Rishi was a poem that danced in delight, whirled with wisdom, and cascaded in compassion.
The word rishi means ‘one blessed with divine wisdom’ in Sanskrit. At first look, Rishi was a delightful, fun-loving, joke-spouting kid, who liked nothing better than to make people laugh. But behind this child-like radiance was wisdom that belied his seventeen years of age. For him rationality superseded Pavlovian emotion; he could calmly refute one’s convictions and skillfully make one see the other side of the argument.
Running was Rishi’s raison d'être. A track and cross-country champion, he embodied team spirit, cheering for his running companions, forever ready with an encouraging word or two to a newbie runner.
Rishi was an artist. His Warli tribal art, minimalistic and evocative, adorned many a homemade card that he presented to family and friends he deeply cared for. His artwork graced the cover of his mother’s doctoral thesis, painstakingly drawn in his 9-year-old hand, to represent the complex capstone narrative in a nutshell.
Shining through was his musical talent, inherited from his father, who nurtured this with care. Rishi started with Carnatic Indian classical music, his lyrical voice reciting Vedic chants, that acoustically lit up the Rajasthan desert night sky on the occasion of his uncle and aunt’s silver wedding anniversary. He later turned to western classical violin, training at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins and occasionally playing at senior living facilities in Maryland, entertaining residents with classical violin pieces. Performing for the sake of acclaim was not his goal, instead, it had to enrich others’ lives. Like the time he organized a benefit concert with the Bangalore School of Music with his older brother, practiced an entire year, played violin solo, and directed a children’s quartet to raise funds for vulnerable children living in Snehagram, India. Or when he melted his grandmother’s heart when he played an eloquent classical piece on her impromptu request at his grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary.
His other love was animals. He doted on our elderly dog, Jazz, and added to our family a kitten whom he found at a local shelter. And he shared a special relationship with Summer, our one-year-old puppy, who was like a baby sister he adopted, and who adored Rishi like no other. They would thunder up and down the stairs chasing each other, or playing hide-and-seek, or tug-of-war, vexing his family but also making them smile.
But at the center of this perky playful patina was a heart of gold, of quiet compassion that was visible to those who knew Rishi well. His spirit will live on, in our hearts, in the joys that he spun for those around him, and in the happiness that his vision will continue to bring to those in need.