When I met Sameer: September 1979
Where Sameer and I spent time:
Satellite High School, in Brain Bowl, with the Latin Club under Helene Kansas, in various classes; after college graduation, as young analysts in New York and elsewhere.
Extended thoughts about Sameer.
For the Children, Sanjana and Arjun, of Sameer Shah,
Fate has determined that you will not know your father well from firsthand, but all of us who have been graced with knowing Sameer, hope that you may gain solace in the sure knowledge that he was a fine human being, with an expansive spirit, who touched the lives of many in the most positive ways.
Sameer loved life, and savored it in his allotted time, more than most who are granted many more years. He combined a brilliant and agile mind with a genuine warmth for his fellow man, and an openness to many ways of looking at the world. He carried with him an insatiable curiosity, and a razor-sharp wit, that never allowed him to pass over his experiences or broader world events without commentary, and usually, keen insight.
Even in any area that was very different from his own specialized expertise, Sameer could usually capture the essential elements and provide high quality analysis of a problem, almost on the fly. But his skills of analysis and persuasion were most on display when there were many differing opinions. Sameer could disagree with you and with good humor, expose the error of your own opinions, and bring you around to accepting an alternative, better than anyone I have known. He could take everything both seriously and lightly, so if there had been consensus, Sameer could expose the underlying contradictions, and if there had been discord, Sameer could find equanimity in a way that you did not even feel bad to be giving in to his position. Or if on rare occasions a flaw in his own reasoning were shown, then he was quick and unhesitant to acknowledge that, and to adopt a new point of view.
Sameer was perhaps the most unprejudiced and tolerant person I have ever met. He reveled in differing points of view, and so it was not in him to be dogmatic. That is one reason that he was a great person with which to share a visit to Jerusalem. He was equally at home by the Western Wall, in the Holy Sepulchre, or at the Dome of the Rock. He was not judgmental in his approach and had ample reserves of empathy.
Sameer took time to appreciate each moment. Not only did he have a broad palate of likes and enjoyments, he helped those around him appreciate whatever they were sharing. I recall an occasion when he was an analyst doing a consulting project in Spain, and even though he was not really a skier, he met me half way at the ski resort of Grau Roig in Andorra (I was coming from France). Even though he had to work through the visit, we enjoyed the evenings sharing tasting menus of Catalan cuisine, with bold red wine, cognac, and cigars so as to squeeze every potential out of the occasion, and to wash down the laughter that always accompanied time with Sameer.
Sameer was spontaneous. While never in a hurry, he could change plans and objectives in a minute, if a new and better alternative were proposed, or if circumstances dictated a change. And he would bring an equal enthusiasm to carry out the new plan to its conclusion. That made Sameer a great travel companion, because he was always ready to adjust to whatever might come along, and enjoy it just as much, as happened once on an ill-fated trip to Ascoli Piceno (a great undiscovered Renaissance hill town) that had to detour to L’Aquila. With Sameer’s base-line level of satisfaction, we all just took advantage of the treasures of L’Aquila before returning to Rome.
Sameer was rich in friendships. Not only did he make new friends easily, but he took great pleasure in sustaining old friends. Sameer cultivated his relationships. At times, it seemed that he kept a giant GPS in his head with knowledge of the location of all his friends, and if his business brought him near, he would reach out to those friends in whatever locale. I regret that I let the last few years slip by without maintaining contact with Sameer, but then this summer reconnected with him on Facebook. Then, just a week before he passed away, Sameer reached out with a phone call out of the blue to share some laughter and rekindle the bond. The intervening years washed away as I heard the same rapier sharp wit and high-pitched laugh over the phone lines, as the conversation bounced from topic to topic. I recognize that phone call now as a gift that stemmed from how Sameer treated relationships: he never let time or distance stand in the way, and took the time to connect and to sustain his friendships.
Sameer loved family. Even as most of his friends gradually found spouses and had children, while Sameer took a bit longer to partake of those gifts, it was always clear to Sameer and his friends that he would have a family. In the meanwhile, those of us who started sooner gained the benefit of the warm attention Sameer showered on our children. Sameer was always comfortable with children, and children responded naturally to his warmth and kindness.
Sameer was a great friend, and I miss him dearly. I am a better person because of crossing Sameer’s path. I treasure his easy generosity of spirit, his open-hearted disposition, and his equanimity. While I have never met you children or your mother Surekha, I hope that a part of Sameer’s legacy for you will be the sure knowledge of the profound impression he left on so many others.
Sameer was a great man, and I cherish his memory.
With heartfelt condolences,