Remembering Sri

V.J.P. Srivatsavoy, an Asha founder, passed away in May 2000 in Bangalore. Sri, as he was fondly called by his friends, was a post-doctoral researcher in Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in May 1991, when he called the first meeting of a group of Indian students and scholars. It was at this meeting the seeds of Asha were sown. A scientist and a thinker, was a sensitive human being. He wanted a group of Indians to organize themselves in the US to serve the interests of their country. He guided Asha towards this goal and it was because of his leadership that Asha was able to take roots as a strong organization in such a small time. Sri will always be remembered in the Asha family for the wonderful gift that he has given to mankind, a dedicated team of over 500 people from around the world, working together towards the education of the underprivileged children in India.

A personal note from Sandeep Pandey

Co-founder of Asha for Education

Dear Friends,

It is a sad moment for all of us.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news. It shook me personally. It seems like only yesterday when we were together at Berkeley. Yet, at another moment, it reminds me of the nine years that have gone by and brutally makes one realize the temporary nature of all material things.

Indeed it is Sri who should be credited with the founding of Asha. It was May 1991. Sri had called a meeting of 5-6 Indians at UC Berkeley campus. I got invited by Dinesh Verma who was known to Sri. I myself didn’t know Sri before that.

He had come to Berkeley for a post-doc after working at TIFR, Mumbai. He was interested in starting a group of interested Indians who could help scientists in India with fast transfer of latest reserch ideas from the US and maybe with transfer of technology also. While the group thought it was a good idea, some people had doubts about its actual implementation, I suggested that I would be more interested in working for education of poor kids in India remaining part of the larger group. I was allowed that freedom. I invited Deepak, who I knew was also going to return to India one day and was interested in social intervention, to the next meeting.

It so happened that rest of the people slowly dropped out and in the end it was only Sri, Deepak and myself. Because of me and Deepak, Sri ultimately agreed to keep education of underprivileged children as the focus of the group. I must say that he displayed wonderful sporting spirit and cooperated with us even though we were not going to work on his original idea. He honoured the team sentiment and went along with it.

Although, I had definite ideas of getting involved in social activism after returning to India, I myself would have never thought of taking the initiative in US itself. Hence the credit for Asha’s birth goes to Sri alone.

I clearly remember the three of us having gone to San Francisco to meet ODN soon thereafter. In that historic trip, the characteristics of the newly formed group, such as, it would be an informal group with no office bearers, bureaucracy or administrative costs, it would have a decentralized set-up, it would be based on the spirit of volunteerism, any new person entering the group would carry the same weight as any old one, etc., were outlined. We wanted the group to have a very simple name which must also represent its objective. The name ‘Asha’ was agreed upon.

Sri was a typical scientist. sometimes forgetful, sometimes lost, but would come up with valuable suggestions at the right time. He would gently put us back on the right track if we ever wavered. His presence will be greatly missed.