Remarks by Prof. Bob Goldman, Feb 7 2009
Dear Tom, Family and Friends:
It is with a mingled sense of sadness and joy that I join you all today to celebrate the life and legacy of Sarah Kailath: sadness at the passing of this vibrant and loving wife, mother, sister, mother-in-law grandmother and friend and joy in having had the good fortune to be touched by her life. Truly as the Sanskrit saying so aptly puts it;
na hi soparato yasya vallabhajano ‘nusmarati,
“Truly, she is not gone, whom loving friends remember.”
My name is Bob Goldman and I am a professor of Sanskrit at that other institution of higher learning across the Bay, whose name I hesitate to mention in these hallowed precincts and one of the proudest and most pleasurable moments in my long career in academia was when I received the signal honor of serving as the inaugural holder of the Sarah Kailath Chair in India Studies.
Let me take you back nearly twenty years to an era when the Indo-American community was making its presence in and its signal contributions to the mosaic that is America increasingly felt and its second generation were reaching college age in increasing numbers.
At that time, despite the importance of India on the world stage, the richness of its culture and intellectual life and the growing influence of the Community, India Studies were far less developed in the American academy than were studies in many other world areas. Indeed full-scale India and South Asia Studies programs existed then in only a handful of major research universities nationwide. It was a situation that cried out for change.
With this in mind, as Chair of the Center for South Asia Studies, I set out on a campaign with my many friends in the Indo-American Community and the Indian Diplomatic Missions in Washington and San Francisco to develop the nation’s first community funded Chair in India Studies.
The year was 1991which happened to be the year in which Sarah celebrated her auspicious fiftieth birthday and the twenty-first anniversary of her happy marriage to Tom. When Tom was approached for help with this campaign he came up with as wonderful idea. Rather than simply making a contribution to the Community effort he proposed the establishment of an entirely separate chair in Sarah’s name which would be a truly extraordinary and enduring birthday present, one that would forever speak to her lifelong devotion to education and her abiding concern with the social issues in India. In this loving and constructive effort Tom was joined by his dear friends, Naren and Vinita Gupta. The Chair was first announced at a surprise party for Sarah on her 50th birthday and shortly thereafter it was formally inaugurated by the world famous Indian astrophysicist and Nobel Laureate, S. Chandrashekar.
The Chair was designed in such a way that it would be held of a rotating basis by the successive Chairs of our Center for South Asia Studies and that all income it generated would be directly applied to scholarly program, conferences, seminars etc. to be principally devoted to the study of those issues such as the condition of women and children that Sarah held close to her big heart. It was my great honor and good fortune to serve as the inaugural holder of the Chair and it is a source of enormous satisfaction to see that the legacy is today in the active and capable hands of my distinguished colleague Professor Raka Ray who, I am delighted to say, is with us this afternoon.
As many of you know, Sarah was an extraordinarily modest person who was concerned only with the good that would come of the Chair and never wanted to be singled out for praise or publicity. So it was in keeping with her wishes that, during her lifetime, programs and projects sponsored by the Chair have not been made the object of grand public announcements. But now that the honor due her, Tom and the Guptas will not embarrass her and with the permission of Tom, Professor Ray and I are delighted today to be able to announce, for the first time, the inauguration of a permanent, annual Sarah Kailath Memorial Lectures in India Studies, a series in which distinguished scholars and activists from India, Europe, Asia and the United States will address the critical social issues that Sarah was so deeply concerned about.
It is therefore with enormous pride and gratitude that today we announce that the inaugural lecture in the series will be delivered by the distinguished scholar, activist and public intellectual Dr. Ashis Nandy of India’s Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
This public lecture will be held in Berkeley this coming March 3rd and the public announcement will be made shortly. We hope to see many of you there.
In closing and recalling how Sarah and Tom used to like to hear about some of the timeless wisdom of India, especially when encapsulated in the concise and powerful medium of that country’s ancient language of learning, literature and spirituality, a couple of apposite–lokas come to mind.
The first struck me as I thought of the good fortune of Tom and Sarah to have had so long, happy, and fruitful life together. It is one of the literature’s finest and most moving celebrations of marital felicity and it come from the pen of the great eighth century South Indian poet and playwright Bhavabhüti:
advaitaμ sukhadu˙khayor anugataμ sarväsv avasthäsu yad
vi–rämo hrdayasya yatra jarasä yasminn ahäryo rasa˙ |
kälenävarañätyayät pariñate yat snehasäre sthitam
bhadraμ tasya sumänusasya katham apy ekaμ tat präpyate ||
How fortunate is that happy man who somehow finds that one true thing, perfect loving union in happiness and sorrow, blissful no matter what befalls. For in it the heart finds its repose and its delight cannot be dimmed by age as, through the course of years, the veil between two souls fades away.
The second is a tribute to the kind of generosity and dedication to something higher than the self that we saw in the gifts of Tom and Sarah and Naren and Vinita.
gauravam präpyate dänän va tu vittasya samcayat«
sthitir uccai˙ payodanam payodhînäm adha˙sthiti˙||
One achieves greatness through generosity, not simply through amassing wealth. That is why the rain clouds have their place on high while the oceans lie down below.
Finally, for all of us who mourn the passing of this charming, courageous and giving woman, let us recall the teaching of the Bhagavad Gîtä about the soul:
na jäyate mriyate vä kadäcin
näyam bhütvä bhavitä vä na bhüya˙ |
ajo nitya˙ –ä–vato ‘yaμ puräño
na hanyate hanyamäne –arîre||
It is not born nor does it ever pass away. Ever existant it can never cease to be. It is birthless, eternal, enduring and ancient. It does not perish when the body passes away. I know that Sarah was a person of profound faith and that she deeply felt that this was true.