Monday, December 1, 2008

Great Teachings of Kalpna Mistry

Speech given by Kalpna's Sister, Priya, at Berkeley High Memorial

Hello Everyone –

I’m Ms. Mistry’s middle sister. Been thinking about what I wanted to share with you all about Kalpna. Then I started thinking about the time we spent together just before Ms. Mistry left for the Philippines. As always, she had great stories to tell about her first year teaching experiences and her students.

She went on and tell my sister Raakhee and I about the spring final exam she had just given her freshman world studies class. She was rather smitten with herself over it, which was nice to see. I found the exam on her Mac... a device that you would think was an appendage to her… she rarely left home without it.

Clearly the class covered a unit focusing on Asian studies. The test starts with some routine questions covering topics about Buddhism and Hinduism and so on and so forth. Then she threw in a questions like this…

5. Your Hindi friend lost all his money gambling on the NBA playoffs. He is down and out on his luck and needs money. Being the knowledge BIHS student that you are, you recommend he prays to:

a. Shiva
b. Sareswati
c. Lukshmi (answer – goddess of wealth)
d. Brahma
e. Irish lepricons

A few questions later, after question #22, Ms. Mistry writes….

Quietly whisper your favorite ice cream flavor. – Do it, don’t be a whimp.

After question #26, she writes

Now say, “Mmmmm….” And rub your tummy

After question #43, and this is one of my favorite….

Sing one line from your favorite Michael Jackson song…then say “he-hee” just like Michael

Some of the students came up with a great line and several others looked at Ms. Mistry and said Michael who?… Ms. Mistry noted, generation gap…. Maybe Justin Timberlake next time.

After question #50, it reads

Please turn in this test as well as your scantron so I can give you the short answer section of the test.

Wow! Although entertaining, Ms. Mistry’s tests were no joke! I know her students can and have attested to that. She was all about challenging her students. She clearly set the bar high and worked with her students to learn how to process information and think outside the box. It wasn’t about simply regurgitated dates and facts… she helped her students analyze, conceptualize and really challenged them to think about our county, our world, our history through different lenses… understanding different cultural perspectives.

Just before this last statement on the test, Ms. Mistry writes a note to her students….

You rocked it, I’m sure of it – you’re smart.

I recall one of Ms. Mistry’s students sharing that she loved how Ms. Mistry would add silly and fun multiple-choice options to help them have a better chance of picking the right answer. Be that as it may, Ms. Mistry had an alternative motive. The truth is, and this is what Ms. Mistry shared with me that day before she left for her trip to the Philippines, “These students are freshman and they are so stressed about finals. I wanted them to take it seriously, but I also want them to fun. Hopefully realize that life doesn’t always have to be too serious. They will only young once and they should enjoy it!”

I have sincerely appreciated the opportunity to get to know so many of Ms. Mistry’s students, parents, teachers and faculty over the past couple months. I didn’t pay close attention to the names, but I recall all the stories that Ms. Mistry would share about you all last year. She loved you. So many of you have shared with me… with my family about all that Ms. Mistry has done for you. I want you to leave here today knowing that you gave her an opportunity to do what she loved… teach. She was an extraordinary teacher, and likewise, she had an extraordinary group of students and collogues. She clearly made the right choice when choosing Berkeley High.

I want to thank you all and I look forward to coming back in June 2011 to celebrate with all the students here today as you walk across the stage and embark on the next exciting stage in your life. You will do great things! I know Ms. Mistry is right about that. To all the students, teachers, administrators, parents, Thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do. I am certain that Ms. Mistry is looking down and is honored to see your generosity and love.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Intensely Personal

I often find myself picking up my phone or physically turning wanting to say, "Hey, did you know..." and realizing she's not there.

It's crushing to not have the same avenues of enjoying life, so I have to find new ones. My dog Gobi's presence sometimes isn't enough during the heart-wrenching nights. By the way, that was Kalpna's favorite photo of Gobi because Kalpna said it made Gobi look like a girl (ever the feminist). What follows is an intensely personal reflection that normally would be held between Kalpna and myself. I find sharing my thoughts more than just helpful or theraputic--it's essential because otherwise I feel I have no handle on reality. This is just my way of living--I have no judgements on myself or others. Being more open is the least of my recent transformations, it's only the start. Frankly, it's a coping mechanism as I am unable to handle this alone. Every phone call, card, email, text, hug, smile, and thought, all has helped me and everyone involved grapple with this. Life's too important and too short to be private. Besides transparency as a motivating factor for this entry, I might also feel a bit misunderstood--being married to someone who literally gave her heart to the rest of the world was not without it's paradoxical issues. At least I, surprisingly, have no regrets. They made me who I am and her who she was--imperfect, but real.

With social interactions as a positive constant, the journey so far involved first having less-fitful sleep, then an appetite, and finally, the desire to exercise and move around. Now is the unintuitive desire to be ultra-positive. Part of that rests with Kalpna's attitude--her smile was just a window. Though, despite being more positive than I cynically could have ever imagined, there's the ugly side. Joe Biden wrote that when his wife died tragically, he "kept walking the dark streets to try to exhaust the rage." I know exactly what he means. I have felt anger towards old people, smokers, the obese, corporate gimps, myself, and even Kalpna. I have no spouse, no home, and no job. And now I see death everywhere--in the news, and in our routine conversations ("My cell phone died."). The best analogy I could think of as to how I feel sometimes is that it's like waking up in the morning everyday with your dominant arm missing. There's pain, loss of function, but not completely because you can still walk, speak, eat, and do nearly everything you used to.

I keep turning and wanting to tell her that she passed away. And I know exactly what her reaction would be. I know that she would be thinking about her relationship with each and every one of us and the potential left unrealized. I know what went through her mind, what she was trying to do in those last minutes. I didn't have to be there to know this. It's burdensomely clear in my mind.

But, I've learned to be more resilient than I would like to be. Part of that is instinctually being positive now. Life's not all boring, drab, and sad--there are the light-hearted moments, moments that I would never have expected to make me smile.

At Cafe La Taza in the Mission District, while studying for a job interview, Mariah Carey's "I Can't Live" started to play and instantly I teared up and grinned. Earlier this year, me and millions of my internet friends came across a video of an American Idol clone in Bulgaria. I shared the video with Kalpna and she thought it was an amazing example of cultural diffusion that she could show her class. She pointed out the Paula Abdul-look alike and just started laughing. I sang "Ken Lee" everyday for an entire week. I never paid attention to the lyrics, even after watching the video too many times. But now, they are relevant on a whole other level.

In watching the only known video of her teaching this year, what evoked the most emotion was her wrapping her computer powercord at the end of the clip. Everyday, she would come home, open up her laptop, plug it in, and there would be this tangled mass on our floor getting in the way of chairs, dogs, and movement. Gobi even chewed it up a little because it reminded her of a hard string ball. When I needed to power my laptop, I had to sometimes fight with the gnarled growth and made sure Kalpna knew about it. Now, it's what evokes the largest response in a poignant video.

Besides these hidden gems that pop up occasionally, one thing that's kept me going in the down moments is a sort of pocket manifesto of lessons I learned from Kalpna. It's a reduction of who she was that makes sense for me, maybe not you, but that doesn't matter, because I am on my own path and not bitter about it.

Take care...


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Memories of Ms Mistry - By Lucy Sundelson

One of the most satisfying experiences of my Freshman year was a trip to Sacramento to protest Governor Schwartzenegger’s proposed education budget cuts. We spent the day buttonholing members of the assembly, touring the state capitol building, and demonstrating. The whole experience happened only because of the determination of Ms Mistry. She raised money; she arranged for the buses, parent chaperones, and meetings with individual legislators; she even bought pizzas for everyone at the organizing meetings with her own money.

Ms Mistry chose a classmate and me to represent Berkeley High in meetings with members of the California Assembly. This role made me feel, for the first time, that I had an important place in my enormous and somewhat impersonal school and could make a difference there. It also made me feel that I had a place in the world.

Ms Mistry’s classroom was always alive with ideas. She got her students interested in current events and politics. We talked about what we read in the newspaper and how it related to whatever we were studying.

Ms Mistry created a comfortable classroom. I never worried about coming up with the right or wrong answer. She had unlimited energy and devotion for her students. She would stay up all night grading papers or preparing for a field trip and come to school the next morning as enthusiastic as ever. She would eat only a bite or two of lunch—once, she told me that her lunch consisted of five almonds—because her students needed to talk to her.

Ms. Mistry rarely complained. Instead she always worried that she wasn’t getting through to some of her students but didn’t see that she made a difference just by trying so hard and not giving up. She was always ready with a hug—with a huge one when I told her that I wanted to be a teacher.

The day before the trip to Sacramento, Ms Mistry drove a classmate and me to a meeting in Oakland. At the meeting, we practiced talking to legislators and planned the trip. She insisted on driving me home, even though it was out of her way. On the freeway, she missed an exit and got lost. It was late, and I knew she had more planning to do and papers to grade, but she kept laughing and said it didn’t really matter.

It is hard for me to believe that Ms Mistry is gone. The loss of her warmth and vitality is truly terrible. It was especially hard for me to come back to school this year because I wasn’t able to see her or talk to her about my classes and projects, or my worries and hopes. However, her loss has made me determined to become the kind of teacher that she was, so that some part of her survives. I can still hear the sound of her voice, and I will go on hearing it for a long time.

The Miraculous Ms. Mistry - By Clio McConnell

In writing this speech, one thing I’ve realized is how many positive adjectives can be applied to the miraculous Ms. Mistry. An almost infinite amount, I would say. She was compassionate, dedicated, diligent, beautiful, charming, funny, enthusiastic, and just generally the most awesome teacher and friend a kid could ever ask for, and I didn’t even really know I had asked for it. Until now, I don’t think I really realized I had gotten it.

Last year, I was in her second period class. She would often tell us that we were great, but that we should really try to make more of an effort to be a core, not just a class. Whenever we weren’t paying attention, she’d just get this exasperated look on her face and go “Second period!” in a voice that gave no doubt that she was lovingly rolling her eyes. It was like she was an older sister telling you to get your hands out of that cookie jar right now… but only after you get her one, too.

For myself in particular, she’d always encourage me to participate more, because she said she knew I had great ideas rolling around up there. Honestly, I did try. It was only second period, though, so my brain was not in full-function mode. I would always point out to her at the end of class when I had made a comment, to make sure she’d noticed. When I did that, she would just smile that famous Ms. Mistry smile and say “See, I knew you could do it.”

For me, this situation is the ultimate case of “you don’t know how good you’ve got it until it’s gone. Although she wasn’t the type to fish for compliments or expect a “thank you,” there are so many times when I could have or should have expressed how much I appreciated her. Now that I can’t, I hope she knows how much I’m going to miss her, and how much I already regret not telling her how amazing she was at every chance I got.

Selfishly, I wish she was still here so I could have given her a big hug at the beginning of the year and shown her how I look with glasses. In general, it’s devastating that we’ll never get to see how many marvelous things she could have accomplished, nor be a part of them.

All in all, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to miss her as much as she deserves, but at least I know I’m not the only one who’s trying.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Remembering Kalpna Mistry - By Cathy Dao

I don’t think I understood what teaching was until I met Kalpna. I used to think that teaching was all about encouraging students, but Kalpna taught me that you have to empower them, too. And that’s exactly what she did everyday. The way she mobilized students and parents was magical, and things that I thought would be impossible at a school as large as ours, she turned into a reality. “Impossible” was not a word she ever used. I keep going back through all of our conversations, and I just don’t think it was in her vocabulary. You will hear this over and over again today, but it’s true: She had high expectations for everyone, students and adults, and she held us all accountable. We all wanted to make her proud.

Our classrooms weren’t close together last year. There was a long stretch of hallway between them, and I would run back and forth everyday so I could see her. I think, if I weren’t a teacher, I would have pushed kids out of the way so I could get my Mistry time. There were always students in her classroom during non-class time. They couldn’t stay away, and it’s not surprising why. She helped so many of her students see, for the first time, their self worth and potential, and I know that for many of them, it was the first time they felt that way in an academic setting. She used to say all the time that her work and her students were her passions in life, and everyone knows that there was no one as passionate as Kalpna. She lived her values, and it was truly mesmerizing to see.

It took a month of working together for us to become friends. She came into my classroom after school one day. I thought she was going to ask me about curriculum or students, but instead she asked me if she could tell me about her life and her family and her goals. It was such a strangely personal request, but she explained that she needed to work in a place where she could be herself, where she could be open about her beliefs and her visions for the future. She told me her goals were to become the best teacher she could be and to establish a reputation for herself in the community, and even though she had only been teaching for a month at the time, she had already reached those goals in my book. At the end of the conversation, she said, “I know you don’t like to be touched, but can I have a hug?” And it is that closeness and need to connect with others that made her so special, and I would learn later that her warmth and compassion - and her affinity for hugs - run in the family.

I used to think last year that as a “veteran” third year teacher I was the one supporting her. But looking back, I realize now that she was the one taking care of us all along. She was, to put it simply, the best friend and colleague a teacher could have.

Whenever I was doubtful that we had enough time or resources to pull off a project or event, she would call me up and say with boundless energy in her voice, that famous Kalpna voice, “Come on, Dao. We can do it. I feel like you and I, we can do anything together!” And that’s all she would have to say. I know she said those words to others – I heard her say them to her students all the time – but it didn’t matter. When she said those words to you, it made you feel special. And I really believed that with her help I could do anything in the world. As a teacher, to have that kind of support and inspiration in your life is immeasurable, and it has been so hard trying to figure out how to go on without her.

I had lunch with her the day before she left for the Philippines, and I was upset at her and I think she knew. She had promised me that she would take some time to relax and take care of herself, but I knew she had been working. She tried to deny it, but there were two new units for our freshmen that didn’t exist two weeks prior. But she smiled and plied me with coffee and churros to distract me, and said that thinking about the upcoming school year and all the possibilities that lay ahead was what made her truly happy.

Then she told me about a book she wanted to write. She wanted to interview as many grandmas as she could because she really believed that the grandmas of the world were the real source of wisdom, the keepers of history. She said that she had shared the idea with her Fulbright friends at a training, and they all said, “Do it! Write it! Make it happen!”

And then she looked at me and said, “How come we don’t tell each other to follow our dreams? How come no one says that anymore?” And I said, “I don’t know.” And she said that we would have to say it to our students in September, teach them how to believe in themselves and in each other. So I’m going to pass on her message to all of you now. She wants you all to stand up for yourselves and for what you know is right, she wants you to follow your dreams and make them happen. And don’t let anyone tell you ‘no.’

Friday, October 17, 2008

Video of Ms. Kalpna Mistry Teaching at BIHS

Kalpna Mistry BIHS from Sidarth Khoshoo on Vimeo.

Remembering Kalpna Mistry - By Candice Meyers

The following was said at Ms. Mistry's Berkeley International High School Memorial on October 16, 2008:

Our family connection to Kalpna started with her last name. In those first weeks of freshman year, our daughter came home really excited about her new global studies teacher, Ms. Mistry. To my untrained ear, it sounded like “Mystery.” Who was this mysterious Ms Mistry? We wanted to meet this woman!

So on back to school night, I got there early to see this mysterious first period teacher. When I walked in, no one else had arrived. It was just Kalpna and me. And instantly, I experienced something that I know many of you have felt: I had found a new best friend. She was so warm and so caring about my daughter that she made me feel like she could really see what was special about my kid. As a parent, who doesn’t love that in a teacher?

As the year rolled on, I worked with Kalpna on field trips and speakers and I started to see that she uncovered that special core in each of her kids. On one field trip in particular, she convinced a bunch of kids to compete in a health issues debate over at SF State. Let me just set up the picture. We had to leave at 6am on a Saturday morning. That’s 6am. Now I knew a lot of these kids. 6am and these kids rarely went hand in hand. But when 6am rolled around, they stoically crammed themselves into the carpools because Ms. Mistry asked them to do it. Later, as I sat there in a crowded auditorium watching the awards ceremony, I was really watching Kalpna. Every Berkeley High kid who was honored immediately looked at her. It was almost as if each was saying: “Hey Ms. Mistry, I did this for you.”

So when the phone rang last August, needless to say, my entire family was crushed. We had lost a best friend at Berkeley High. We felt that close to her. And, as I talked with a lot of other parents, they all told similar stories: about working with Kalpna on events, about receiving great emails from her or an evening phone call telling them not to worry about their kid. It became clear to me that the only mystery about Ms Mistry was how she did it….how she made us all feel so special when there were so many of us and only one of her.

So tonight, as we sit in this crowded auditorium, I feel like one of those kids at the Health Debate at SF State. Ms Mistry has done so much for so many of us that I think it’s important to hold her memory dear and most important: remain inspired by her passion and say: “Hey Ms. Mistry, we’ll do this for you.”

Monday, September 29, 2008

To the real KP

Hey Kalpna, I’ve been thinking about you a lot this week. It was my birthday last weekend and I was remembering the last birthday you spent with me. You came to D.C. to volunteer post-Katrina (because that’s how you do) and you came to campus. I remember walking out of my classroom and seeing you sitting on the couch in the student lounge. I was beyond happy to see you and I ran over and jumped on you and you just sat there all nonchalant as I had a convulsion fit on your lap. It’s cool, I knew you were happy too. ;) I wish that could happen again Kalpna. I wish that tomorrow when I walk into my office you’ll just be sitting there behind my desk. I want to talk to you and hear your laugh. I loved your laugh. I love you Kalpna and I’m sorry I didn’t say that to you more. I’m sorry I didn’t say that to you a hundred times over during my first year of law school when I was a hot mess and you took care of me. I always rolled to your apartment wearing the same fit over and over and you were always reminding me to take showers regularly. Lol. I never listened. You knew that and you still loved me even though you were a hygiene freak working your q-tips like they were screwdrivers. Thank you for all the craft projects you made me do that year, I sucked, but you were always so encouraging. Thanks for all the cookies we made together in your kitchen. Thanks for all the sleepovers. Thanks for all the memories from Berkeley and stepping to me like we were already friends when I didn’t even know you. Thanks for your love Kalpna, whether I deserved it or not, you always gave it to me and I think about that daily and I’ll remember you and carry you with me always.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Patis - by Roan Gulapa

I introduced Kalpna to “patis” (“pah-teece”) or fish sauce. Patis is a very salty Asian seasoning commonly used in many Filipino dishes. It is a clear brown sauce made of filtered anchovy paste, salt, and water. Patis can also be used as dipping sauce or a small amount can be dashed over rice for a quick and simple meal.

As previously mentioned, Patis is very salty, however, Kalpna’s taste buds didn’t seem to mind it. Rice and patis became a favorable after school snack for a little while, back when we were in middle school. Once, I remember she poured about a medicine cup full of patis over a quarter cup of rice. Her mixture was so soupy, I couldn’t fathom how she continued to eat it. She just kept saying that it tasted really good!---I kept telling her that she poured waaaaay too much, that it wasn’t supposed to look like soup! She went and bought a bottle of it to keep at home. While at her house a few days later, she told me that her fish sauce craze had come to a quick halt because she finally came to realize what it was made of and the amount of salt content. Never again did she crave patis.

Kalpna's Favorite Foods

Kalpna loved variety and made sure everybody enjoyed her company, especially over a great meal. See the comments for a list of places and dishes she enjoyed with her friends and family.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Memorial - Celebrating the Life of Kalpna Mistry (Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008)

Invitation from the Students of Berkeley High...

Dear Community,

Many, many students have worked hard to plan a fitting memorial for our beloved teacher, Kalpna Mistry. We would like to invite all members of the community to the memorial service, which will be held on October 16th in the large theater at BHS at 6pm.

Berkeley High School
2223 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Please join us in sharing memories of Kalpna's incredible life and
spirit. There will be a potluck of foods from around the world, please feel to contribute a favorite dish from your culture of origin or preference. If you would like to speak or in someway share a memory of Kalpna, please let us know so we can adjust the program. In addition to the service, students will make a mosaic table commemorating Kalpna, to be donated to the school. There will be blank tiles at the memorial so that everyone can contribute a few words or memory.

If you would like to assist with the details of the event, or plan to
contribute a food dish, please contact Kimberley D'Adamo-Muanga at

If you would like to assist with carpentry or mosiac/tiling skills to
support the building of the table, please contact Richard Conn at

Kimberley Noel D'Adamo-Muanga

Some people come into our lives and quickly go.
Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.
And we are never, ever the same...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Be playful
Be positive
See the best in people
Be creative
Be funny
Be thoughtful
Have fun
Find your passion
Fight for justice
Work hard
Take risks

These are lessons Kalpna taught me.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A fun little game Kalpna taught her friends....

Pictures by Nileesha

Video made by Kalpna and Bisola for the Voices for Africa Conference, sent by Inbal Alon

As part of our best practices of education in Africa, we created an initiative to partner with a local school and implement a primary source history project. We collaborated with high school students from the Social Justice Academy (SJA) to interview recent African immigrants and gather their authentic perspectives on their immigration to America. The goal of this project was to teach the SJA students about the importance of primary sources, inform them about current African affairs, and show them how connected they are to seemingly distant events. Through this project, we also hoped to empower the students and their community members to develop their own critical authentic voices in history.
Seven SJA seniors volunteered to become youth journalists and take part this initiative. We collaborated with the students to shape the project around their desires to increase their knowledge about Africa and learn more about African issues by interacting with other peers of African descent. In order to help students achieve these goals, we created an after school program that meet once a week for two hours. During these weekly meetings, we trained the students on how to conduct quality interviews, helped them find recent African youth to interview, guided them trough researching the history and current issues of their interviewees, and worked together to draft interesting questions for the interviews. Before the project started the students admitted that they knew very little about Africa and that the information they did know was gained from the media (primarily television and movies). The following are some of the sample responses given by SJA students before the project:
“I know there’s genocide going on in Sudan…other than that I don’t know much except the Nile River…The media usually shows about killing and violence and they don’t present all the good things and resources of the country” – SJA male student “I know that in Africa a lot of people have HIV and AIDS and they suffer through poverty….[I got these views] from TV and the media. They just show hungry kids and the effects of kids born to parents with aids.” – SJA female student
“I know that Africa is a poor country without any stable government.” – SJA female student
“I recently watched the movie blood diamond and it just showed a lot of violence. How the Africans were killing other Africans and killing women and children…All the movies about Africa are really bad.” – SJA female student
After participating in this project and dialoguing with other recent African immigrant youth, the students gained a new, more accurate, perspective about Africa. The following are some sample responses given by SJA students after completing the project:
“I know a lot more about Africa than before I started interviewing them. Some of the things they told me I would have never know just by what I see on television or from what the media says about Africa.” – SJA male student
“I learned so much that I never knew before….I learned so much in just a 20-30 minute conversation!” - SJA female student
“it was wonderful learning about new countries. And learning about other cultures is definitely a good thing because it opens up your mind and keeps you from being ignorant.” – SJA male student
The students strongly believed that their fellow peers would benefit tremendously from participating in a similar project because it would enable them to shed their misconceptions and stereotypes and gain a truer, first-hand perspective about Africa. This project shows how the simple act of talking to someone, especially of a different background, can have a significant, positive impact on the lives of youth. The following, is a closing remark from one of the male SJA students:
“[The project] doesn’t have to be just people from Africa, it could be people from anywhere. [After talking with one another] we would be more interested in each other than we are now. We would feel much closer to each other and we wouldn’t think that I’m Haitian or he’s Jamaican that I’m black and he’s not. We would just think that we’re one people and that’s it.”

Growing up with Kalpna - from Roan

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Dedication To "Kalps", My Personal Credo



All the positive adjectives in this world are barely enough to describe such an extraordinary individual. Her contagious bright smile was the trademark of her bubbly personality, and it always made a lasting positive first impression.

Kalpna viewed everything in life as once in a lifetime opportunities. She always insisted on having a good time no matter what. I loved her knack of seeing the brighter side of negative circumstances. Making the best of any situation was her nature.

I wrote this poem for Kalps when we graduated from high school.

June 1998-A Dedication To "Kalps", My Personal Credo

I believe in the color yellow,
the true color of friendship,
the symbol of happiness,
the youth it brings out in people,
the spirit of Mountain View High School.
But I don't believe in giving up without succeeding at your best.

Most of all, I believe in Kalpna.

I believe in her inspiration.
I believe in her guidance.
I believe in her motivation, her kindness, that beautiful, unforgettable smile.
And I believe in her willing strength to perform unlimited, unselfish deeds, even in times of stress, because to me, it's still a "Mistry" how she pulls through and does it all.

I love and miss you Kalps.

Your friend,

Saturday, August 23, 2008

To my sister

To my sister,

I thought I knew what it was like to feel sad and empty, but I had no idea! Kalpna, I miss you with all my heart. I am grateful for all the memories we have had and deeply saddened by all the memories we were to make. In grappling with your untimely passing, I often find myself trying to figure out if I would be better off not having such a compassionate sister with an impeccable gift of great wit and humor that constantly lit up my world… then it wouldn’t hurt so much. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but in the end I know the time we had is worth the pain I feel.

You were too young to have a will, but clearly you left me with the love of all those who loved you and a lifetime of laughs. Some people like to keep their friend circles separate, but not you! You always treat your friends like family and make every effort to connect your worlds. Over the past few weeks, I have been able to find joy in getting in touch with those who loved you… many of whom I felt like I knew because you shared a bit about them in passing and they too knew of your sisters. They often asked, “so are you Raakhee or Priya?” and then proceed to tell me what funny stories they knew about me.

I don’t know how long it is going to take me to come to terms with your death… I know I am far from it now, but I do have some peace knowing that you truly knew how much I loved you and likewise, I knew that you loved me.

I am always proud to be your sister.

Love you always,

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sayaw na Fulbright (The Fulbright Dance)

This video shows Kalpna and other Fulbrighters dancing with the students at the Pamulaan indigenous people's college.

Pamulaan from Anthem Salgado on Vimeo.

Memories in India while Studying Abroad

Kalpna was such a special person and I have so many hilarious memories of her, particularly from our time in India. She, Lavanya, and I had a Hindi class together in Mussourie with a teacher named Habibji... there were times we would laugh so hard I needed to pee--the lot of us were so goofy that it's a miracle we actually got any work done.

At one point, I remember we were having our class in the room where there was a ping-pong table, and we had just learned the difference between Khana (food) and Kana (one-eyed man). Habibji hit the ball really hard and it bounced off Kaps, to which she responded by putting her hand over her eye, jumping up and down, and yelling: "Kana! Kana! Kana!". We were doubled over in stitches! For a long time I would laugh about this moment, even on my own.

We found it both amusing and annoying that Habibji was always overly flirtatious with all of us, especially Kaps. One day, he called her "Kalpna ki kalpna" and we loved it: it stuck for us to tease her with. Right from the beginning of our time in India, I was attracted to Kaps' warm energy and silly sense of humor. She was so unassuming and heartfelt, it was hard not to be charmed by her willingness to be open and find the fun in any situation.

She was a gem. She will be missed, remembered, and mourned by so many.

My very deepest condolences.

With Love,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Paradoxical Commandments

The following is a poem by Dr. Kent M. Keith, recited at Kalpna's memorial service by Jim Slemp:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Life is tough, yet life is beautiful

What does one say or do after such a tragic loss. Kalpna passed away, but she was very much alive a short while ago, and what a life did she live. Whether it was volunteering incessantly, making people smile or postulating educational reform strategies, Kalpna “lived” in the true sense of the word. She offered her dazzling smile, her warmth, love and goofy sense of humor to her family, friends, students and perfect strangers. She passed away far too young, but we cannot forget that she did indeed “live” and the glass was always half full for Kalpna.

Kalpna persevered against life’s hardships with love, courage and hilarious sarcasm. Not to mention a train of fans to help her along the way. If I ever needed a friend she’d be the one to tell funny jokes about whatever not-so-funny situation I was in and everything just seemed like it was going to be ok. Kalpna, I hope that I gave you enough love, support, friendship and laughter over the last ten years… as you have given me more than words can say…and made me realize the importance of now… because that is how you lived your life, bringing your own joy to every moment. And now that you are gone, we have all developed a sense of our own mortality and realizations over our own abilities to create positive outcomes for ourselves.

It pains me to think of the huge loss to your family. Your family is full of precious loving wonderful people and I wish them a lifetime of support for this enormous loss. May they remember how beautiful your life was… how many people you touched… how many hearts you won… how giving you were… and may they not cry forever… instead, may they tell the generations of your stories... look up at the sky and smile at your spirit watching over them and feel blessed for the time you had together.

Thanks for teaching others about the beauty of life and how to embrace other human beings whole-heartedly for who they are. Thanks for helping me be a better person, for jogs around Lake Merritt, for my first yoga experience, for introducing me to Indian Boboli pizza, pecan salads, Coldstone Birthday Cake Ice cream, the merits of an enema (haha), “alright che,” and just for being a part of my life. You are dearly missed. Please don’t worry too much about anyone… just send lots of love and support and tell everyone that you are “alright che” and in a better place. And let everyone know that they will get through this with, in your words… “Si, se puede!" (Yes, you can!). May we never forget that life is tough, yet life is beautiful.

Reena Naik Grover

Photos by Casey

Thursday, August 7, 2008


Hi Kaps,
I miss you.
I love you so much.
I dont generally have a problem with death. I feel like, as a doctor, I have to give this news to people all the time. Sometimes when it seems like we've done all we can as physicians I catch myself not understanding why families have such a hard time letting go. Never, will I make that mistake again.
Something we always say in the hospital is that the nicest people always have the most aggressive cancer, or the poorest prognosis.. I feel like that with you. The best person i know, is the one who was taken away from us. Ive been racking my brain to understand why-- if there is a God, and how he could have taken YOU of all people away from us. My only way of reconciling this is to believe the He has a greater purpose for you. That maybe your goals and visions of changing the world are just that much more grand than I can even comprehend. I'm not sure if I believe that yet but i'm trying to.
What I remember most about you is what i'm sure everyone will remember-- its your smile. It really was contagious. I loved the way you did this little uncontrolled laughter after you made some saracastic comment that almost had a lil snort associated with it- im not sure if described that well but im sure you know what I mean. I remember you looking like you were going to kill me after we went skiing and i promised you it was a bunny slope when i was totally lying to you. .. but we did make it down the hill :) I genuinley feel privledged to have met you, to have so many memories with you.
My emotions go from happiness as I remember you, to anger for this complete nonsense, to overwhelming sadness-- I feel angry and people who don't know you for not understanding what has been lost. I love you so much. Wish I could hug you right now.

Photos by Nisha Birla

Photos by Sonal Uberoi

Kalpna at BPA, by Alexa Frankenberg

Kalpna was a research assistant at BPA, but don’t let the word assistant fool you. She was every bit integral to the work that we did. From leading interviews to compiling monstrous databases to counting blocks, Kalpna’s commitment to justice led her to enthusiastically embrace even the most mundane tasks in the pursuit of evaluating and recommending sound public policies. And she gave her all despite feeling the very strong pull to become a teacher, which she eventually left to do.

Our work wasn’t glamorous, but that didn’t seem to matter to Kalps. I’ll never forget the weeklong work trip we took throughout Louisiana from New Orleans to the Delta to Shreveport (where we happened upon Mudbug Madness, the crawfish festival that even crowned a Mr. and Miss Mudbug who was dressed as a crawfish. I promise—I couldn’t make this up!). Hilariously enough, Kalpna and I had somehow ended up in a bright yellow Dodge car with a spoiler that was about as tall as us. And the reason we ended up with this car was classic Kalpna. In the only fight we ever had, she insisted we exchange a first, respectable-looking rental car; since she wasn’t 25 at that point, only a few companies would let her drive the car, and she would not hear of me having to drive the entire way. I think we were evaluating programs aiming to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy, but all I can remember is having to convince every person we interviewed that despite the ridiculous car we were driving, we weren’t in high school and in fact were being paid to conduct the interviews.

One of the things that I loved about Kalpna is that despite her primarily Bay Area existence, she embraced the South (where I grew up) and all of its nuances. I loved her for it, and I also think it helped her better understand the programs we were assessing. In fact, in part because of her experiences at BPA evaluating Louisiana’s welfare programs, after Katrina hit in 2005, Kalpna volunteered for a few weeks in Red Cross-related call centers and other disaster relief programs and later led a HGSE trip down to New Orleans.

Kalpna’s heart of gold extended to her co-workers as well. There was rarely a birthday, soon-to-be-born baby, departing colleague or an engagement that escaped the fabulous social planning of Kalpna Mistry. And it wasn’t just a random cake or announcement at the end of our weekly staff meetings….Kalpna helped plan 2 going away celebrations when I left, including a tea party complete with tea pots and other china. For celebrations of pregnant co-workers, she somehow convinced a very skeptical crowd to taste and guess the flavor of baby food. Kalpna was always ready to pitch in and help, and to do so with a smile on her face and creativity and energy. Who doesn’t need more people like that around? At the end of long days of work, she led the charge in attending lectures teach-ins, and other programs about social justice—when she wasn’t booked or double-booked with her many friends and family.

Kalpna was much more than a co-worker to us, but a dear friend. She endured my nearly comatose state as we carpooled to work in the mornings, before the caffeine in my coffee had kicked in. When she lived only a few blocks away, we experimented with meals that would have made the Iron Chef proud. In true Kalpna fashion, when she realized how dull the knives in my apartment were, she didn’t just accept that but ordered me new knives. And she made friends with the staff at the produce store downstairs from her apartment within days of moving in. Kalpna took not just you, but your families and friends as hers too. She charmed my parents in ways that few of my friends have. When she was in Boston, she befriended my sister who was also at HGSE and my brother-in-law, a fellow educator seeking to promote social justice through his teaching.

In looking back over emails from Kalpna, a million stories (and very involved plans) jump out. I’ll end on a couple that exemplify her spirit. After I worked on a disappointing election campaign in 2004 which had exhausted me body and soul, of course it was Kalpna who volunteered to pick me up at the airport and help organize a dinner upon my return, despite it being late on a work night. And I was reminded that she was the driving force behind both of us attending an 8am talk/lecture given by my sister on educational policy one year during a national education research conference that was happening in San Francisco. While I was still bleary-eyed, Kalpna was a beaming, encouraging face in the audience for my sister who at that point she’d barely met. She was just that kind of woman.

Sid's Proposal to Kalpna, by Sid (see comment)

Thank you Biscotti

I know this week has been hard for many of us, but I have found that sharing memories and funny stories of Kalpna has greatly helped. And so, I share this random memory...

January 2005: After a satisfying meal and tons of laughs at Amarin Thai, Kalpna and I had gone back to hang out at her parents place in Mountain View. As I walked into the house, I smelled a wonderful, comforting scent coming from the kitchen. Kalpna explained that she had been baking almond biscotti earlier that evening as a way of saying thank you to all the people who had donated to her fund for the 3 day breast cancer walk. Almond biscotti with anise seeds was her way of saying thank you to all the friends and family members who had supported her...

(Needless to say, I was ecstatic when she let me gobble down 5 pieces of the yummy biscotti)

A few days later, she forwarded me the recipe. I've kept the recipe in my email box these past few years because the biscotti was obviously delicious...but also because I was proud of Kalpna for participating in the fight against breast cancer, something which had personally affected my own mother. For me, that biscotti represented Kalpna's compassion toward others, her desire to fight the good fight, and her gratitude to those who have helped along the way. And so, I wanted to share the recipe with which Kalpna said "thank you,"as a thank you to her for being an amazing friend and as a thank you to those who have touched her life.

Enjoy!!! (see comments)

-- Ankita

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Uploading your Photo or Video

Please email links to your Google Picassa albums to so we can post them to the site. Be sure to set the Picassa album as "public." Then click on your album on Picassa. Click link on left that says "Embed Slideshow." Email the link to the slideshow to

Share your Thoughts and Memories Here:

Photos by Reena Grover

Facebook Group - In Memory of Kalpna

setup by Monica Graves, classmate at Harvard

Kalpna: A Teacher, and forever a student by Inbal, classmate at Harvard

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Updates on Services & Donations in Kalpna's Memory

The Calling - by Khalil Gibran

Part One - The Calling

Let me sleep, for my soul is intoxicated with love and
Let me rest, for my spirit has had its bounty of days and nights;
Light the candles and burn the incense around my bed, and
Scatter leaves of jasmine and roses over my body;
Embalm my hair with frankincense and sprinkle my feet with perfume,
And read what the hand of Death has written on my forehead.
Let me rest in the arms of Slumber, for my open eyes are tired;
Let the silver-stringed lyre quiver and soothe my spirit;
Weave from the harp and lute a veil around my withering heart.
Sing of the past as you behold the dawn of hope in my eyes, for
It's magic meaning is a soft bed upon which my heart rests.
Dry your tears, my friends, and raise your heads as the flowers
Raise their crowns to greet the dawn.
Look at the bride of Death standing like a column of light
Between my bed and the infinite;
Hold your breath and listen with me to the beckoning rustle of her white wings.
Come close and bid me farewell; touch my eyes with smiling lips.
Let the children grasp my hands with soft and rosy fingers;
Let the ages place their veined hands upon my head and bless me;
Let the virgins come close and see the shadow of God in my eyes,
And hear the echo of His will racing with my breath.

Part Two - The Ascending

I have passed a mountain peak and my soul is soaring in the
Firmament of complete and unbound freedom;I am far, far away, my companions, and the clouds are Hiding the hills from my eyes.
The valleys are becoming flooded with an ocean of silence, and the
Hands of oblivion are engulfing the roads and the houses;
The prairies and fields are disappearing behind a white specter
That looks like the spring cloud, yellow as the candlelightAnd red as the twilight.
The songs of the waves and the hymns of the streams
Are scattered, and the voices of the throngs reduced to silence;
And I can hear naught but the music of Eternity In exact harmony with the spirit's desires.
I am cloaked in full whiteness;I am in comfort; I am in peace.

Part Three - The Remains

Unwrap me from this white linen shroud and clothe me
With leaves of jasmine and lilies;
Take my body from the ivory casket and let it rest
Upon pillows of orange blossoms.
Lament me not, but sing songs of youth and joy;
Shed not tears upon me, but sing of harvest and the winepress;
Utter no sigh of agony, but draw upon my face with your
Finger the symbol of Love and Joy.
Disturb not the air's tranquility with chanting and requiems,
But let your hearts sing with me the song of Eternal Life;
Mourn me not with apparel of black,
But dress in color and rejoice with me;
Talk not of my departure with sighs in your hearts; close
Your eyes and you will see me with you forevermore.
Place me upon clusters of leaves and
Carry me upon your friendly shoulders and
Walk slowly to the deserted forest.
And reveal even to the sun the secret of my peace;

And sail with the breeze and comfort the wayfarer.
Leave me then, friends - leave me and depart on mute feet,
As the silence walks in the deserted valley;
Leave me to God and disperse yourselves slowly, as the almond
And apple blossoms disperse under the vibration of Nisan's breeze.
Go back to the joy of your dwellings and you will find there
That which Death cannot remove from you and me.
Leave with peace, for what you see here is far away in meaning
From the earthly world. Leave me.