I lost a good friend Sunday.
Vinay Venkatesh, also known as djgraphite, was a friend and co-worker at VMware. We had known each other for many years, since before he joined VMware, from the #adium and #growl channels on irc.freenode.net back when I worked on libgaim and he worked on Growl. Vinay was always helpful , friendly, passionate, and full of creative ideas. This extended to his work on VMware Fusion
A few years ago, Vinay interviewed for a job at VMware in my team. We hired him for the relatively new Fusion product for the Mac. This was my first in-person experience with him, and we quickly became friends. I remember spending hours in his office talking about all sorts of things. New games coming out that we wanted to play, projects we were working on, new gadgets, ideas for Review Board, architectural changes we wanted to make to our products at work, what we did on the weekends… Anything and everything, really.
While we developed separate projects at work, we often ran ideas past each other. Vinay shared my desire to improve the common and per-platform code bases we each worked on, and while we didn’t always find the time to implement each idea, much of my discussions with him led to improvements in all of our desktop products: Workstation, Player and Fusion. Over the past month, I’ve spent considerable time on a project that was largely his brain-child. The details aren’t important, but suffice to say that it’s an important part of the future versions of all our desktop products. Every step of the way, I consulted with him, making sure I was on the right track, asking for advice in the design, and getting code reviews. Continuing on that project without him by my side is something I’m certainly not looking forward to.
His work was just a small part of his life, though. Most important to him was his friends and his family. Making friends with Vinay was easy. He was inviting, outgoing, funny, and loved meeting new people. He had a lot of friends at work and outside of work. I thought I knew a good number of them, but I realized since just how few I knew. We were important to him and he let us know that.
It was also no secret to anybody who knew him just how close he was to his family. He spoke of them often, with praise and love. He would tell us about his sister, how happy he was that she was getting married, how excited he was that she was moving closer to him. He would talk about his parents and tell us how every time he visited them they would ask when he was getting married. We would joke that one day he’d return after a trip with a bride around his arm.
When I think of Vinay, and this is how I always pictured him, I think of him laughing. He was generally a very happy, upbeat guy. Liked to joke around, share stories, and spend time with friends. One of the things he really helped drive at VMware within our team was our Thursday Movie Night. Every Thursday (more or less) we go to dinner and then come back to the office and watch a movie. Vinay loved Movie Nights with us and often provided the movies and dinner recommendations. Outside of work he’d host parties at the house he shared with many of our friends. His last party, which I regretfully didn’t attend due to conflicting plans, was a Halloween party on Friday the 30th. I hear it was a lot of fun, and I’m glad he was able to enjoy himself one last time.
On Sunday, around 1PM PST, I got the terrible news. Vinay had been in a motorcycle accident, and died on the operating table.
I got the news on Twitter, shortly after dropping off a mutual friend at the train station. I didn’t believe it at first. My mind said “No, this is a joke or just a misunderstanding,” but part of me knew the truth. I quickly dialed people, trying to find out what happened. I reached my friend Scott at the hospital, who was with Vinay when it happened. He told me the news that broke me.
I wanted to blame someone, but this was one of those freak accidents. He was with a group of people, riding his motorcycle, when he hit a groove in the road that knocked him off his bike. There were no external injuries, but they couldn’t stop the internal bleeding. He died shortly after.
News spread vast, over both Twitter and Facebook. A group of us organized at the house he shared with others, trying to comfort each other and come to terms with what had happened. None of us wanted to believe it, but we couldn’t deny it had happened. It was a night of hell. The next day wasn’t any better. Very few of us even attempted to go into work, and those that did gave up being productive quickly. Throughout the day, information spread, again over Twitter and Facebook, about the funeral plans, which were set for Tuesday the 3rd.
The funeral was hard, but it was a nice ceremony, as nice as these things go anyway. It was evident just how many people cared for Vinay and how far his influence had spread. The room we were in was not small, but it was so packed that people were overflowing into a second room. The turnout was huge. After we paid our final respects, many of us went back to the house, comforted each other, and shared stories.
It was a tragedy, and certainly too soon. I do find some comfort in knowing that Vinay went out doing what he loved to do. It also brought people together. I met some great people from one of his many groups of friends tonight, as well as finally meeting his family. I wish these meetings would have happened in better circumstances, but I’m certain Vinay would be happy to know that in some way, he brought his friends closer.
Rest in peace, my friend. We love you, and we’ll never forget you.
“how far his influence had spread”, indeed. I never met him and hadn’t even heard of him before Sunday, but someone wrote a quick message later that day to the ultimate frisbee meetup I play with weekly (he’d apparently previously played there, although I don’t remember seeing him in the five months I’ve been active) mentioning his passing.
I find it rather poignant that the most recent updates to his website describe how he trained for a motorcycle qualification and purchased a bike last year. Best laid plans and all that…
Beautiful homage, Chippy. You brought a tear to my eye once again. I am still so shocked and horribly saddened by the suddenness and senselessness of Vinay being taken from us. Like you, my memories of Vinay are all happy ones, from discussing good books to read, to him enlightening Antonio and I on the life of a stock market analyst in my office in Xerox, and everything in between. Vinay was an amazing, special person that I feel fortunate to have known and very depressed to have lost so quickly. Goodbye and rest in peace, my friend. I hope to see you again some day.
Motorbikes should be banned. Have lost more than one friend myself on those things, they’re just frickin death traps.
Hey thanks for doing this. I feel the same way as Jason. And in your post, you hit the nail right on the head..whenever I picture him, it is definitely always laughing.
Thanks Chippy for this beautiful note. As his sister who always lived rather far away, I never really knew how much he cared for us, but it’s amazing to hear these accounts from his friends and really his california family that he had built up for himself. I know personally, my dad, mom and I were so happy to see the turnout yesterday – It’s so great to get a glimpse of several people that Vinay had touched one way or another. It seems like he was such a big part of so many people’s lives that it makes me wonder how many of us got a chance to be a big part of his life. But like you said, i think he lived to enjoy his friends and family, and it was time for him to move on.
It’s going to be terribly hard for us to move on after this loss, but i think he would want us all to find the strength in each other and not let go of that in order to get through this.
It was nice to meet a bunch of his friends in these last few days (though I wish it were under different circumstances) but I would like to extend my hand to all of you in anyway possible, and hope we can keep the connection going over time as well (I know I’m totally different and not really in the tech-y world he lived in at all, but it gives me great comfort to know that I could know how he lived his life a little better through his friends and other interests.)
Very well said. Thanks, Christian.
Touched by the true story guys, May he rest in peace. I was about to just post a link here but your article aught my attention and it made me felt like I knew him and from all of your kind and sincere words, I wish I met him, few nowadays are like him, who is free from hatred, and loves people around him…
Sorry to hear this, so my condolences to you and all his friends and family
What a beautiful tribute to our dear Vinay – thank you so much Christian. I too (like Vinita) was a bigger part of Vinay’s family life then his California one, and it warms my heart to hear his friends and collegues speak so admirably about him. Vinay meant more than words to all of us and he will be dearly missed forever.
Let us continue to share memories, stories, photos, and anything else we can of Vinay to keep his memory alive; and above all, let us not lose connection – this is what Vinay would have wanted.
Wishing health, happiness and love for all of you – and never forgetting our Vinay….
much love, Pratima
I knew Vinay through our many VMware campus recruiting trips when I worked there from 2006-2007. He was always volunteering his time and helped the company recruit top talent. It’s so sad to hear the news. I distinctly remember his smile, his intellect, and his kindness. My heart goes out to his family, friends, and loved ones. R.I.P.
I am really saddened to hear sad passing of Vinay. He was my Mridangam buddy when we were learning this difficult instrument, to me anyway, in his home at NJ. When I was struggling to grasp the idea the teacher was trying for us to try, Vinay would very easily master it. I wish I had been part of his techy world as well.
Vinita, our heartfelt condolences to your family. Every one in NJ are shocked. May God give you all the strength and comfort you need to get through this.
Nagaraj, Lakshmi and Karishma
We are too shocked for words. Just learned about the great loss from an email from his dad. Raj and I go way back. We were in college together in Socorro, NM in 1975. He took me under his wings and always nurtured me selflessly. We remained in touch over the years through thick and thin. Met his wonderful family for the first time during a visit to Bangalore in 1994. Vinay struck me as a brilliant young man (child). My own two children Siddharth and Juhi were about the same age as Vinay and Vinita.
Well.. really can’t go on. The world has lost a wonderful, beautiful soul and God has gained the best companion He / She could hope for. May the good Lord give his friends and family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Could anyone kindly share phone numbers for Raj or Vijaya or Vinita in USA or Bangalore ? The ones I have do not seem to work. Shall be eternally grateful.
Kartikay, Dipti, Siddharth, Juhi
Still awaiting phone numbers for Raj, Vijaya, Vinita in SFO or Bangalore.