RAJ GOPAL, PIONEER FOR HINDU PLACES OF WORSHIP
December 19, 1933, to March 16, 2009
Dr. Raj Gopal, who, in the early 1970s envisioned a temple for all Hindus in Pittsburgh when the very idea of Hindu immigrants building a temple in the US with their own resources was considered a fantasy, died on March 16 in Coimatore, India. He died suddenly while working on his project for helping tribal people near Ooty. Gopal was born in Coimbatore to a middle-class family. After his BE degree in PSG College of Engineering, he came to the US in 1955 and earned his PhD from RPI in electrical engineering in 1961. Returning to India and getting frustrated, he came back to join Westinghouse’s technology center in Churchill, where his work was filed for many patents.
In mid-1970s the euphoria among Indian immigrants for building an inclusive temple for all Hindus, and Sikhs and Jains evaporated soon after groundbreaking with disagreements over the scope of the project and the nuts & bolts of running the temple. A few mainstream Americans and several non-Hindu Indians, it is noteworthy, were active in this project. Raj Gopal and several others coming from southern India broke away to build a temple of their own. This split culminated in building the Sri Venkateswara Temple. Gopal’s go-getting dynamism was instrumental in getting the bare temple with only the shrines dedicated for worship in record time in Fall 1976. He, with a group of South Indian volunteer friends, worked with the Tirupati temple in India, raised funds under trying circumstances, worked with Penn Hills’ city halls convincing them for a permit for a Hindu temple, and on many other details.
Gopal was also an ambitious entrepreneur. He saw the potential for Indians in the IT industry a decade before its boom in the 1990s. However his business ventures did not take off, partly because he was ahead of the time. In recent years, he went back to Coimbatore where he was active in the construction projects of Amrtanandamayi’s ashram and in guiding students at the PSG Institute of Management. G. Manoharan, who worked with Raj Gopal in the early days of the temple, recalled: “Dr. Gopal was a legend of many dimensions. A brilliant student and a successful engineering manager. He conceived and spearheaded a project establishing a traditional Hindu Temple in the US. A visionary entrepreneur and humanitarian. Loving husband and father of three admirable daughters. A role model.”
MANOHAR JOSHI, CARDIOLOGIST
1933 to October 24, 2007
With deep sadness, we record the death of Manohar J. Joshi, 74, cardiologist, of Squirrel Hill, and one of the earliest immigrants from India here. He died on October 24, 2007, after complications from congestive heart problems. Known to his friends and family as Balasaheb, he was born in Sankeshwar, Karnataka, India. He attended the Baroda Medical College in Gujarat. He was fluent in Kannada, Marathi, and Gujarati. Joshi married Shubha Goray in 1962 and came to Pittsburgh in 1965 as a resident at West Penn Hospital. In the mid ’60s, as his father in India was terminally ill, Joshi returned to India to care for his father. He also had a practice in Pune. In 1974, he returned to Pittsburgh as chief resident at Shadyside Hospital. He was highly regarded by his patients and peers alike.
The Joshis were active in the formative years of the Indians’ life here through the India Association of Pittsburgh. Before the community Diwali events became the norm, for over ten years, they hosted a Diwali party for about a hundred people at their home. Shubha Joshi fondly remembers, “… friends and graduate students, many of them from Maharashtra, gathered in our home and celebrated Diwali with sparklers and good food, after which we had music sessions.” Joshi took interest in keeping the Marathi language alive in the US. He and Shubha with others were the founding members of EKATA, the Marathi quarterly, distributed in the US and Canada. Shubha recalled, “The decision to publish this magazine was made in our home.” A longtime friend of the Joshis, Mahendra Mathur of Squirrel Hill, said, “Balasaheb was well-read and well-informed on many topics beyond medicine. It was always a pleasure to talk to him whether it was on history, politics, or economics.” On many occasions, this writer enjoyed the warmth of Joshi and his sense of subtle humor in the company of his friends in his home.
Towards the end, Joshi went back to his spiritual roots and read in the original Jnaneshwari, the twelfth-century Marathi classic on philosophy. Listening to Bhisen Joshi’s Abhangvani gave him immense joy. He enjoyed spending time with his grandsons, Vishal and Kishor. Manohar Joshi is survived by his wife of forty-five years, Shubha, and his daughters, Jui and Saily, both lawyers. Jui lives in Pittsburgh, and Saily in Chicago with her husband, Rajiv and two sons, Vishal and Kishor. A large number of friends and relatives from many parts of the US attended the funeral for Manohar Joshi. The cremation services following Hindu rites were in a brief private ceremony at the Allegheny Cemetery on October 29.
J BADRI NARAYAN, METALLURGICAL ENGINEER WITH A DISTINGUISHED CAREER
July 18, 1939, to March 3, 2011
With great sadness, I record the sudden death of J. Badri Narayan, my friend and a longtime resident in the Pittsburgh area, due to cardiac arrest. He died on Thursday March 3, 2011, while working out on a treadmill when he suddenly collapsed and fell down. Born in Chennai, India, Badri was schooled in the Ramakrishna Mission School, and later earned his BS in physics in 1962 from the University of Madras through Loyola College, Chennai. After briefly working in Bangalore, Badri came to Detroit to pursue his engineering education at Wayne State University where he received BS and MS degrees in metallurgy in 1969. Badri was a key player in the early days of Westinghouse Electric Company’s Specialty Metals Plant as it transitioned from Inconel (an alloy of nickel, chromium, iron, molybdenum, and other elements) to Zircaloy (based on zirconium with small amounts of tin and niobium) for making tubes needed for power generation. He worked with customers from all over the world, but his main role was serving customers in Korea and Japan.
Outside of his love for work, Badri was interested in music, theater, and enjoyed walking the dogs in parks in and around Pittsburgh, and volunteering at Sri Venkateswara Temple. He also served as president of the Delmont Lions Club. In a memorial service on Sunday, March 20, 2011, at Sri Venkateswara Temple, a large number of friends and acquaintances gathered reminiscing their interactions with Badri, recalling his helpful nature and his unperturbed and balanced approach to life. Badri is survived by his beloved wife, Vatsala, and his son, Manu, a well known singer and actor.
JACK KEVORKIAN, TRAILBLAZER ON END-OF-LIFE ISSUES
May 26, 1928, to June 3, 2011
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who, by his in-your-face approach brought to the forefront the plight of terminally ill patients’ right to die in dignity when they have no options to live with dignity and autonomy, died in June. He was 83. In the 1990s he brought to the fore the inability (or is it unwillingness?) of our society at large — the medical establishment, the legislature, the clergy, law-enforcement authorities, and the judiciary — to come to grips with the agony of not only terminally ill people, but also their caregivers. Given our compartmentalized lifestyle, people cannot comprehend the sense of deprivation and the deeply personal pain the terminally ill suffer, and the agony of those closely living with the terminally ill taking care of them 24/7. We admire modern medicine for coming up with new procedures, medicines, and gadgets for finding cures for scores of illnesses and extending our productive lives; but in the end, these marvels also simply prolong life without addressing the issues on the basic human dignity and autonomy of patients, and the associated cost. So, it was necessary that Kevorkian used unorthodox approaches to bring the central issues of terminally ill in public discourse. Indeed, his approach was very effective.
As the New York Times said in its obituary to Kevorkian, “In arguing for the right of the terminally ill to choose how they die, Dr. Kevorkian challenged social taboos about disease and dying while defying prosecutors and the courts.” He helped 130 terminally ill people to end their lives. His critics called him Dr. Death. He was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his last patient. Sentenced to 10 to 25 years in a maximum-security prison, Kevorkian was released after spending eight years in prison after agreeing not to help others to end their lives. Jack Lessenberry, the Michigan journalist who covered Dr. Kevorkian, wrote in the Detroit Metro Times: “Jack Kevorkian, faults and all, was a major force for good in this society. He forced us to pay attention to one of the biggest elephants in society’s living room: the fact that today vast numbers of people are alive who would rather be dead, who have lives not worth living.” The central issue for which Kevorkian fought is only going to become more acute in the years ahead, with an even more aging population, and reduced government resources available for Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor. One day, society will even thank Kevorkian for bringing to the forefront the dilemmas and challenges faced by the terminally ill. We are honored to do it today itself. Thank you, Dr Kevorkian.
—K. S. Venkataraman, Editor and Publisher. From The Pittsburgh Patrika: The Quarterly Magazine for the Indian Diaspora since 1995