Saturday, August 05, 2006
To My Friend Sri who has passed away from Acute Malaria.
"If you want to be a leader, when they tell you what's true, you don't believe them. You find out for yourself." Sri Sridharan
I'm angry. I'm hurt. I don't believe it when I get the call. "Sri passed away last night at 9:30pm" Kute tells me on the other line. I'm sitting in my livingroom on my orange couch. The white curtains are parted to show the ocean a mile away. There are three white orchids on my coffee table. I still haven't gotten over Africa. I was just with Sri and Blythe traveling around Ghana after the main group left. He couldn't be dead. We were just taking pictures in a village and we're supposed to go back. He's supposed to bring Dwarkoji and the eye clinic to Ghana. What happened. What is he talking about. How could this be. "I don't believe it. Shut up." I say. "It's for real. He died of acute Malaria. Nobody thought it was this bad. The doctors thought it was the flu and he was misdiagnosed for four days." Kute says. Light from the window is bright on the bamboo floor then casts a dark shadow near the sofa. A half glass of EmergenC is on the table next to the crystal plate with red bursting flowers painted on it. This is too much. It's morning around ten a.m. I haven't picked up my voicemail for a couple of days. I'm silent on the phone.
Inline with my brother, Sri is the happiest person I know. He walks fearlessly and full of love up to any person. One day we're at Mole National Park in Ghana. There's a group of school kids there on tour. In the morning the kids are rambunctious, laughing, loud, and alive. Several girls come up to Blythe and I and ask for our address. After we come back from walking Safari two hours later the kids are subdued sitting on the lawn quiet. Sri says to us, "The teachers have stifled them. Their spirits are being crushed." Blythe and I sit down for breakfast several feet away from the group. Sri walks up to the steps infront of the kids. He looks out and yells, "Who's a leader here?" There are about forty African kids in blue uniforms sitting in an L-shape group. They're probably seventh or eighth grade. Sri yells again, "Who's a leader here?' I turn around and look at them. He makes eye contact with a boy and nods his head, "Are you a leader?" the boy nods his head. Sri looks around at several kids, back at the boy and says louder "Do you want to be a leader? If you want to be a leader, then when they say sit down-You STAND UP!" The young boy stands up. I feel a gasp in my chest. Sri and the boy hold eye contact. The teachers are sitting across from me at table looking at Sri. The waitress stands near the door. Down the massive cliff behind the kids reaches an endless green Savanna full of wildlife. All the kids eyes are on Sri and the boy. "Do you want to be a leader?" Sri dipped his head looking over his glasses at the young man. "Yes." the boy said. "If you want to Be a Leader, then when they tell you what's true- You don't believe it. You Go Find Out for Yourself!"
Sri has pepper hair and is wearing a green tank top over khaki shorts. He's twice my senior. At my age he turned down a job at MIT to do research at Stanford. He's received a Humboldt Fellowship and founded the Pitman/Morgan-Kaufmann series of monographs in Artificial Intelligence. He's retired from Intel and has started a company called TrustNet. Now he's in Africa with me influencing the next generation of genius. He loves photography. Many of his photos will be in this documentary. I met him in L.A. two years ago with Dwarkoji, a Gandhi devotee who brings free eye camps to over 30k people to small villages in India. Sri is passionate about helping underprivileged cultures. His jolly belly sticks out his shirt. The west african morning breeze is still cool. The young man looking at him is taller than most of the other kids. His eyes are wide and white around his deep brown pupils. They are my hero's. I've never done anything like that in my life. Nothing like what Sri is doing. Sri looks to the other end of the group and yells, "Are you a leader?" Several kids stand up. Like proud dominos the kids stand up. All of them. I can't believe what I'm seeing. Their main teacher wearing a khaki hat looks over at me. I think he's more shocked about Sri then the kids. This is magic. This is Sri.
Sri was misdiagnosed for four days in Phoenix, Arizona as having the flu. After being diagnosed with Malaria and treated in ICU he died on August 3rd at 9:30. He is forever in my heart. I'm so thankful for the intimate time we shared together in Ghana, Africa. He impacted everyone he interacted with. He impacted me. When he returned to the states he told his one daughter Radhika about Ghana "I found home."
Sri's website and blog is www.infinisri.com
There are so many stories I can tell about him, and one by one I will.
I love you Sri.