A year ago, Narsi Narasimhan, a leader in Atlanta’s Indian community and founder of the Indian Professional Network (IPN), died from a heart attack. Global Atlanta publisher Phil Bolton, who had reported on many of Mr. Narasimhan’s activities over the years, was asked to join an IPN meeting the evening of May 18 at the Asihana Fine Indian Cuisine restaurant in Norcross to celebrate Mr. Narasimhan’s life. Mr. Bolton gave the following reminiscence of Mr. Narasimhan and his influence not only on himself but on all of those those who knew him throughout the city of Atlanta.
I want to thank you for this invitation to reminisce about Narsi. It makes me think of Socrates’ maxim, The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living. And while I’ll be speaking about Narsi it inevitably requires me to think of our relationship and my life as well.
Narsi and I first crossed paths in 1993. I had never heard of the state of Tamil Nadu in India from whence he came before attending his funeral at the Wages and Sons Funeral Home in Lawrenceville in May of last year. Nor had I ever attended such a service that drew so many of the people he had touched in so many ways.
Both of us back then in the early 1990s were at a time in our lives when we knew that we had to step out on our own…it was now or never and we realized that “necessity can be the mother of invention”.
Evidently we both sought a sense of community and by chance he launched the Indian Professional Network at about the same time that I had launched the Global Fax news service to disseminate news about global business, education and culture as they intersected with Atlanta.
I have mined our archive, which has grown out of the reporting of Global Fax and the Global Atlanta website and family of newsletters that succeeded the fax news service, for articles referring to Narsi and found 20 with the first dating back to July 8, 1996.
The article recounts Narsi’s founding of the Indian Professional Network and its growth from 75 members to more than 1,300 in just three years.
Narsi’s innovation was to pull together the Indian community by creating a platform that enabled so many to meet and support each other.
At the time I thought of Narsi as really being on the front lines of Atlanta’s growth as a welcoming city in keeping with the values espoused by Martin Luther King and the civil and human rights movements, which they birthed.
The IPN and its 10,000 members — which it came to include — was a declarative statement that “We are here,” and “We are organized.”
Of course, there were other local organizations representing different communities. But with the IPN Narsi had managed to wed his technical skills to his values and the Indian community at large.
Without seeking public office, it was clear to me that Narsi from this point on became a citywide public figure. In January 2002, Global Atlanta carried an article naming him as the first to sign a petition for the Indian government to establish a Consulate General representing India in Atlanta, which eventually occurred.
In May of that year, he was part of a group seeking to launch a “visa camp” providing a variety of services such as passport renewals and new visa applications.
Many articles that mentioned Narsi featured his commitment to the Indian community and included references to his work with the Fulton County Commission, the Asia American Heritage Foundation, the Georgia Indo-American Chamber and the CIO roundtables that he launched.
We at Global Atlanta were fully aware of his initiatives. His reputation in our newsroom was secure as a spokesperson for the Indian community. For instance, after Delta Air Lines finally started flying to Mumbai, the city experienced terrorist attacks.
Narsi, as president of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber was an obvious local source for Global Atlanta to contact about its implications for Atlanta’s Indian community.
Narsi also kept coming up with surprises such as his involvement with the Kettering Executive Network. I remember seeing him perched next to a computer during one of its meetings, tallying attendance and then keeping notes of how to connect members to community throughout the city as well as across the world.
I recently came across an expression in the current political climate of claiming someone was “authentically fake.” An “authentically fake” person doesn’t realize how inauthentic he or she is. Their lives are composed of fake events, fake values and even fake self-consciousness.
Now we often hear of fake news and for those of us in the news business who go the extra mile to double check facts, the term is a terrible reproach, but one that may on occasion be accurate in the current climate. There does seem to be a lot of fake news and authentically fake people around.
I don’t think any of us can escape this, given the extent of advertising and the presence of spin to which we are all exposed.
For this reason, I think it is worthy to be reminded of Narsi. Despite my acquaintance with him, I often failed to see through the headlines into his motivations, and, yes, to value his heart.
And, should any of us be surprised that one night it just gave out?
I was struck by his nephew’s comments at his funeral about how hard it was for him to tell his family back home of the impact he had on his community here. I also was struck at the service to learn that a motivation he held for coming to the U.S. was that he felt he could have more of an impact here than back home.
The U.S. held out a beacon of opportunity that he chased and succeeded in catching.
In conclusion, I think that Narsi has left a legacy of authenticity and certainly a reputation for a life well lived, committed to authentic values in a world which needs to be reminded continually of what real achievement is composed.
Thank you for letting me share these sentiments.
Click here for a Global Atlanta article reporting on Mr. Narasimhan’s funeral.