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

15 Responses

  1. brady Says:

    Sameer loved surprises, especially when it involved his friends. He relished those final “aha!” moments so much that he was able to keep a secret going for months! I remember one surprise that blew me out of the water.

    Samba had moved out of his Nob Hill studio rental to the Marina. He threw a house warming party and I was one of the last to arrive. Everyone had an excited energy about them and I assumed it was due to Samba’s bartending skills. Samba took me on a tour of his new, beautiful one bedroom apartment. He kept pointing at pictures on the wall and asking me what I thought of them. I was clueless and pointed out the basics of the pictures, various vignettes of the city. What I clearly failed to notice is that these were all important belongings that he wouldn’t have hung at a rental apartment. And when it finally dawned on me, that my friend had concealed the purchase of his first home I couldn’t believe it! He must’ve kept this secret inside for so long, just to see my over the top expression.

    Having someone take the time to plan such an elaborate surprise for you and your friends makes you feel incredibly special. And that was Sameer.

  2. brady Says:

    From Kirti Patel:

    Every one of samba’s birthdays was always full of funny moments. i still laugh when i think about the elimidate birthday in north beach. samba was always the best sport when it came to having to act goofy all over the city or dressing in all those outrageous costumes. he always pulled off the dressing like a woman look really well, hmmm…:)

    this will always be a special day. we’re all thinking of him.

  3. brady Says:

    From Veer Gidwaney:

    Today Sameer IS 34. He IS 34 because he lives on - within each of us, amongst us and between us. The legacy of Sameer’s life, what makes him so extraordinary, is his ability even today to inspire and uplift those who had the good fortune to know him, touch him and to be touched by him. Today I celebrate not the life that Sameer lived. I celebrate life, which is so much better because of Sameer.

  4. sundeep ahuja Says:

    One of my favorite Samba aka Sameer moments was at his wedding in Clearwater Beach, Florida.

    It’s traditional in Indian weddings for the groom to come into the wedding on a horse in a slow, dance-filled, fun procession called the Bharat. Sameer’s friends and family were on the beach around Sameer as he mounted this beautiful white horse amid live Dhol and dozens of casual onlookers curious about the music, the garb, and the whole thing.

    We weren’t five minutes into moving along the beach towards the Wedding, though, laughing and dancing around Sameer on his horse, before we realized with surprise and a bit of shock that his horse wasn’t a mare as it usually is, but rather, a stallion - and an excited one. Sameer, knowing nothing, kept smiling and dancing. His friends and family — and the onlookers — we just had to laugh. Some think it was the music and commotion that was the cause, but I think it was Sameer…his energy and enthusiasm was always infectious. ;)

    In all seriousness, Sameer, I miss you and I love you, and will celebrate tomorrow thinking of you.

  5. Robert Chatwani Says:

    Here’s one that I haven’t told before…it’s about “the falafel sandwich”. When I moved to San Francisco, Sameer and I were roommates as well as co-founders of our company, MonkeyBin. Prior to funding, we had (humble and modest) office space at an incubator in downtown Oakland. It was in a part of town where walking around, even during daytime hours, was ill-advised. So rather than step out for lunch each day, we’d pick up lunch in San Francisco in the morning and then drive into Oakland together.

    Each morning, Sameer would drag me along to purchase our lunch at a dingy Middle Eastern convenience store and deli located on the first floor of our apartment building. Their one vegetarian option was a cold falafel sandwich. He loved this place for a few reasons: lunch cost $4, it was efficient, and the owner would greet him in Farsi. So what was my problem with this place? Nothing, except that we at the same damn falafel sandwich 5 days a week! Sameer absolutely refused to buy lunch anywhere else.

    One day, after significant effort I convinced him that it was acceptable to “shake things up”, take a break and step out of the office for lunch. This meant skipping the morning ritual. I found a Chinese restaurant that was walking distance from our office in Oakland. So what happened? Well - lunch took about an hour, the food wasn’t very good, and it cost us about $8 each (remember - that’s equal to two falafel’s!). After we finished, Sameer looked at me facetiously and asked “so, are you happy with your decision to eat here?” I answered honestly and said “no”.

    From that day forward, for the remaining 6 months that we drove into Oakland each morning, I caved in and joined him in purchasing a falafel sandwich for lunch every single day of the week. Nothing made Sameer happier than to share in the ritual of eating lunch at our desks, looking out the window at our not-so-lovely office view of a Chevron gas station, and talking about our startup dreams.

    Samba, there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to share that sandwich with you just one more time. Can you guess what I’ll be having for lunch on your 34th birthday? That’s right - Chinese food! OK…you win…I’ll go for that damn $4 falafel.

  6. Alice Bartnes Says:

    One memory I have of Samba that used to drive me crazy was over such a little thing as office papers.

    Samba had this habit of leaving documents for me on my chair. I would leave my desk, come back and there would be a stack of papers on my chair. It would drive me nuts! I thought to myself, why can’t he just put the docs on my desk where they belong? I swear he knew it drove me crazy so he would do it more to me in particular.

    When I was living in Shanghai, I started leaving docs for my colleagues on their chairs. I would do the same to my assistant and it would drive her as crazy as it used to drive me. It made me think fondly of Samba and how funny it was that he rubbed off on me.

    Only years later did I find out that he had learned of “chair mail” earlier in his career and wasn’t out to get me. Chair mail was when people’s desks were too crowded (although my desk was super organized and clutter-free) and there was a big risk of missing something that was left for you. Hence chair mail became the equivalent of slipping a clubbing flyer underneath someone’s windshield wiper – they had to touch it before moving forward.

    Samba told me used to do this with his colleagues in India. He thought it was funny that the practice had spread to China and India and perhaps one day billions of people would be chair mailing each other.

    I haven’t chair mailed since moving back to the states, but will begin again today in your remembrance.

    Happy birthday, Samba! We miss you dearly.


  7. Meeta Gaitonde Says:

    Usually Sameer and I were the ones that bickered and pushed each other’s buttons, but there was that one lucky night where my friend Roshni had to endure the teasing. Roshni decided to join us for dinner at the Steps of Rome in the San Francisco. The table was full of lots of great conversation, but Roshni and Sameer who were sitting across from one another, were engaged in particularly lively banter. About an hour into the dinner, someone at the table mentioned the name Sameer. Roshni, who had only known him as Samba, promptly responded.

    “Who is this Sameer Bhatia anyway?”

    Needless to say the entire table started cracking up.

    Sameer was not one to miss a beat. As we walked outside, without saying a word Sameer proceeded to pick up Roshni, carry her 10 steps, and stood her next to a parking meter. Roshni responded, “Samba, what are you doing?” to which he replied, “I wanted to see who was taller”.

    The way he had lifted her and stood her next that meter was priceless.

    The answer to his question was debatable, but that was the night the “Meet her? But I don’t even know her” jokes started, but that’s a whole other story I’ll save for another day! Happy Birthday Samba – believe it or not, I actually miss our constant bickering! J

  8. johnzie Says:

    Sameer once asked, on a very hot summer day in San Francisco, “Johnzie, you want a smoothie?” I replied, “Man! Samba, it’s really roastin’ out there. You headin’ to Jamba Juice?” “Nah, I’m gonna make one”, he said with a smile.

    It was a killer smoothie. Jamba. You are very lucky that Sameer did not convince Robert to change MonkeyBin’s business model. We both discussed the possibility of a revolutionary set of “fruit drink mixes” that can be turned into a brand name as a side project. Gosh darn it, that was cool.

    Happy Birthday Samba! To my fellow October celebrant: Here’s to you from all of us. The best smoothie ever.

  9. Uncles (Dayal Gaitonde) Says:

    The only thing Samba loved more than traveling was traveling with his family and friends. Every year, his friends would get an email asking to partake in a “destination new years”. I was fortunate enough to actually take him up on his offer one year to go to Rio de Janiero.

    And I have to say, it was one of the best trips I have ever taken. There were many memorable moments during that trip - hang gliding over the beaches of Ipanema, taking the tram to the top of Corcovado, rafting under the warm waterfalls of Iguazu falls. The list goes on, but there was one moment that stands out from the rest - New Years Eve.

    For those who haven’t been, New Years Eve in Rio is a massive celebration, especially on the Copacabana Beach where there’s fireworks, dancing, music, drinks and food and lots of people - all the ingredients Samba loved in a night out!
    There were nearly 2 million other people from all over the world just partying it up and having a good time - It was AWESOME!!!

    As part of the celebration there’s a tradition to make an offering to Yemanja, the goddess of the sea, just before midnight. Typically people throw flowers into the ocean, but Samba and I opted to offer something else =)

    We ended up finishing the night by watching the sunrise together on the beach (another one of Samba’s favorites) and started off what turned out to be a fantastic year.

    Samba - you always had an amazing sense of adventure and fun and I am truly lucky to have had so many great experiences with you.

    Happy Birthday Samba, here’s to you - Saudje!

  10. Shital Chatwani Says:

    I will never forget the first day I met Sameer. It was in 1998, thanksgiving weekend when I met you at a bar in Chicago and thought you were so nice and funny. You must of been so funny to talk to that I remember that I feel off a bar stool just talkling to you!! It was because of you, that I met my husband Robert and I will never forget that!! I am so honored that you were so much part of our life like a brother to Robert and I and an uncle to my children. I really miss you so much and days like today are even hard to imagine not being with you to celebrate.

    Happy Birthday Samba!! To an amazing brother to all of us!

  11. Nick Says:

    I was visiting a client site yesterday and met a guy who I thought was called samba. It was actually Sampa but it threw me for a sec. The truth is that you’re still alive and well in all our hearts. We do of course miss you but our memories keep you alive. Caroline and I are sitting on the plane waiting to go to dc where I’m running another marathon for the leukemia lymphoma society. I always remember that running the race is nothing compared to the pain of suffering of patients and their loved ones. I’ll be thinking of you on Sunday. Happy birthday!

  12. Raj Says:

    Sameer, we missed you this week. I miss your warmth, energy, and amazing sense of fun. Part of your legacy is that you attracted so many wonderful people to your orbit, who became friends with each other too. Vineeta and I will always remember your wedding fondly — one of the milestones in our own relationship — where Vineeta met Shital again for the first time in over 20 years! Somehow you were the missing link that reconnected them across decades and distance, the same way you connected so many others.

    They say time heals wounds, but in this case time has given me perspective instead. We lost you, and that still hurts. But today I can celebrate your life and take pleasure in the fact that you lived so well in the time you were given. I hope we’re all so lucky.

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