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.