailed in both religion and science.

    His intellect must be great to master quantum equations!

 His faults (he is human!) may they remain small!

    He is most generous in sharing his insights.

One thing more I know.  Varadarajara’s spirit must be enmeshed in a wonderful family to have a niece like Supriya who conceived and carried through on such wonderful tributes!

----A Cyberadmirer

 


I write to express my hearty congratulations to professor V. V. Raman on his seventieth birthday.  I wish, I were able to join the celebrations in this connection, but I will be in India around that time.  Please convey my best wishes for the many many happy returns of the day to Dr. Raman.

A top-notch professor in Physics, Dr. Raman is also well versed in humanities, especially in Hindu traditions and culture.  Dr. V. V. Raman has contributed stimulating papers to international conferences. He is also an impressive and thoughtful lecturer.

He is an Associate Editor in the subject area of “Hinduism and Science” for the 18 volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism, which is being prepared under the auspices of India Heritage Research Foundation.  He has written important articles and meaningfully edited other articles in this field.

Dr. Raman is soft spoken, but a person with a great sense of humor. He is known for his versatility.  He is also a community and social worker.  He is deeply concerned with the affairs of the community.  He frequently writes to the newspaper editors about the problems and affairs of the community.  His letters make a difference to the society.

My warm congratulations again on a meaningful, scholarly, and service-filled life of Dr. Raman.

K. L. Seshagiri Rao

Chief Editor : Encyclopedia of Hinduism

 


To V.V. Raman on his Seventieth Birthday

Our story begins in Calcutta

Three score and ten years ago

It wanders around the subcontinent and France

To a blest meeting in Puerto Rico

 

Our hero and his fine wife

Start, as most do, without very much

And create lives overflowing with joy

For themselves and all whom they touch

 

They decide to bear children all over the world

Which sounds like a great deal of work

But they limit themselves to a son in Algiers

And a daughter in Upstate New York

 

So far all that I’ve said

Is based on what I’ve been told

But at this point I can assure you

My own part begins to unfold

 

As your author began his career

Raman offered me much kind advice

He seemed so kind, wise and generous

It was only later I found out the price

 

From his department head’s office one April the first

Raman beckoned me please to come in

He accused me of things I would never have done

And that was his original sin

 

Thus began a series of annual tricks

Always played in the spirit of fun

And I’m sure those who watched it unfold

Would all agree that I won

 

Raman’s clearly a man who’s very complex

He prefers to eat vegetables and rice

But I’ve personally seen him wipe out

A whole garden with a tilling device

I know some men who are wise

And I know some brimming with mirth

But I’m lucky to have a dear friend who is both

And I’m grateful for the gift of his birth

Dr.V.V.Raman, Scientist, Scholar and Philosopher

Dave Glocker

Rochester , NY

It is  great pleasure for me to write about Dr.V.V.Raman who is attaining  his glorious 70th Birthday on 28th May 2002 . I had known him very intimately  during his school and college days in Calcutta as I was a close friend of his family through his elder brother V.Ganesh who was my class-mate in the  National High School at Calcutta .
Even in his boyhood  in his school days and as a grown-up adult during his  college days I had known Raman to be an intellectual person trying to grasp  the meaning and purpose of various rules of conduct in life and model his  behavior in a rational way. I had always believed that he would turn out to  be an outstanding intellectual giant in the field of study of any subject.
It is a great trait in him to keep memorabilia of the events of his life.

In a way, I think I can take a circuitous, indirect credit for his march from  India to the Western World through study of French.  It so happened that  after passing the Matriculation Examination in Calcutta I had to study  French as a language to complete my course of study for Degree in Commerce  (B.Com.) as Tamil, my mother tongue and language I studied in school was not  approved. As French was a new language to me I had to initiate myself with  primary lessons and grammar of the language and I used to carry with me a  book containing the elementary lessons of grammar in French which Raman  happened to see in my hand when I went to his house one day (referred to by  him in his book of 'Recollections  & Rememberances'. Though he borrowed it  from me out of curiosity then, he seriously took himself to study French in  Alliance Française which had given him the opportunity to study French further in France , Europe .
I heartily wish him many more healthy, happy and prosperous years of life.
A. Krishnamurthy

( Retired Vice-President of Income-tax Appellate Tribunal, Government of India)
Now at: 7497, Bardston Dr. Dublin , Oh.43017

 

Supryia, Nice to hear from you.
 Here are some thoughts that Yashu and I share about Dr. Raman
 We have known Raman for more than 25 years. One of us (Samaresh) even had the good luck to be taught by Dr. Raman way back in 1961  at the Saha Institute in Calcutta . He (Samaresh) was quite bowled over by the dashing young man speaking in a flawless accent and elaborating on the intricacies of partial differntial equations. Much to his dismay Samaresh learnt that this gentleman was about to depart for Paris to do his Ph.D in physics with the great Nobel laureate Louis De Broglie.
So it was in the seventies it was quite a very pleasant surprise for us
when we as a couple met the Ramans at a dinner party thrown by the Karlekars . The dashing man was now accompanied by an equally dashing and gracious lady, now our beloved Marilu.  On the way back home I (Samaresh) was explaning to Yashu how I was looking forward to knowing them better.
 This did not happen until a few years later when both Raman and Yashu became members of the India association executive committee. The rest is history.
We  have become the closest of friends, and now we consider the Ramans as
part of our family. We have had innumerable discussions ranging from politics
to religion, philosophy and any other topic uder the sun. Raman is always
able to cut through the heart of the matter and give a very lucid explanation
of complex issues. We had formed a study group (with some other families involved), and Raman's contributions were invaluable. He also has an extremely good sense of humor.
On a more personal note,  he conducted the wedding of our daughter last  year. It took immense effort in conducting a very beautiful ceremony, and
he  always did with a smile on his face. Everybody present was very impressed.
 true  renaissance man (sadly a vanishng species). We are really grateful that we  have come to know him as a very good friend not only for the immense depth and breadth of his knowledge  but also for the fact that he is a truly wonderful human being.
Samaresh andYashodhara

 

Happy Birthday V.V.!!! Your meticulous research on The Worlds of Religion and Science infused with your special sense of humor have opened many doors of understanding to us. We feel privileged to get your e-mails. Thanks for all you have given to RIT, and your friends including us! Dancy and Jim
Duffus

 

Dear Supriya,                                        5/12/02

Thanks for locating my e-mail, that I might learn of your Uncle V.V.'s upcoming 70th.
He has done a superior job, moderating the sometimes fractious [LDG-NET].  I feel very privileged getting to know him in some small measure this way.  He has a stern outward appearance, yet seems very perceptive, kind, and, inwardly, even somewhat sensitive. I can only presume that his students have known him as a strict, yet understanding, and devoted task-master. It was wonderful to meet him and his wife in person at the Memorial Service, following the NYC/WashDC tragedies of 2001, held in the Downtown Presbyterian Church, in
Rochester , N.Y. .
It was very kind of him to notify me about it, so that I might participate therein. With his help, I have become much more confident about using this form of discussion.
His messages are always extremely informative and authoritative. It has been an added, special privilege to receive his Calendrical Reflections, and I do now send an apology for a lack of consistency, on my part, regarding response to these CR since they went onto the Metanexus Net.
I shall be looking forward to spending more time getting to know him, and your family, through attending Star Island Conference 2002.

Have a Happy Birthday, V.V.Raman....

Very Truly Yours,
Mildred M. Weiner, Reiki II Practitioner

Some thoughts of VVR

It looks so long long ago it was in the other century to be precise in the mid  40s that I met this young Raman at school.

There were only a handful of boys around 10 or so & equal number of girls in our class & very often when the teacher was absent  our young fellow Raman used to take control of the class, we would be held to rapt attention by the interesting way he used to teach us English History,tracing out the House of Tudors onwards reading out interesting passages from text books prescribed for History Graduate  studies.

Raman &  I  becaaame instantly drawn to each other  & we became such good pals that we did a lot of combined study for important exams

Raman had such a lure for languages learning even as many of his age group will have spent hours playing football or cricket.He quickly learnt among other things French, Italian, Spanish, Latin  & above all the language of Romance!!!

Raman was a very charming youth & naturally he had many girl friends who also enjoyed

his humour & light-heartedness.We the other boys  in the class  were not envious of Raman.

He had mastered a few little tricks like palming & so on that he became instantly an entertainer of sorts. He was instantly the most sought after  person.

 Raman & I have seen many MGM  hollywood pictures together for as low as  5cents a ticket at the Local cinema halls in Calcutta . He was very keen on musicals & the Marx brothers movies.

Raman was way ahead of all others of his age group in terms of reading

be it Charles Dickens(Pickwic Papers,David Copperfield,Tale of Two cities  etc)

or poets like Wordsworth  or dramas of Shakespere.

Raman used to take part in  public speaking/debates  & those that know him now in Rochester know only too well his ability to keep his audience in a trance & he has been invited to a large number of prestigious  forums to talk on various important  current topics  in humanities or philosophy With the result that he held a very UNIQUE  office of

Professor of Humanities/Physics all his stint & he has contributed a lot to the society in which he has been living for several decades now.

Several times in our mutual career lives  since we had parted ways after he left India he has extended an invitation to me to come to the USA to spend a  few days with him like when I went to Scotland  in  1974  &  1978   & to Tokyo  in 1979,I couldnt make it Next was when our son was to get registered in Pennstate for his MS/Phd  he called again to accompany Prakash(our son) and come to Rochester.By this time I had retired from service & said that I could not afford to  incur the expenses of travel..............Raman insisted on my accompanying Prakash & sent me a check for $1000/- to meet my expenses!!! I was touched by this gesture!!

That is a genuine approach  & that speaks volumes of the person called Raman.

Even today Raman sends me a complimentary copy of every new book that he publishes.

We wish Raman many more  healthy & happy  years 

so that he can contribute a lot more in his retirement  digging out from the  well of experiences

he has accumulated  in all his years at  Paris, Algiers ,Peurto Rico, Bogota ( Colombia )  & now

Rochester (NY)

Mohana & I wish Raman a very happy birthday  (70th,cant believe!!)

Down Memory Lane

I was first attracted by your sparkling dark and beautiful eyes, and very soon thereafter by your sharp mind and broad knowledge.  I recall looking forward to your visits on Saturdays at Tia Margot's and sitting in that small air-less living room listening enchantedly to your warm voice expounding on various topics.  It gave me a sense of freedom, especially in the context of the somewhat oppressive quarters in which we lived.  Indeed, that sense of security when hearing your voice is still very much present.  It is my anchor to life.

And then the myriad of exciting experiences and milestones have kept coming: 

Marriage on April 14, 1962: with Pappy, Mammy, Kichu and many other relatives from my side as well as many of your university friends from your side, with our simple wedding reception at the Colegio de Agricultura y Artes Mecanicas in Mayaguez, PR.  The University, a place that has continued to be very meaningful in our lives:  we met there, we both have made a career at such a place, Raj and Mary were married at a university, and now both Raj and Nikki are making a career of their own at such a place.

September 24, 1964 :  our Dave Raj is born in Algeria where a very complicated political-social situation made my delivery and his survival something to celebrate!  Mammy was there, and she started our little family off on a good foot.

June 1966:  after living in various places and traveling some more ( Curacao , Colombia , India , France , Algeria ) we entered the United States as green-card holders and settled without much searching in this beautiful place called Rochester , NY .   RIT offered you a position in the physics department and you started in September of that year.  Luck has often been on our side.  So it was with landing in this lovely town.We have not once regretted it.

January 15, 1967 :  our Indira Monica is born.  She is quickly renamed Nikki by her big brother, a name that has stuck and which reminds us as much of him as of her.  They were happy playmates and have grown into adults who are also friends.

Then, in close succession, we moved to our brand new home on Sweet Briar Knoll (1968), a few months later Kichu, Nirmala and little Yamini arrived in the US (March 1969) and we became an extended family: a blessing for all of us in many different ways.  I started working at NTID in the summer of 1969, and in February 1970 strong-willed Supriya was born.  Our families of 4 each were complete. 

In 1972 our four parents: Appa, Amma, Pappy and Mammy met for a full week at our home, and we have memories galore of that visit.  It was their second and last encounter, but they remained writing-pals until their last days.

You continued to thrive at RIT, and so did I at NTID.  Meanwhile, more studies followed for me.  In the 1980's, Raj, Yamini, Nikki and Suppy graduated one after another from high-school with honors and hopes for the future.  Mary came into our lives during this decade, so now we had five 'kids' to think about.  All five have done exceptionally well in their chosen fields.

In 1987-88 we undertook the marvelous task of designing and building our new home in Pittsford.  It's hard to believe we have been here for nearly 14 years.  

In 1990, I completed my doctoral program at the U of R, and within 4 years so did Raj at Cornell and Nikki at the University of Wisconsin-Madison .

Throughout all of this academic work you were our inspiration and beacon, beckoning us to follow in your footsteps, enjoying the heights of intellectual excursions.

Then followed three weddings, each one as exciting as the other:  Lewis and Damien were added to our family.  This was followed by the departure of Kichu and Nirmala from Rochester after 27 years, leaving a big void.  Our dear Kusum left us on a more permanent basis in this decade too. 

Soon, the birth of the next generation brought joy and hope:  first Jaya Lalitha, then Caleb Ashok (December 26, 1996), Aidan, Zachary, Erik Schuyler (August 9, 1999), and twins Lewis Arjun and Malini.

Throughout these years we have made friends, too many to name, each one as special as the other.  Their presence and friendship has made our journey easier at difficult junctions.  We have discovered that there is truth in the saying that friendship doubles the joy and cuts the pain in half.

And now we are turning 60 and 70 after a life so rich that it takes volumes to tell about it.  We have traveled to so many exciting and exotic places, and have enjoyed a large number of shorter trips within the US to professional meetings, dinner talks, and lectures to Indian communities, that we simply cannot remember the hundreds of lovely

people we have met on all those excursions.  But one thing we do know:  we have been immensely blessed.  All we can do is be humbly grateful for what life has presented us with.  As we enter the next decades we can be buoyed by this knowledge, and face the future with hope and courage.

I love you forever.

Marilu

 

Any child born to Indian immigrant parents faces the challenge of growing up in two worlds.  One is the world your parents know, filled with rich tradition, language, and religion…. the other is the world around you.  In my case, I’ve always felt that being born American was as natural as anything (no effort on my part).  Looking back I realize that being born American is a gift.  My lifelong relationship with my Uncle (respectfully called Perriappa) is one of the key factors in my life that has lead to this understanding.  This understanding, has affected how I live each and everyday of my life.  To say that Perriappa has had a significant influence on my thoughts and values would be an understatement.

Ever since I can remember Perriappa always impressed upon us youngsters the importance of being connected to our Indian heritage.  Whether it was through his various writings and poetry, programs with the India Association, sermons on Hinduism at the Unitarian Church in Rochester , or quiet discussions at home, Perriappa taught us many beautiful aspects about being Indian.  He would encourage us to come up with new ideas of expression about our heritage, be it through song, dance, drama or writing.  My sister and cousins and I were very participatory with the India Association growing up.  We would spend hours rehearsing programs that we put together combining western music and Indian ideologies.   I can still picture the days when Perriappa would show interest in what we were doing.  Usually he’d offer some commentary mixed with jokes.  The jokes ranged from bad to worse as I recall, and my sister Yamini and I would reply with a drawling, “Perriiyyaappaaa!” Actually, many of his jokes were very funny and while growing up I remember a lot of laughter surrounding us.

Though Perriappa did teach us about Indian heritage he did not ever impose it upon our lives or force it to take precedence over the other aspects of we are.  There is no doubt that Perriappa is very proud of his ethnicity, but he is equally proud to be an American.  Perriappa sees it as his “duty” to give back to a country that has given him and others like him so much.  Of course, there are numerous ways in which he has successfully done so.  I have taken this example to heart and not only see it as an obligation for immigrants but as an obligation for all Americans.  Those of us born here as well as those naturalized here.  I never once have heard Perriappa say anything negative about the United States of America .  In fact, no matter the political or social climate, he has told me a number of times that there is no land greater.  With his views taken to heart I have been able to appreciate the beauty of my Indian heritage as a part of my Americanism.

    Taking his philosophy further, one story I always loved and still love hearing from both Perriappa and my own father (Krishnan) is about the poor feedings that their father, the late PSV. Iyer would conduct in Calcutta , India .  Thatha, a very spiritual man, organized and fed people in extreme poverty every Sunday after puja.  He actually lined the alley, where their home was, with banana leaves, and fed the poor! Hundreds of people came to know of my grandfather’s charitable deeds and benefited from the “poor feedings.”  This same spirit of charity and giving was passed down to my father and to Perriappa and has directly influenced me.  As I partake in volunteer work even today I recall this story in my mind and feel that I am nurturing the philosophy of service to others to continue.    

When Damien and I were married in Rochester , Perriappa officiated at our wedding alongside a Christian Minister.  Perriappa found the similarities between the Christian and Hindu traditions and blended them together so elegantly. At the time, I wasn’t so taken, as I knew my Perriappa easily did these types of things.  I grew up listening to him talk about the ecumenical blending of religions.  Over the years, however, my Irish Catholic in-laws still tell everyone and anyone who’ll listen all about our wedding ceremony from start to finish.  Of course, for Damien and I that day was one of the most special in our lives. I feel blessed to have had Perriappa play such a major role in making that day perfect.  I realize now how unique our wedding was and how Perriappa made it that way for me.

 Last summer Perriappa visited us in Virginia Beach .  We took him to the amusement park, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg , Virginia .  As usual, Perriappa was very inquisitive, jotting things down in his mental notebook to go home and start typing into the computer later.  Along the way I saw the huge mechanically operated swing ride.   Each person sits in his own swing and then suddenly you’re lifted up quite high and the ride spins around.  I wanted to go on this ride and Perriappa didn’t seem too thrilled to join me.  I told him, “Come on Per, that’s why we’re here.”  So Perriappa acquiesced and hopped right into his own swing.  Before you knew it we were spinning around and around and around.    We could see all of Busch Gardens beneath us.  It really was a beautiful sight.   When the ride was over Perriappa was grinning from ear to ear.  After the ride we met up with Damien and Aidan and Zachary and started to walk towards an area for lunch.  Well, suddenly rain started pouring.  Not little drops of summer moisture but buckets!  We ran to the lunch area and ate under some tents.  I thought of many things at that moment.  Singin’ in the Rain, snack platters, Christmas carol singing, musicals galore, Thanksgivings past, Perri’s good ole’ jokes, my wedding day…and the swings we had just gone on together.  I was so happy we went on those swings.  I don’t see Perri as often anymore, and so times like those are very special. 

As I got older and went on my own the decisions I made directly reflected Perriappa’s influence in my life.  His love for writing and his love for America are two of my very own passions as well. In college and grad school I studied journalism.  I served my nation in the Army as a proud commissioned officer.  Now as an adult, being married to a Navy fighter pilot, my family continues to remain devoted to serving our nation and serving our community.  These values are to me the most significant that I hope to teach my own two sons.  I would like to thank Perriappa for the gifts he has given me.  His stories, values, teachings and love will continue through so many lives that he has touched.  Perriappa has shown me by example that a peaceful balance between two worlds can be met.  For that example, I am grateful.