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.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Talk: Neel Sundaresan

I and Ashok have known each other for over 17 years first as him as our director at IBM Almaden Research but then as a mentor and a respected friend. Interestingly, I have known Ashok much longer than that having read his seminal beautifully written paper on program schemas and his work on Alternating Turing Machines. Who knew then that he would play an important role in my professional life.
During my earliest days at Almaden, I was shadowing a then IBM Fellow who gave had a lot of career advice. I distinctly remember him saying that junior researchers like me are lucky to have Ashok Chandra as the head of computer science and will thrive under him. I didn’t understand much of it (I was new to the department) but the years that followed and the relationship I developed with Ashok told me what Ed meant.
After both Ashok and I left IBM, and went our ways, our relationship grew only stronger, he became a closer friend, guide, and mentor. I would reach out to him many times for help when I was doing my startup, whenever I was thinking of a career change, or when was feeling down at my job. We met so many times for coffee at the Peets in Saratoga, for breakfasts at Hobees in Cupertino or Sunnyvale, or for Indian lunch buffets. He’d never let me pay on any occasion. It was almost like him making me feel that he had me covered on every small or big aspect. Every time I go by the Peets I would find it hard to not remember our meetings here.
Sometimes, Ashok would reach out to me when he saw an opportunity for me at the companies he worked or advised. He introduced me to several executives during this process. On one occasion, Ashok had set up a meeting for me to meet with the president of a company that he thought was a good opportunity for me. We met at a coffee shop attached to a hotel at an odd hour of 10AM in the morning when it was mostly empty. We first sat at a table and the exec was annoyed that the table was wobbly. He insisted that we move to another table. It turned out that this table was also wobbly. The exec was getting annoyed and suggested that we move another table. Ashok quietly picked up the table and rotated it by a few degrees and the table became stable. The exec was surprised and Ashok patiently explained the physics and the theory behind the wobbly table and how it could be fixed by just rotating it. This was the year 2000. Six year later a paper was published by a CERN physicist in Nature in about the physics of wobbly tables and how rotating them a bit stabilizes them. Such was his brilliance and his modesty.
If I am a better manager, better technologist or a better individual today I can easily say that Ashok did have role in helping me.
I know that today is the day of celebration of his life. But it is impossible not to feel sad. It reminds me of what my grandmother once told us. She had gathered us kids and was trying to explain to us the meaning of death on the occasion of the untimely passing of a member of the family. She explained, “God tries hard to create beautiful humans; Some more beautiful than others. Then he watches from up above as to who is up to what. When one of his beautiful creations exceeds his expectation and creates happiness by doing good things and helping others, he gets selfish and greedy and calls them back sooner than their time”. More than 4 decades ago I believed this story. Today I believe this again, as Ashok is one of those beautiful people who was called back up by the creator sooner than his time.

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