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.

11 Responses

  1. Brady Says:

    I find myself at a loss for words frequently when I think about Sameer. It’s not that I don’t have a million things to say and praise about my friend. He inspired me, made me laugh and sometimes made me flustered because he took an impish prank too far. Are you really moving to Miami Samba???
    It’s that his imprint is so indelible and that I’m so often reminded of him that I can’t compute that he’s absent from our lives.

    Just the other day I found myself reflecting on a core Samba value, showing your friends you care about them. A friend who’s birthday is approaching re-emphasized not wanting to celebrate it. Would Samba let a pal miss a chance to party, be costumed against their will, be pranked and celebrate with a ton of friends? You kidding me? No way!

    To party or not party, to celebrate life or not to celebrate was not a choice with Samba. He would plan an elaborate party, surprise or whatever - often pulling you a little out of your comfort zone. But it was always good - always memorable. Having someone to take the time to do that made you know you had a good friend.

    It’s easy to get wrapped up in ourselves. Take a moment soon to celebrate your friends, dance the way you want to, and get out of your comfort zone. Samba’s still with us.

  2. Jennifer Aaker Says:

    Indeed, nearly once a week I am emailed something that reminds me of Sameer and the effort and impact that TeamVinayandSameer had. My students fundamentally feel the life of Sameer, and his entrepreneurial spirit (for their talks and projects, see http://faculty-gsb.stanford.edu/aaker/ThePowerofSocialTechnology2010presentations.html). One of Sameer’s fathers favorite presentations from this class can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=806lhde1yVc. In the last week alone, the students have raised over $3500 for Embrace; the president of the Rotary Club of Bangalore decided to adopt Embrace as his fundraising project for the year, and the CEO of the first interactive digital billboard company in India is going to play an abbreviated version of the video all across India pro bono for Embrace. Ripple effects.

    Sameer’s life has even touched the research we do at Stanford. Sameer’s father once told me that Sameer had an uncanny way of asking a fundamental, thought provoking question to people (even strangers) - and that question would linger in their minds. This notion of ‘ripple effects’ (where one small question could have long term impact) is the heart of a conference we created on social hacks for good - the science of doing good: http://faculty-gsb.stanford.edu/aaker/ConferencesandBriefings.html.

    If you ever would like to sit in on a class, get to know my students, or connect in any way, please email me - aaker@gsb.stanford.edu

  3. sundeep ahuja Says:

    I just got back from two weeks in India, and the last time I was there I stayed with Sameer at his flat in Mumbai for a few days. Going back I was reminded of the true entrepreneurial courage it took for him to start a company with global customers — including big brands like eBay — and a team headquartered in India, given that his family and friends were back home in the states.

    I still remember walking into his offices, off in a typical street in Mumbai and into a modern Silicon Valley enclave. I was so impressed that with everything he’d built there, and by the way he took care of and respected his team (and so was respected). Of course, that respect only grew when months later we all saw how he fought against leukemia with a courage like the world has never seen.

    Sameer, you continue to inspire me.

  4. Jonathan Brown Says:

    I think of Sameer most frequently when I am reading the comics. I am betraying my age by admitting that I still get a physical newspaper every day. One of the reasons I do is to take a few precious moments away from the computer screen to have a laugh, and many times there is a joke that I think would have made Sameer laugh. I think of him smiling, repeating the joke, sharing it, expanding on the humor to (and past) the point of absurdity. It is amazing that Sameer’s spirit lives on for so many people in different ways. He would have loved the Stanford course! I’m so glad Jennifer is teaching it. Thanks to all.

  5. Raj Gajwani Says:

    Terry Gross interviewed Tony Judt, an NYU professor with Lou Gehrig’s disease, a few days ago (http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=125231223). The interview aired on March 29th, two years from the day of Sameer’s memorial service.

    Terry Gross asked Judt about his views on religion and the afterlife. His answer:

    “I am much more conscious than I ever was, for obvious reasons, of what it will mean to people left behind once I’m dead. It won’t mean anything for me. But it will mean a lot to them. And it’s important for them that some spirit of me is in a positive way present in their lives, in their heads, in their imaginings and so on.”

    “So in one curious way I’ve come to believe in the afterlife as a place where I still have moral responsibilities, just as I do in this life, except that I can only exercise them before I get there. Once I get there, it’ll be too late.”

    Sameer’s spirit is so remarkably present in our lives, in our heads, and in our imaginings. His spirit lives on, through us. We miss you, Sameer.

  6. Bhavna Says:

    I just wanted to reach out to the family as I learned about Sameer. I felt touched to read about his story (along with Vinay’s). I can relate how it feels to lose a loved one, its not an easy road to live through life like this. Hope the family are dealing with this bravely and living through Sameer’s beautiful memories.

  7. Kumar Bhatia Says:

    I am Sameer’s father. We (Sameer’s mother, brother and I) just returned from Stanford. We had the good fortune too hear Jennifer Aaker’s talk on the campus and meet with Robert, Shital, Dayal, Meeta along with the very young Niyam Chatwani. It wa so nice to see them and wish we could have seen more monkeys!

    I cannot tell you how much it touches our hearts to see so many good things come from Sameer’s legacy. He always has been and always will be in our hearts. We miss him but also feel his presence. I can see his smiling face and imagine his strong, crushing hug enveloping me with love.

    Please take care of yourselves and do as much good as you can. May God bless you all.

    Kumar Bhatia (otherwise known as Sameer’s father!)

  8. Toin Says:

    I just bought myself a copy of The Dragonfly Effect because of my PHD thesis. I had to find who this Sameer was. His fight is inspiring

  9. Fotograf Lubliniec Says:

    Dont know what can i say.

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