Pervez Hoodbhoy


I first met Daya Varma in early 1976 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while I was a graduate student at MIT. We had been introduced by my friend Deepak Kapur, his devotee, who later became his son-in-law. Daya had been instrumental in founding the Indian Peoples Association of North America, IPANA, immediately after Indira Gandhi had declared the emergency and acquired draconian powers to quell dissent. Though quiet and laidback by disposition, Daya was a formidable organizer. Soon there were chapters across North America and Canada. Though a Pakistani, I was a kind of honorary member since there was so much that I shared with my Indian friends.


In later decades, Daya and I had kept in occasional contact via email. In 1978 I had returned home to teach in Islamabad. But through Vinod Mubayi, our mutual friend, I got news of Daya’s efforts to raise the consciousness of South Asian expatriates on the dangers posed by expanding militarism, and the rise of religious radicalism.


As a staunch secularist and rationalist, Daya has left an important legacy in the form of his book, The Art and Science of Healing Since Antiquity. I shall feel guilty about not writing a review of this, particularly since he gifted and mailed me a signed copy from Canada two years ago. But, indeed, it is a marvelous account of the development of modern medicine, emphasizing that it had diverse roots in various ancient cultures. Human rationality, coupled with specifically materialist concerns, led to an ever improving science of medicine. As an anti-capitalist, Daya is deeply critical of how pharmaceutical companies have made health care prohibitively difficult for the poor, especially those in developing countries.


Daya, you will be missed by your friends and admirers across the world. Rest in peace; you did way more than your bit.

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