Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

26 Jul 2010, 0:42 a.m.

RIP S.K. Harihareswara

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

My father died on Thursday night of a massive heart attack. He'd just had dinner and was washing his hands when he slumped against the wall. He died very quickly in my mother's arms. He was 74.

I'm in India now, alternately engaging with and hiding from the constant flow of people and food and emotion. I saw his corpse yesterday. Tomorrow we'll start going to orphanages and retirement homes to feed people in memory of my dad. That's what he wanted in lieu of the standard prayer rituals.

In the coming weeks and months I expect I'll write a lot about my family. Right now I just wanted to tell you what's up. Your condolences are welcome in comments, emails, or instant messages. But I especially encourage you to comment with happy memories of your own family -- or, if you have none of those or none that you want to share, happy memories of any sort.


26 Jul 2010, 0:58 a.m.

oh, hon. i am so sorry. if hugs from people who regard you kindly at wiscon are welcome, please have one.

happy family memories... there was the year my mom came to wiscon with me, and she put a picture of me in her badge so people would know who she was. or tonight, actually, we all went over to my parents house for dinner, which we do every sunday, and this time i brought the dogs, so there were six humans and four small dogs racing around the house all trying to eat dinner at once.

26 Jul 2010, 1:14 a.m.

My mom's 72 (and my dad's 83), so this is a stark reminder to love both of my parents as much as I can before their time comes up. I can't even imagine what this must be like, but I've been thinking of you a huge amount and sending you good thoughts. Your dad's idea of having you go to orphanages and retirement homes to feed people is beautiful. I'm going to tell my parents about it and see if they have anything similar that they'd like me to do for them.

My most recent happy memory is of driving home from Seattle last weekend. My nephew driving, elder brother riding shotgun, and in the back seat, my mom, me in the middle, and my dad on the right. My nephew asked me to play Lady Gaga on my computer, so I fired it up and he and I belted out "Bad Romance" at the top of our lungs while my brother snored over the Javascript tutorial he had been reading on his laptop, my mom rolled her eyes at the music kids these days listen to, and my dad looked contemplatively out the window (he's hard of hearing so I don't know how well he was tracking on what was going on). The mountains were high, many-layered, and dark green and there was a river winding its way along the side of the highway. I had almost all the people I cared about most in the car with me (except for K. and my other brother Robert, who we'd gone to visit in Seattle) and it was so good to have them there after not seeing them for almost a year. Finally the song ended, my mom asked politely if we could take a break from music for a while, and my nephew kept on driving, whistling "Bad Romance" under his breath. That's the memory I've been carrying around in my head for a week, and it makes me smile every time I recall it. I hope it makes you think of a similar memory from your family's happiest days, and that it helps a little bit.

26 Jul 2010, 1:15 a.m.

My deepest condolences, Sumana. My thoughts are with you and your family.

betsyl's comment makes me remember my Mum giving me a collection of short SF stories she'd read and loved in university. I had no idea she liked science fiction, but she'd been really into it back in the day! I have her to thank for getting into the genre.

26 Jul 2010, 2:05 a.m.

My younger brother died suddenly in 2003. It was a very difficult time for the entire family. My thoughts on the matter are too long to put in a blog comment but were already captured here:

The bottom line of that post sums it up: "Today of all days all those who knew him should be glad that they did and instead mourn for those who did not."

I, for one, mourn that I did not have the chance to know your father. My deepest condolences to you and your family, Sumana.<br/>

26 Jul 2010, 2:56 a.m.

I am so sorry to hear this. I hope we all have happy family times in years to come.

26 Jul 2010, 3:23 a.m.

My condolences.

I have a lot of happy memories of my dad, but one that really stands out is that he used to take me and my little brother to baseball games when we were really tiny--I was three or four, my brother younger. I remember nothing about the baseball, but I remember that he'd buy us bags of peanuts in the shells (wrestling them out of the shells, at age 4, was at least as engrossing/entertaining as the game), and then he'd pick us up so we could see and would tell us what was going on, and he sounded so happy that we were happy even though we had no clue what on earth the guys running around were doing.

It didn't lead to a lifelong love of baseball, but it did lead to a lifelong love of sharing delightful things with my dad.

26 Jul 2010, 9:00 a.m.

Aw, Sumana. Sympathy and Empathy to you and your family.

I think what I like most are some of the little anecdotes and catchphrases that become part of one family's lore. I worry that they might not seem to have such comedic legs to outsiders (which is part of the point, kind of) but I guess the one that comes to mind is this:

In the late 70s or early 80s or so, we were living in a house that had a laundry chute down the basement. My mom got down there only to find she had forgotten my coat that needed washing. My dad was taking a bath when he heard the voice from the chute: "toss down Kirk's coat!"

His response "I DON'T TALK TO NO WALLS" is a family shibboleth to this day...<br/>

26 Jul 2010, 9:05 a.m.

And another one is from my toddlerhood, when my mom purposefully moved a bowl of grapes to the center of a big piano to keep it away from me - she came back to find me having made the piano climbing expedition to get to the bowl, and my quick witted, nervous grin cover story was "gapes... I yike gapes"

Even now, my mom and I yike gapes.

26 Jul 2010, 9:12 a.m.

My condolences. =(

One of my happiest family memories, oddly enough, is the night before my mom died, up in the middle of the night singing songs together.

Kevin Mark
26 Jul 2010, 10:17 a.m.

My sincere condolences on your fathers passings :(<br/>I just left you at HOPE and now I am at Debcamp. Enjoying time with a unique family of sorts. The only time I expect to see some of these folks.

26 Jul 2010, 11:53 a.m.

Sumana, I'm so sorry. I'll be thinking of you & your family, especially tomorrow (what a beautiful request).

One memory that came to mind was the first (and possibly the only) family portrait my bio-family ever took. We'd set up the camera with a bulb-thing to take the picture at a distance (this was pre-timer), and wrangling two small kids into anything approaching a good mood was a challenge, to say the least. I got entertained by being tasked with bulb-duty, and my brother was placated when we agreed to make every alternate shot a silly one. The only photo I remember from that day is one of all of us sucking our thumbs 'Tom-style', with index fingers hooked over our noses, laughing.

26 Jul 2010, 18:56 p.m.

My deepest condolences.

My best memories of my dad involve us laughing over inside jokes, most of which don't lend themselves well to repetition. But there was the time I spent an entire afternoon reading him the hilariously badly written captions from my high school yearbook while we both cracked up. I get most of my sense of humor from him.

Shveta Thakrar
26 Jul 2010, 19:56 p.m.

Oh, honey, I'm so sorry to hear this. sending love

A happy family memory? When my mom was here earlier this month, we took her to my boyfriend's sister's house for a party, and she loved watching me play with my four-year-old niece. She couldn't stop saying how adorable J. is.

27 Jul 2010, 0:15 a.m.

My father really wanted to give me a big Quincenera, except we weren't actually Catholic, or really much with the Mexican traditionalist stuff, so instead he booked a big afternoon at a Korean restaurant with a Karaoke DJ, and I had about 30 people come to sing and eat. Everyone sang at least once. I was in the large school chorus and another subset of the school chorus, so several people were into performing. Some like my brother and my then boyfriend and my eldest cousin were very much not into performing, so they kept choosing joke songs and getting giant groups to sing with them (The Twelve Days of Christmas was one--and this was the end of May). My sister got upset about having to be there, and somewhere there's a great picture of her being a very petulant nine-year-old, who is not even appeased by the ice cream someone bribed her with. This picture will always make me laugh. But the think that I remember that makes that party probably the best memory I have of my father, is that at some point we sang "California Dremaing" as a duet, and it was really good. He had a lovely voice, and I suppose really whatever singing talent I have I probably got from him. I think I got my love of music from him, too. When we sang that song together that day, we both managed to blend really well, and have a nice moment of father-daughter connection. This was pretty rare because he was impossible to deal with most of the time. So. Yes, that's a memory I don't often talk about. I'll talk about other, more laughable ones much more easily. But it seemed like this would be the time to share that one, if ever there was a time.

27 Jul 2010, 3:47 a.m.

I'm so sorry, Sumana.

27 Jul 2010, 14:05 p.m.

I'm sorry for your and your family's loss.

When I was younger, we lived in an old house which had been converted into apartments, and had no laundry facilities, so my mother and I would load out clothing up into rubbish bags, and do our laundry. We made a tradition of stopping for a soda and a doughnut at a shop on the way home. Once, I had a basket of 'delicates' on my lap, and was finishing folding them before we went in, and for some reason, as she was parking, and I picked the last pair of underwear up, she had this idea that I was not going to fold them, and yelled very suddenly "DON'T PUT THAT ON YOUR HEAD!"

We now, regularly, and with little to no provocation yell "don't put that on your head!" at one another.

We've never explained this story to anyone else, partially because it seems so odd and not funny when explained, so people - like Marnanel - always look somewhat baffled at this order.

27 Jul 2010, 17:13 p.m.

Hello Sumana,

I love you SO much that I used your name in some test data today.

re: my father -- he brought home an IBM PC jr in 1984, and let his three daughters program on it in Basic. We are all IT workers today. I don't think most fathers would let 9-year-old twins and a 7-year-old have at it like that.

re: my mother -- she is religiously against alcohol, believing that one can never be certain how much one has drunk because the first drink is enough to send you over the edge! I have heard the one story over and over of when she made elderberry wine in the bathtub, drank it with my father, and then panicked up on finding herself drunk! she wanted to be taken to the emergency room and given a shot that would make her instantly sober, and was horrified to learn that there is no such shot.

I hope this time is as stress-free as possible. Extended family visits are when I realize that I am a Puerto Rican in America, and an American in Puerto Rico. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

28 Jul 2010, 13:18 p.m.

I've been thinking of you and your family and holding you all in my heart.

Thomas Thurman
30 Jul 2010, 8:14 a.m.

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. Your father was one of the good people of this earth.

A happy family memory: simply that I used to sing my baby brother to sleep every night in my arms until he grew too large for me to hold, with the same dozen or so songs every night. (And I had a slight shock of vertigo the other day to realise that the baby I once sang to sleep has now almost finished his doctorate.)