The Legacy of Sameer Bhatia

It’s hard to believe that two years have gone by since Sameer left us. Why? It’s because his energy was so pervasive that it often feels like he’s still here. So many things that surround us serve as a reminder. A photo, a black BMW cruising down Hwy 280 (speeding of course), a visit to Stanford, or brunch at a sidewalk cafe in San Francisco on a Sunday morning.

But more often the reminders are those things that we cannot see. Like his entrepreneurial drive, which taught us to take more risks in life. Or his selflessness, which inspires us to give more of ourselves to others. And his passion for adventurous travel, loud music, and weeknight partying, which reminds us to live in the moment. Sameer taught us to always be our very best.

While his departure helped bring us in touch with the reality of life, it also created a large void. Yet it is in this very void where his spirit continues to manifest. Our peace comes from knowing that Sameer lives on in each one of us. And yet, this is only a small part of his great legacy.

Swami Vivekananda once said, “Never think there is anything impossible for the soul.” He might has well have inserted Sameer’s name into that statement. Here’s why.

The campaign to find a bone marrow donor for Sameer and Vinay resulted in over 24,000 new South Asian registrants in the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). A few weeks ago we received some updated campaign statistics from the Asian American Donor Program and NMDP. They informed us of how many of those 24,000 registrants have been called upon and agreed to donate their marrow or peripheral blood stem cells to save the life of a patient in need. Any guess? The number is a whopping 266. This means that potentially hundreds of lives have been saved because of Sameer and Vinay. This is a true legacy.

Sameer is dearly missed by Reena, his parents, his brother, his extended family and all of his friends. But despite his absence it’s amazing how he continues to touch new lives. Let me share some examples with you.

Jennifer Aaker, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, never had the chance to meet Sameer. But she was so inspired by his story and the Team Sameer & Team Vinay campaigns that she decided to create a new course titled The Power of Social Technology. The class arms entrepreneurial students with social media tools that they can harness to cultivate social good in the world. And it has spurred a stream of research on happiness and the “ripple effect”, or the idea that small acts of goodness can create big change. And from all of this teach and research will soon come a book - The Dragonfly Effect - which will serve as inspiration for others on how to harness social media for positive change. This is all in addition to the already published Stanford case study. I’m sure Sameer would be gleaming if he could see all of this.

Ahh, but there’s more.

New campaigns to find matches for patients in need continue to emerge. There was Project Michelle, Team Alan, and there’s Help Connor. Here is a note we received from Jack Green, a friend of Alan Cohen, who was inspired by Sameer and Vinay:

At the end of October 2009, a colleague of mine, Alan Cohen, was diagnosed with acute erythroleukemia. The doctors told him that he needed to urgently find a bone marrow match to save his life. Within days I mobilized for the cause. Over two months, we coordinated drives in the US, Canada and Israel, registering 56,000 people. We raised $3 million to cover the registration fees, which amounted to $54 per person. Our efforts have already brought 40 matches and resulted in one transplant.

Sameer continues to create transformation and infuse energy into our world. No wonder that it feels like he’s still around - he is.

It’s been two years

But Sameer’s smile, charm, pranks, smarts, spirit are all still with us. We miss you Samba!

Celebrating Sameer’s birthday

To everyone special in Sameer’s life,

As you may remember, Thursday October 22nd would have been Sameer’s 34th birthday. All of us – Sameer’s closest friends – maintained a special tradition when celebrating Sameer’s birthday. Each year our birthday ritual involved three important elements: surprise, embarrassment, and “evidence” comprised of enough photos and video footage to disqualify him from ever pursuing a career in politics or holding public office! For us, birthdays are about the celebration of life.

For what would have been Sameer’s 34th birthday, please help us to maintain this fun tradition by commenting on this blog post with one or more of your favorite memories or stories about Sameer. We’re looking for stories of any kind…funny, embarrassing, or inspiring….bring it on!

Our “deadline” is 5pm PST on Thursday 10/22. Once all the stories are in we will share the link with his parents, brother, wife, and extended family.

Thank you for joining us in celebrating the life of one of the most amazing friends that any of us have ever known.

With warmth, Sameer’s closest friends

Celebrate the life of Sameer on Friday March 27, 5-9pm

111 MINNA GALLERY, SF | FRIDAY MARCH 27, 2009 | 5pm - 9pm

Join us to celebrate the beautiful life and memory of our friend, Sameer Bhatia. All proceeds will be donated to the Asian American Donor Program (AADP.org), a non-profit geared towards saving the lives of those affected by leukemia or other diseases treatable with marrow or stem cell transplants.

groove juice 2

Featuring
DJ Cheb i Sabbah
DJ Seven

In Memory of Sameer Bhatia

When: Friday 3/27 (5pm - 9pm)
Where: 111 Minna Gallery, SF

Entry: $10 donation, benefiting AADP.org

Happy birthday Sameer!

Today would have been Sameer’s 33rd (is 33 right?) birthday. Sadly, he never beat his battle with leukemia, but he lives on in our memories, conversations, and laughter. It’s accurate to say that birthdays, whether for him or his friends, were some of his favorite times. Namely because he loved to pull practical jokes. Usually a birthday party involved posting an outrageous listings on craigslist, dressing up unsuspecting birthday boys in crazy costumes, and simply getting to see his friends. To celebrate this day, some friends have written some of our favorite memories regarding Sameer’s past birthdays and surprises.

Shital
Ok my most memorable samba story is when we threw a surprise birthday in his own apartment. I remember that he showed up in his basketball clothes all sweaty in front of all of us who were dressed up in cocktail attire. It was so fun and I remember how much fun samba had and happy he was that day. He always loved celebrating birthdays with all of his favorite friends. I miss him.

Brady
Your story made me think about when Samba had a house party for an “apartment” he was house-sitting. When I arrived on Chestnut, everyone there was happy and lounging in the living area. I couldn’t get over what a great space Samba had scored. He was giddy to the point of goofy and was bringing me around the apartment asking what I thought? Then he kept on pointing to a picture of San Francisco and saying what do you think of this? What do you think of that? The point of course was that everything there was his belongings and that this wasn’t a friend’s place but his new home. I was totally clueless. Now I was in on the joke. I couldn’t believe that this crazy guy would go to such lengths for a surprise! He bought a house and didn’t tell anyone until they came over!! Baba and I went down the street and bought doughnuts marveling over Sameer’s ingenuity and how happy we were for him owning a house.

Nick
The birthday I remember is one in which I couldn’t make it but we planned this elaborate hoax to make Sameer think his surprise birthday party would be a day later than the actual event. I accidentally revealed the fake surprise birthday via email and he wouldn’t let me hear the end of it for revealing the secret. I guess he thought I was an amateur. Sadly, I didn’t get to see the look on his face when he was duped! The pranks just got bigger and more elaborate. The other party I remember is the Robert’s American Idol party where Sameer was Judge Randy. I remember how much fun we all had together.

Bhavna
October of 2003, just about a month after I arrived in England…missing friends and family. “Samba’s birthday” was written on my datebook for Oct 22nd. I waited to call “at the right time.” I was 8 hours ahead of the crew in San Francisco. It was late evening for them, finally…where I could get in on the fun for Samba’s birthday. They were playing the newlywed game!! Why wasn’t I surprised?!?! Of course, it was a fun and creative way to celebrate :) :) I can remember samba’s voice, and him saying the crew had taken over and made him ask and answer questions with 3 girls he doesn’t know. It wouldn’t have been such a birthday without the energy samba poured everywhere he went. I felt like I was there! All great memories of Samba, happy birthday to you!

Meeta
Tough guys wear pink! he wore that hot pink shirt :) what about the scary birthday where we had brunch and sohan and diya were petrified because sambakaka was looking like a woman! Diya couldn’t stop staring at him. I think he was wearing a Britney school girl outfit - um that one was scary.

Robert
Most memorable birthday? Oh my…where do I start?! Let me pick one that is a vivid memory in my mind, largely because of how he was dressed. Or rather, “how we forced him to dress”! We were all gathered for brunch one morning in San Francisco. Little did Samba know that it was for his birthday (though I’m certain he suspected). Oh, this wasn’t going to be just any standard brunch…not when we’re celebrating Sameer’s special day! Shortly after we sat down and ordered, a few of us ‘commanded’ Sameer into the restaurant restroom. We brought along our little bag of tricks which included the attire he was required to dress up in. It was complete with everything needed for a full-on embarrassment: a plaid skirt, blouse, eyelashes, and some gloss lipstick. Oh wait, and a blonde wig! That’s right - within minutes, he was transformed into a beautiful cheerleader. OK…scratch the beautiful. Aside from scaring the children at the table, along with the waitress and the other customers, it was the perfect Samba birthday celebration :)

From Samba to his friends after his elimidate birthday
i don’t know what i’m doing thanking all of you for what happened to me last night, but i do want to state (as i’m still drunk) that i have found some words in my vocabulareee to describe how i feel about you all…

cr-aaaa-zy!
n-u-t-s!!
in-sane!!!!!!!!

i seriously walked into dinner expecting a normal happy dinner. you know, like other people do on their birthdays. and i left feeling like a drunk hooker. (that has definitely happened before, but last night was different…) that was by far the craziest buuurrddday i’ve ever had. yes, it beats walking around sno-drift as dodo’s daddy carrying dodo onto the dance floor. yes, it also beats being surprised by 40 of my favorite intruders in my own apartment. and, oh yeah, it even tops salsa dancing with the hairy-chested Senor Samba last year. my god, i don’t think i’ll ever forget this one…let alone remember all of it.

….i also don’t know if i’ll be functioning properly again until tomorrow. still can’t get this damn studded collar off.

samba “the stud”.
Please feel free to share more of your birthday stories in the comments section.

Vinay, we will miss you!

We were very saddened to learn that Vinay passed away on June 25th. As many of you know, Vinay was the inspiration for Sameer’s bone marrow campaign. While Vinay and Sameer were physically seperated by thousands of miles during their treatment, their transplant journey and emotional experience was one and the same. The same holds true for Vinay and Sameer’s surviving spouses, Rashmi & Reena, respectively.

Vinay and Sameer, we will remember you for your strength and courage. You are role models for all patients and families suffering from cancer. You remain in our hearts forever.

Please visit www.helpvinay.org for a message from his family.

Sameer’s Memorial Service

We understand that quite a few people were unable to view the previously posted video of Sameer’s Memorial Service. Please try this one. Note, that using fast-forward may cause the audio and video to be out of sync.

Sameer’s Memorial Service Video

Sameer’s Memorial Slideshow

 

LIVE WEBCAST OF SAMEER’S SERVICE

We will have a live webcast of the Memorial Service for those of you who are unable to attend. The webcast will start at 3:00pm PST Saturday March 29th, which is 3:30am on Sunday March 30th in India.

You can see the recorded webcast here - Sameer’s Memorial Service

Sameer’s Memorial Service

Dear Friends of Sameer and Reena,

Sameer’s memorial service will be held tomorrow, Saturday March 29th at Mercer Island High School, Sameer’s alma mater. Please see below for details.

The ceremony will begin promptly at 3:00pm. Please leave at least 15 extra minutes for parking and for settling in to the auditorium where the service will be held.

Program
Swamiji’s Service
Family & Friend’s Eulogy
Memories
Swamiji’s Closing
Refreshments

For the Memories portion of the program, we welcome you to share your favorite stories and memories of Sameer.

If you need directions or cannot find the high school on Saturday, please call Samit Patel at (856) 979-3448.

Location:
Mercer Island High School
Main Auditorium
9100 Se 42nd St
Mercer Island, WA 98040

Click here to get directions

Dear Friends of Sameer and Reena, 

As most of you know by now, Sameer left us this morning a little before 5 AM for a higher abode. He left after a valiant and positive struggle with leukemia and the subsequent accumulation of issues from multiple chemotherapies. We felt the love of many hospital staff members who had looked after him in their efforts to nurture him to health.

His last rites were performed starting at 3:30 PM by Swami Bhaskaranandaji and Swami Avikaranandaji  of the Vedanta Society of Western Washington according to the Hindu tradition, and the cremation followed. The sound of Vedic chants filled the chapel of the funeral home. We know he went in peace and he also looked at peace. We all  prayed and continue to pray for God to grant him everlasting bliss. 

The last rites ceremony was attended by the family and a few close friends who were able to fly from the San Francisco area just in time. We plan to hold a memorial service for Sameer on Saturday at 3 PM in the Seattle area. We will decide on the venue tomorrow and let you know further details.

Some of you have enquired if you could do something in Sameer’s memory. We request that you do not send flowers or other gifts. If you would like to make a donation in Sameer’s memory, we would suggest that you donate to any one or more of the following organizations: 

·         Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (http://www.seattlecca.org/aboutscca/donations.htm)

·         Vedanta Society of Western Washington (http://vedanta-seattle.org/pages/contact.html)

·         People for Progress in India, Seattle (http://www.ppi-usa.org/webroot/HTML/ContactUs.htm)

·         Unitus (http://76.12.48.180/sections/involved/involved_cu_main.asp)

All four organizations have played a meaningful role in Sameer’s life and growth as a person. If you wish to make a gift in the memory of Sameer, please include his full name as well as the following so our family can be informed of your gift:

 The Bhatia Family
8241 SE 67th Street
Mercer Island, WA  98040



Help save Sameer’s life

Our friend, Sameer Bhatia, was just diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), which is a cancer of the blood. He is in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant. Sameer is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, is 31 years old and
just got married in 2006. His diagnosis was confirmed just weeks ago and caught us all by surprise.

Another friend of ours, Vinay, was also diagnosed with AML and also requires a transplant (many of you may already be familiar with Vinay's campaign). We have teamed up with Team Vinay in order to build greater awareness of how you can help.

3 Things You Can Do!

The greatest likelihood for a bone marrow match for both Sameer and Vinay is from someone in the South Asian community - however, very few South Asians are actually in the bone marrow registry. This is where we need your help.

1. Please get registered
Getting registered is very quick and requires a simple cheek swab. Team Vinay has organized a nationwide campaign and we need you to get registered by visiting a local drive. Drives are currently taking place all around the country, including throughout California, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, New York and many other states. Please see the full list of locations here: http://www.helpvinay.org/dp/index.php?q=event.

Attend an upcoming drive


2. Spread the word
Please share this web page with at least 10 people (particularly South Asians), and ask them to do the exact same. Please point your friends to the local drives and ask them to get registered.

3. Visit Vinay's site
To learn more, please visit www.helpvinay.org. The site includes more details on how to organize your own drive, valuable information about AML, plus FAQs on registering. Please visit http://www.helpvinay.org/dp/index.php?q=node/108 for more information on the cities where more help is needed. Thank you for getting registered to help Sameer and Vinay fight and win against leukemia.

Thank you, Friends of Sameer and Vinay