Dad photo

Dad photo

In Memory

A living site in memory of Ashok K Chandra to remember and honor him. A man with a golden heart and an extraordinary mind. A cherished father, husband, and friend. And a doting grandfather. He left us November 15, 2014 after a brave battle with cancer.

The site features the sentiments and memories shared by friends and family. Feel free to send this site to others. We will keep adding to it; if you have something you’d like to share, please click here to send it to me.

Click below to see a category of posts such as Remembrances or Talks from the memorial event. See pictures of Ashok.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Talk: Mala Chandra

As I think of my life with Ashok, a flood of memories comes rushing to my mind and yet I stand here before you : speechless. There are no words that can express the density, the depth and the intensity of emotions I feel….
As I recollect my thoughts about Ashok, I am reminded of a quote by Professor Donald Knuth. In a toast given on Ashok’s 50th birthday, Prof. Knuth called Ashok “A limitless man”. Limitless indeed he was: there was no limit to his brilliance and innovation, to his empathy and kindness , to his willingness to be there for others and indeed no limit to his ability to make whoever he met, feel wanted, appreciated and loved. There may be people who are wealthier and more successful than Ashok but I can truly say I have never met a better human being in my life.
His first love was his work (simply because he met it before me): it was not a job or a means of livelihood: he truly was madly and passionately in love with his work. He also was a totally dedicated family man. His kids were his world. They were his best friends and they could talk about everything and anything in the world together. His grandchildren were the apple of his eye and its only after the grandchildren came into the picture that work for the first time took a second place in his life.
Personally for me, he showered me with all his unconditional love: a love so profound that it can suffice for many a lifetimes. There is simply no” till death do us part” for us as even though I miss his physical presence, I know that in our hearts, minds and souls we are together forever.

Remembrance: Robert Morris

I am very shocked and saddened to see this news, and can't imagine the pain you and the family are going through now. I just feel grateful that I was able to speak with Ashok last August. Ashok was always so inspiring to me and this is such a great loss to so many.

Remembrance: Dhyanesh

Dedication to Dr. Ashok Chandra
I’m Dhyanesh. I had the honor of working on Ashok’s team at Microsoft Research. Words fail me miserably in expressing who Ashok was, the principles he stood for, the qualities he espoused, and just the incredible and extraordinary human being that he lived as. So, I’m just going to share with you, who Ashok was to me.
Ashok was my teacher – he taught me the power of intuition in problem-solving. He said to me, “When solving a problem, it is important for you to first build your intuition, and then use data and experiments as a means to validate that intuition, rather than doing experiments first and then building your intuition.”
Ashok was my guide – he guided me on the importance of composure in being successful at negotiations. He said to me, “In a negotiation, the person who loses his calm, loses.”  
Ashok was my philosopher – he imbibed in me the philosophy of how to induce positive change in people. He said to me,“Be gentle with people, because if you are gentle on the person, you can be harder on your message.”
It is rather ironical that, organizationally, Ashok was my manager at Microsoft Research, but not once did he act with even a hint of assumed authority. Instead, he was my teacherguide, and philosopher – all in one.
While words may fail me miserably in expressing who Ashok was, perhaps it is in the very lack of the ability to express in words, that there lies deep meaning about Ashok’s character… and perhaps it is the very absence of syntax that communicates profound semantics about Ashok’s unique personality… and perhaps it is because I can’t say enough here about Ashok, that speaks volumes about who he was, and what he meant to me, and to all of us.

Talk: Bob Chandra

I want to thank all of you for being here today.  To celebrate the life of my father, Ashok Chandra.   I’d like to begin with a quote by an Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore:

“I had seen nothing beyond life, and accepted it as ultimate truth. When of a sudden death came, and in a moment tore a gaping rent in its [life’s] smooth-seeming fabric, I was utterly bewildered. All around, the trees, the soil, the water, the sun, the moon, the stars, remained as immovably true as before; and yet the person who was as truly there, who, through a thousand points of contact with my life, mind and heart, was ever so much more true for me, had vanished in a moment like a dream…..”

It has been hard to accept what’s happened.  My Dad’s loss is not my loss or my family’s loss, but it’s a loss that all of us here today feel.   One thing that has helped me cope with what happened has been hearing from all of you -- to hear from people who’s lives my Dad touched.  People who he made smile - who felt his warmth.

So let me cite another quote from Tagore:

“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”

This loss is something that will take time to heal.  Dad passed away two weeks ago after a brave battle with cancer.  We miss him immensely.

But owe it to ourselves to see the silver lining; and that is we were fortunate to have the time we did with Dad…….from that time we have memories worth remembering and worth re-telling - and today is about celebrating those memories.

Today is about celebrating the life my Dad lived.    All of you here knew him in some way- maybe you knew him as a friend, a mentor, or a co-worker.   Today, we can remember the good moments over the years that we shared - laughing while trekking up a Bay Area trail.  Or for his work friends, solving together some of the harder problems in computer science.    

Dad often thought about other people first.  One example is during his battle with cancer, he was very weak.  Despite this, he tried to do the things other people wanted to do.  He knew my Mom loved to see movies, and he gathered his strength so they could go to the theaters one last time- even though it is was so hard him to even walk.  He knew I loved comedy, and despite everything, despite his ailing health, he made it a point we went to a show one last time.  Even when doing the simplest things required everything he had, he put others first.

This was his focus on other people.  He always felt that it was important to build up other people.  He didn’t believe in having airs about him, or putting others down to feel better about himself.  That was simply his mentality.  Some of you may have stories like this that too.

Over the last two weeks, the common thread of stories I’ve gotten from you is Dad’s engaging of others-- consideration for those who worked for him, his mentorship of co-workers, his humble nature from friends.  

From those who worked with him, I received insight into my Dad’s accomplishments in computer science.  I want to thank his work friends for sharing.  My Dad and I talked about all kinds of topics (from Indian politics to quantum physics - yes he could explain quantum physics in a way even a marketing guy like myself could understand), but work wasn’t one of those topics.  Dad never spoke about the things he accomplished.  He was unassuming in that way.  Only recently I learned of a report he co-wrote on Indian research centers which was signed by the President of India; and something he developed called Turing Machine Alternation (a concept fundamental to computational complexity and parallel processing theory and is a highly cited paper in theoretical computer science).  

From other friends, I got photos.  They capture who he was as a person- a generous spirit & when I look at them, I can’t help but remember the good times we shared.  We’ll always have those moments and those memories; and their impact lives on in us.  

Today would have been Dad’s 66th birthday.  Even though he didn’t live the longest life, he did live a full life.  And today is our opportunity to remember and celebrate the life that he lived.  My Dad’s loss not my loss or even my family’s loss, but all of our loss.  But his life was all of our gain.   And today is to talk about the good that we remember.

ICORE Presentation to Dr. Abdul Kalam

Summary: Accomplishments

Shared by: Ted Selker, Neel Sundaresan. Sanjiv Sahay, Dinesh

(also see: Summary of Accomplishments by Prabakhar Raghavan)

Ashok came to Almaden in October of 1993.  The Computer science department had many long term projects that hadn't been particularly productive and some that had.

He worked tirelessly to treat people well as he reformed the department into a powerhouse that had impact on IBM's  Database , continued impact on check processing, invented the linked concept ideas in Cleaver ideas that google used (in Myron Dom's group  headed by John Klienberg ) USER proposed and prototyped, tools that helped explore intelligent searchon the Web createdthe first p3p protocol for w3c, created many tools for web offerings for IBM, created the ibm agents center of competence, made the os2 disabilities package, made smartguides the help system for Os/2, many profitable  innovations for the Thinkpad,  many innovations for the PC line,  created shapewriter, interactive displays, blueeyes eyetracking, the memory hierarchy model, The group created webfountain which was a profetic websearch system, hardware and firmware to improve disk drives. the productiveity of the CS group produced several IBM fellows as well.


His early work on "Program Schemas" was central to computer science theory in the 1970s. His advisor, Zohar Manna, is still at Stanford. (Ashok was only the 2nd student of Zohar Manna who then was a young assistant professor). His paper on Program Schemas is considered to be one of the most beautifully written theory papers.

Ashok introduced the notion of Turing Machine Alternation. He is considered to be the co-inventor of this concept (along with another famous theorist Larry Stockmeyer). Here is a link to the original abstract from IEEE. (
Alternatiing Turing Machines (here is a wikipedia entry for the concept

The concept of ATM is fundamental to computational complexity in time and space and to parallel processing theory. This might quite be one of the most cited research works in theoretical computer science.
In the next decade Ashok came up with the idea of "Multi-party protocols" along with Richard Lipton and Merrick Furst. This is fundamental to a number of modern algorithms and theories in cryptography.

One area worth mentioning regarding his research management is the "eraser-head mouse" for IBM laptops/thinkpads. Ted Selker is counted as the inventor of this work which made both Ted and IBM quite famous. Ted will be able to say a lot about how Ashok helped him as a manager with this key contribution to the area of hardware.

As for Patents, the best place to find them is at the USPTO ( I did a search and found 4 issued ones. His early patents in the late 1970s is related to magnetic bubble memory in which they invent a method for layout of access channel file. I don't know much about this (memory systems are a very different beast these days but this must have been key to IBM which ruled the magnetic memory space 30+ years ago).
His latest patent is in Search which likely all of us understand well. This one talks about integrating social network data into search results. The general idea is once you know the searcher's social network information it provides a method to incorporate that information into web search that the user might do.
From: IIT - through 1997

Ashok Kumar Chandra (BT/EE/1969) 

For Outstanding Contributions in Computer Science Research.
Dr Ashok Chandra is one of the most respected persons in the world of computer science research. Personally he is known for several path breaking concepts and results, some of which are now text book material (e.g. the nation of alteration). What possibly is unique about is achievements, in the context of computer science research, is that he has done fundamental work basing himself in an industry. He has demonstrated that it is possible to do research which is excellent both in academic standard, as well as in the standard of industry. His organization has found him to be very valuable, he has made several contributions which have been of immense benefit to IBM; and at the same time, his work has put him amongst the very top people in the theoretical computer science, usually considered an abstract area far from practice. 

Dr Chandra graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 1969 earning Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering. He was the winner of the prestigious President’s Gold Medal. Subsequently, he obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Sciences from the Stanford University in 1973. Since than, he has been with IBM, currently he is a Director of that organization. 

Dr Chandra has rendered very valuable service to the profession through his professional activities. He has been the editor of an important journal (SIAM J of Computing), was responsible for starting what is now a very prestigious annual conferences (IEEE Symposium on Logic in Computer Science), has chaired on several occasions the programme, committees/conference committees of top conferences. Further, he is a member of Board of Directors of Computer Research Association, a body which acts as a liaison between the US Government and PhD granting computer science departments in USA. For granting computer scientists, in India his contributions as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Annual Conference on Foundations of Software Technology and Theoretical Computer Science Conference has immensely helped in attaining the international repute that is enjoyed today. 

Dr Chandra has always been very supportive to the Computer Science and Engineering Department of IITK and has visited the department on several occasions. The CSE faculty and students have always found him to be a source of inspiration and help. 

Dr Ashok Chandra is nominated for the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Indian Institute of Technology for the outstanding contributions made in the Computer Science Research and realization of the fact that in these days of painful transition, when doubts are often raised whether IITK can keep up its motto of excellence in the face of the compulsions imposed by the new economy, by reminding ourselves through highlighting the achievements of Dr Chandra which prove beyond doubt that excellence can indeed be coupled with relevance.

From Microsoft Research

Dr. Ashok Chandra is General Manager of ISRC Incubations in Microsoft Research in Mountain View, CA. Earlier, as director IBM’s Almaden Research Center, Computer Science, he managed a world class team of about two hundred researchers who made major advances in CS theory, databases, multimedia and user interfaces; and also built major products for IBM, including the new database system (DB2 UDB), the Trackpoint device in IBM’s Thinkpad laptops, and storage management products. He also established a major center in Human Computer Interaction at Almaden. Between IBM and his current job, he was the Sr. V.P. for R&D at Verity, with responsibility for all products, and was responsible for starting a research division. He also served as CEO of a startup in software lifecycle management.
His personal research career spans many areas in Computer Science where he has made seminal contributions spanning over 60 published papers, including the invention of Alternation (in complexity theory), Computable Queries and Conjunctive Queries (in database research), self-testing chips that check themselves, the use of symbolic execution to find design flaws in processor designs, and more. Ashok is an IEEE fellow. He founded the Bay Area Research Directors council (BARD) of CTOs and Research Directors of top Silicon Valley companies. He served as chairman of numerous IEEE and ACM conferences, and founded the IEEE LICS conference. And, he was influential in setting up IBM’s Research Center at IIT Delhi in 1998. More recently, he has founded ICORE to help raise the level of research in India. He received his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University, an MS from U.C. Berkeley, and a B. Tech. from IIT Kanpur in India, where he was awarded the prestigious President’s Gold Medal, and subsequently, the Distinguished Alumni Award.
He has a wife and two children, enjoys hiking, skiing, tennis, table tennis, bridge, and visiting new locations.
About four and a half years ago, I was managing a project where Microsoft was mentioned, and I spoke of Ashok's name. The CTO on my team excitedly jumped at that--that he was a huge fan of Ashok Chandra. Considering that the CTO had never met Ashok, I asked "why?" And he educated me of Ashok's achievements. One of them was the Red Tracking button on most laptop keyboards (especially IBM) of early years. Till then, I didn't know that Ashok was the patent holding brain behind it. Many months later when I relayed this story to Ashok, he just smiled and shrugged his shoulders with the modesty we all have come to know.

Poem by Amita Sharma

Love Song
For Ashok & Mala

They say Farewell to wish someone well
on a journey, they say Adieu, to God, when
someone leaves: a goodbye.

But if you think about it, I never left,
I have not gone. I could never travel
very far, or find my way without you.

Even in the darkest times
when pain consumed me
it was never close to
the pain of leaving you,
and we clung to each other
as we would a raft in the raging sea.

Look up and find me in the stars,
for I have not gone, after all.
I am there in the ocean’s breeze that kisses
your mouth—rosy lips on a most beloved face.

I am the caress on your cheek
as you walk into the sun—any excuse
to fold you in my embrace.
Smile for me then, for your smile
lights up my world, warms me.

I am in the faces of our children,
and their children, in the stories
of our families and friends.

I am there in the air you breathe,
in your soul, in every fiber of your being,
in our precious memories:
I have not gone.

And in that lonely space
when all the world has gone to sleep,
when you are shrouded by the dark night,
when tears spill out like liquid stars,

that is when I am the closest to you
for I am nestled in your heart;
I speak to you in the language
of our heartbeats.

Remembrance: Aalok Shah

I've told this one to Ankur and your mom recently. You can share it wherever you would like.

This happened back when I was rooming with Ankur in Sunnyvale. I was driving up 85 to work. In the stop and go that morning, I wasn't careful enough at one point, and I bumped the car in front of me. The driver and I pulled to the side of the highway. Out popped Ashok uncle. When he saw me, he was genuinely happy to see me. He was as welcoming as if I had just stepped into his house. He had absolutely no concern for the paint I had chipped off his bumper, or the aggravation most people would have after a fender bender. My apologies and offers to get things repaired were waved away.

That relentless positivity exemplifies how I was always treated by Ashok uncle. And really by everyone in your family. Ami and I were always thankful to have you as our surrogate family out in California.

Remembrance: Kamran Elahian

A very fond memory that I have of Ashok, was when he invited me to visit him and meet a few members of his team at IBM. I always knew that he was very smart, but since he was so humble, I had no idea that he had over 200 Phds working for him. So, when I got my badge to enter the building I noticed that it was made for "Dr. Elahian”. When I notified the receptionist that I am not a scholar, she said that they had so many Phds in Ashok’s team, that she assumed that I must have a Phd since I was invited to meet with the big boss (Ashok).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Talk: Anu Luther

I am Anu; my late husband Sid and I, Ashok, and many others here, were contemporaries as students at Stanford……..and you all know how something like that evolves- we go from those innocent, carefree days in different directions but friends forever.

One annual ritual that we shared after the Chandras returned to the area was the Valentine’s Day party that Mala and Ashok hosted. And, you just had to watch Ashok glide across the dance floor to understand how he lived his life- he looked you straight in the eye; his steps were carefully measured; there was always a tilde, a flourish, at the end….. and through it all was his passionate relishing of the process.
But, he never broke a sweat.

Thus, Integrity, Intelligence, and even a third “I”- In-the-moment living- the combination made for a quality and density of engagement that can only be measured by the legacy that Ashok has left behind- family and friends; work and colleagues- all made dramatically better by his presence and contributions. I expect that many will speak today about different dimensions of this and I would also like to address one such aspect.

More than a decade ago, the Dalai Lama had counseled me during my time of shattering loss but he had prefaced the session with a comment that the reason he felt competent to advise me was that he had suffered similar loss when his teacher, his guru, his father and mother- all rolled into one man- had died.

Thus, hiding behind the maroon-red robes of His Holiness, empowered by his invoking of the empathy that is generated by shared experience, I would like to address Mala.

Sid and I, over 25 years of a marriage, had become ONE (I’m not sure how my husband of one year, Tom, feels about having committed bigamy, but there it is).
Mala, you too have lost your companion, your partner, your soul-mate. But your relationship involved a kind of knowing of the other that is so complete that, from hereon, in any given situation, you will know what Ashok would’ve advised, would’ve commented, would’ve said, would’ve thought.
He thinks; therefore he is.

In truth, Mala, the clear-eyed, three “I”ed man who danced through your life, will always be in the room with you…….for you to hear but also to choose to disagree with.

Talk: Jim Gemmell

I first met Ashok in the summer of 2007. He approached me with a novel idea: “let’s turn research on its head,” he said. “Instead of doing research first, publishing a paper, and then going in search of a product, lets look at what could make a big impact and then do research as needed.”

It sounded risky, but then I thought: when will I ever get a chance like this again? I just had to say yes.

That creative idea was the beginning of nearly five years of working for Ashok in a tiny team, where I enjoyed a day-to-day, familiar relationship with him.

And how I enjoyed it! Ashok was incredibly positive and affirming; more than anyone I had ever known. In our performance review meetings, he would look me in the eye and affirm my particular talents. He stretched me and pushed me, but with a spirit of joy and affirmation. Day in and day out, he was consistently positive. I realized that I was happier coming to work than I had ever been in my life.

Ashok was absolutely brilliant. He was also wise. He could put the technology in perspective, and he never underestimated the human aspect of the challenge we had set for ourselves.

When I left Microsoft, I asked him: “I’m going to be the CTO of a startup. You have the experience, Ashok. What advice would you give me?”

“Be flexible,” he replied instantly.

“OK, and…” I prompted, wondering if I should be taking notes.

“That’s it,” he said.

I thought he was kidding But he was serious. That was it.

Honestly, at the moment, I felt a little disappointed. Couldn’t he have said more? But as time went on I often thought of what Ashok had said. Whenever I found my plans disrupted, I would remember Ashok. Be flexible. Right. Deep breath. Keep going. He was so right! More than anything else he could have said about technology or management, these were the words I needed, time and again.

Ashok was wise, and kind, and thoughtful, and cheerful, and affirming. He will always be a role model for me as a leader, as a technologist, and as a friend. I loved him and I miss him.

Talk: Pooneet Goel

I wanted to share a story which exemplifies everything amazing about Ashok Uncle. Right after I graduated college, I had joined a company called as a software developer. I had met Ashok Uncle at a party that summer and like many conversations that night, he asked me what I was going to be doing. I told him briefly about my job and expected that to be the end of the conversation as was the norm but he stopped me and put a hand on my shoulder and said, “that sounds fascinating, tell me more”. We spent the next 20 minutes discussing Homestead, the business model and my role while many of his other friends came up to chat, he politely told them he would be with them as soon as he was done with me. Ashok Uncle was always genuinely interested in what us “kids” were doing and always challenged us to think bigger than we already were. I will always remember him as the brilliant uncle who would always take the time to know and hear me.

And on behalf of my wife Aditi’s parents – Ram and Sheila Mohan who couldn’t be here as they are in India – they wanted to share the following message:

I loved Ashok as an elder brother - he was a year ahead of me at IIT/Kanpur, a brilliant student who made life look easy, a master and careful listener who always responded in a thoughtful, gentle manner. He was caring and we were blessed to have him in our lives. Sheila and I were fortunate to have had the chance to fix some of his favorites for dinner recently. He lives in our hearts.

We will always remember him.

Talk: Roy Levin

My name is Roy Levin. I first met Ashok in the late 1990’s when I joined a group called BARD – Bay Area Research Directors – that he had formed some while before. The purpose of this group was to provide an informal setting for directors of IT-related research organizations and selected academics to meet and discuss common problems. Ashok was the acknowledged leader of this group and I was immediately impressed by his engaging yet professional demeanor, his clear view of the group’s value and purpose, and his light management touch.
Nearly a decade later, Ashok and I were both working for Microsoft and, though a reorganization, he and a small group of his colleagues became part of the research lab that I was running here in Silicon Valley. It was a relatively small organization, and I felt a little uncomfortable that Ashok, who had managed much bigger groups than I, would now be reporting to me. But that quickly vanished as I was reminded of his confident professionalism, his emphasis on setting a clear objective and managing to it, and his warm collegiality. We worked together well for the next half-dozen years and I learned another of Ashok’s essential qualities: his enthusiastic embrace of technology and its potential to make people’s lives better. It is rare to find a veteran manager who can find his way through the minefield of corporate politics and at the same time expresses open, almost child-like enthusiasm for the technical “meat” of his organization’s work. Ashok was such a person. I miss him greatly.

Remembrance: Peter Norvig

Ashok was a great friend and mentor to me. I only got to see him two
or three times a year, but could always look forward to a friendly and
sincere greeting and exchange of the latest news.

He played an important role in my career -- in 1998, I was offered a
position as the Lab head of NASA Ames Computer Science division.  This
would be a big change for me, transitioning from the hands-on
scientific roles I had had up to then to a management role.  Ashok was
one of the few people I trusted to seek advice from on this decision,
because I always admired what he had done in his career: going from a
very productive scientific career to being a very productive
manager. I admired the way he was able to be so supportive to his
staff, without compromising who he was.  And I appreciated how he was
able to make it seem like fun, for both himself and his staff, and not
a bureaucratic chore. Then, as always, he gave me great advice.

When you choose to join a field as a profession, you do it in part
because the subject matter is appealing, but also because you are
joining a community of colleagues. Ashok was the kind of person who
made computer science feel like an exciting field, and also a warm and
welcoming one. I will miss him so much, and I will do my best to pass
his warmth on to others, as he did for me.