Thought You'd Never Ask

Just mouthing off -- because I can.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A 9/11 Tribute to Shreyas Ranganath

Srinivasa Shreyas Ranganath was beloved and admired by people who knew him on two continents.

He was born January 4, 1975 in the southern Indian town of Bhadravati, and grew up in the big city of Bangalore. “Shreyu” was remembered by family and friends as a sharply intelligent, fun-loving boy, with a mischievous grin, an outstanding singing voice, and a twinkle in his eye. He was the rallying central figure in the informal but intense cricket matches and hide-and-seek games that he played so passionately with neighborhood friends on warm summer nights in the streets or in the backyard of his family’s home. Even as a youngster “Shreyu” seemed to have more than a hint of the hero and the role-model about him—many of his friends sensed it, and no one looked up to him and admired him more than did his own younger brother, who knew him best.

As Shreyas grew older and attended middle school and high school with his friends, he was transformed into a serious and diligent student devoted to his education--not afraid of hard work and very willing to immerse himself in books. Yet along with his mental talents, he also had a generous spirit. At 16, while a member of the National Cadet Corp and attending a camp event, he pretended to be 18 years old so that he might, along with the adults there, donate blood to the wounded soldiers in the Indian Army. It was evident to many who knew him that Shreyas was “a great soul.”

He studied at the Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering in Bangalore, and lived in the Basavangudi area of the city. But his interest in seeing the world and “meeting people of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs” brought him to the United States, where he enrolled in the master’s degree program in Electrical Engineering at the University of Utah. Completing only one semester (Fall 1999), he decided to return to India—either because of health problems, as one source said, or because he found the winters in Utah too cold. Friends and colleagues who knew him in Utah remember him as soft-spoken, “the sweetest person I’ve ever known,” and “a very sincere student, very quiet, not into parties.” He did, however, like eating the sandwiches at the local Subway deli.

Back in his hometown of Bangalore, Shreyas developed a new passion. Once the center of British colonial rule in South India, Bangalore is now the country’s third-largest city with a population of over 6 million, and is known as India’s “Silicon Valley,” the center of high-tech innovations. There Shreyas became an expert professional in software design. “For him, it became an addiction,” said one friend. “He had a great love for software.”

He landed a job at Wipro Technologies, a global software services company, and “the largest independent R&D services provider in the world.” He worked long 16- and 18-hour days as a code-cruncher, but loved the work. And he still found time to help others, including bright young kids from his neighborhood who needed financial help to stay in school.

At the age of 26 he, along with three other colleagues from Wipro-Bangalore, was sent abroad to work as a software consultant on a three-month project for the firm of Marsh & McLennan Companies, a global professional services firm which in 2001 had 57,000 employees and an annual revenue of $10 billion. Once again Shreyas found himself able to visit the United States, enjoying his work while seeing new places and meeting new people (with his Sony Walkman as his “constant companion,” usually playing his favorite songs by the Irish rock band U2). He was assigned to work specifically for Marsh Inc., an insurance brokerage subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, located on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center’s Tower One in Manhattan.

A longtime friend and fellow employee of Wipro offered to share his Hackensack, New Jersey home with Shreyas and one of the other three consultants on the same assignment, Shashi Kiran L. Kadaba, a young man who was engaged to be married the following year. These three men spent many congenial evenings together, cooking elaborate meals of gourmet Indian food, or watching Hindi movies. Shreyas “appreciated Hollywood movies,” said the friend, “but he had a great taste for Indian movies.” On the evening of September 10, 2001 the three consumed “a wonderful dinner” in honor of the birthday of the Hindu god Krishna.

The following morning, a clear and beautiful Tuesday, Shreyas Ranganath and his three fellow colleagues from Wipro in Bangalore (Hemanth Kamar Puttur, Deepika Kumar, and Shashi Kiran Kadaba) reported for work as usual. When they spoke by telephone with their immediate superior in Bangalore, “the four sounded cheerful, at the beginning of yet another busy day in New York.” About an hour later they were murdered along with 291 other employees and associates of the Marsh & McLennan Companies who worked on floors 93 to 100 of the North Tower, where the first airliner hit. Forty-six other Wipro employees present in New York City that day were spared.

Shreyas Ranganath touched the hearts of many people in his short life. He had a certain quiet charm, a twinkle of fun, and an easy, sweet nature that many would later remark upon. His hard-working diligence, his excellence in his chosen field, and most of all, his generous spirit were his gift and inspiration left to the world. Wipro named a hall in Bangalore in his honor; the Marsh & McLennan monument and website bear his name. But more permanent than stone are the memories of small kindnesses and the not-so-small contributions he left and still leaves in the lives of the people he personally touched as he passed.

Shreyas Ranganath is not forgotten.




I have reposted this tribute (first run on September 11th, 2006 as one of the 2,996 stories told by The 2,996 Project). I did not know Shreyas Ranganath but after having written his story, I am sorry I didn't. I will not forget him. In fact, I have sponsored an Indian girl through Children International for the last few years, who my family and I are now supporting through college in India. I would not have thought to carry on his legacy like this if I had not written this memorial and been inspired by Shreyas Ranganath.


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