INDIANAPOLIS: Melkote (Mel) K. Ramaswamy, who originally hailed from Bengaluru, passed away on January 1, 2020, peacefully at his home in Westerville, OH, surrounded by his loving family. He was a 40+ yr resident of Indianapolis / Carmel / Westfield (Indiana) before moving here in June 2019, according to a communication received from Hindu Temple of Central Indiana.
Final rites will be performed on Saturday, January 4 at Rutherford Funeral Home at Powell 450 West Olentangy Street Powell, OH 43065, (614) 792-1471. Ramaswamy is survived by his wife Suneela with whom he enjoyed 60 years of marriage, sons Rajesh and Sanjay, daughters-in-law Gita and Rashmi, and granddaughter Ashvini. He is also survived by 4 brothers and 2 sisters, along with numerous nieces, nephews, relatives, former students, colleagues, and friends.
He was extremely involved in the Indian community, as an active member of Geetha Mandal, Hindu Temple of Central Indiana (HTCI), and the Carnatic Music Association of Indianapolis. He was also one of the founders of Mallige Kannada Koota.
Dr Ramaswamy was born in Bengaluru, India into a large and loving family. He was the 4th eldest of 11 siblings. His formal education included a BSc degree in Physics from Bangalore University, an MS in Physics from the University of Arkansas, and a PhD in Nuclear Physics from Johns Hopkins University. It can be said that he was at the vanguard of the wave of Asian Indian immigrants, having come to the States in 1954. He then spent time as a post-doctoral fellow at Ohio State University, followed by a stint as Reader at Karnatak University in Dharwad.
Ramaswamy started his career in academia, as an Assistant Professor of Physics at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY in 1967. In 1972, he was lured away to a tenure-track position at Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS) in Pilani, India. This move proved to be very influential on his entire family, especially for his sons who were able to spend formative years in India. Since he kept his green card active through visiting professorships at Duke and Vanderbilt during this time, he was able to leave academia and return to the US in 1977.
Thanks to the generosity of his brother Melkote Shivaswamy and his wife Usha, he was able to begin the second phase of his career in Muncie, IN. He transitioned to the industry as a technical writer, a career in which he flourished until his retirement in 2005. In 1978, he and his family moved to Indianapolis, an area in which he lived and enriched the community until he and his wife moved to Ohio in 2019. It is indeed fitting that he returned to the Columbus, OH area to where he first immigrated in 1960.
In addition to his technical career and background, Ramaswamy was a prolific punster and humorist. He entertained his friends at social gatherings, and to this day, some of his former BITS students remember how he wove humour into otherwise dry physics lectures. His first foray into written humour began humbly with a column titled “Potpourri”, published in the Muncie Weekly News. He followed this with “Cents of Humor” in the Indy East community paper, and a radio segment “As the Word Turns” that aired on WGRT-FM in 1982.
Upon the urging of friends, he wrote and self-published “India-Na” in 1982, a compilation of some of his best puns—several poking gentle fun at the sometimes subtle, sometimes jarring contrasts between Indian and American popular culture. The literary angle was a major focus of his second act in the US—he served as editor for the India Association of Indianapolis newsletter (Bharati). He was a regular columnist for the Indianapolis Star for the past 3 decades, and his last “Faith & Values” column appeared on Thanksgiving 2019. During this time, he published two additional books— “An Immigrant Celebrates America” in 2007, and “Vedanta through Drstanta” in 2013.
Ramaswamy developed a love and passion for Indian classical music during this time, specifically, the Carnatic style. He did not have formal training, yet this did not stop him from teaching himself the difficult nuances of Tyagaraja’s compositions and giving impromptu concerts.
Singing bhajans was another pastime of his. He compiled a “Bhajan Mala” which served as the backbone of the Indianapolis bhajan group, and to this day is used by the HTCI. As if music and writing didn’t keep him busy enough, Ramaswamy took pride in his walking pace. Not only did he do brisk walks every day, indoors or outdoors, but he also participated in competitive walks and regularly placed in his age group.