David Raj—RIP


By Pradeep Anand

On September 28, 2013, our dear friend David Raj, also known as Dorai and Gnanadorai Sathiaraj, son of Dr. (Mrs.) Stella Soundararaj and Dr. G. Soundararaj, passed away, peacefully, in Chennai, India. He had been ill for a while and his cousin/sister, Cheruba, and her husband, Dr. Santhosham, had convinced him that they had the heart and the resources to help him live his last days painlessly, in their home. His loving caretakers appeared like angels, to ease his pain before his ascent to Heaven.

 Like a diamond, David had many facets. Of these, many will remember him for his passionate benevolence. He had the biggest heart of all. He gave the greatest proportion of the time and money he possessed to the benefit of others. He gave his heart and soul with every check he wrote and with every moment he spent on any philanthropic activity.

Educating the underprivileged captured his imagination. He helped first by contributing educational charities and efforts, such as those of IIT Alumni of Greater Houston, IndoAmerican Charity Foundation, and many others.

He then transcended to giving his time and resources to educating children at Crockett Elementary School in Houston, which has now grown into the iEducate initiative.

 Many others may remember him for his other public face—his love of Rock music. He loved his guitar and his performance gear—his black-on-black outfit, combined with his Stevie Ray Vaughn hat, and his flashy tie. His long hair added to his rock star persona. During performances, his bright white teeth shone when he smiled shyly, as he looked at an admiring audience that was applauding a guitar solo that he had just played masterfully.

His last gig was on August 24, 2013, at the Houston Zoroastrian Center, where “David Raj and Friends” performed at the Parsi Navroze celebration. Boy, did he and his friends get the crowd rocking.

On that day, he was in pain. Yet, he performed with aplomb. Many, who had heard his wizardry on the guitar before, knew that it was his Swan Song. He played his guitar like he had never played it before.

We knew he was in pain and the words of this Bob Dylan song rang loud and clear above the raucous celebration:

“Mama, take this badge off of me,I can’t use it anymore.

It’s getting’ dark, too dark to see,I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.”

And the next day, angels carried him away on their wings, to Chennai.

 And then there were these lesser known facets of his being an entrepreneur, a Scotch connoisseur, a great friend, and good Christian.

David was an entrepreneur at heart but only India Coffee House bubbled up into reality. His passion helped create a concept that will endure.

He was a connoisseur of Single Malts. His Scotch tasting events yielded imbibers with equally sensitive palates. Of course, after a while his compatriots became his merry band.

He was that dedicated, loyal friend that we all dream of but rarely experience. Many were blessed by his embrace and anointed by his love.

Above all he was a good Christian. He worshipped in the spirit of Christ and gloried in Christ. Being Christian is being “Christ-like”. He lived in the doctrine of love, helping others by not only doing voluntary work in the community but also taking leadership in these efforts, that too without seeking the spotlight and without fanfare; just like he was with his guitar on stage, focused on his craft, not the adulation.

 I lost a brother in his human form. But I am glad that he was released from his pain. However, he, his passion, his love and his effervescent, jubilant personality will always remain with me.

The immediacy of our daily lives and our gradually declining neural networks may fade our memories but we all have triggers that will instantly bring back David in our midst, right next to us, urging us to do the right thing, to leave the world a better place than the one we inherited.

David is gone but will never be forgotten.

 Yet, with all the sorrow that surrounds his departure, when I think about what David would be doing in Heaven, I imagine him with his guitar, laughing at the somber crowd of mourners, readying himself to play the lead in a Neil Young song for us:

“My my hey hey

Rock and roll is here to stay

It’s better to burn out

Than to fade away

My my hey hey”

 Rest in Peace, bro.