Timothy Balraj was born in 1958 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he lived with his parents and 2 sisters until he was 10. The only things he knew about his ancestry were that his paternal grandfather was the one-man banker in a village in Tamil Nadu, India, and that his maternal grandfather was the chief engineer of Bangalore in Karnataka, India, and was always asked to march right behind the mayor in parades. The engineer grandfather had been in charge of the renovation of the famous royal structure Palace of the Winds in Jaipur. Timothy was close to his paternal uncle, who was married to the female tennis champion of India, and whose sons went on to win at Wimbledon; those cousins eventually moved to America too and one of them became the largest producer of documentaries in Hollywood and the other played a tennis professional in a James Bond movie! Much farther back in time, Timothy knew he was descended from a “knight” who was part of a dowry of cavalry for an Indian princess. Perhaps that helps explain how as an adult he was fascinated by war history and would have made a brilliant general (and was in fact offered an unsolicited job with the US Government to design tanks) except that he hated violence so very very very much – and that’s really Timothy in 2 words, brilliant and kind.
Back to his childhood, Timothy had fond memories of sitting in the family’s back yard in the evening waiting for Malaysia’s carts of Chinese foods to come by for them to choose among for dinner – as many of you know, he regarded Chinese food as comfort food, home food, and this experience is why.
Timothy always loved fellow creatures of different species and loved that you could see so many of them in Malaysia and in India. For example, he had a wild parrot whom he had rescued and mended who would fly around the house in his time of recuperation – and “eat” Timothy’s wooden pencils when not flying around. He let a mother squirrel who got into his college dorm room through the unscreened windows raise her new family in a drawer she had found and claimed. And of course he absolutely adored his kitties.
Timothy had many Chinese friends in school and he learned both Malay and sorry I forget which dialect of Chinese….English was his first language, but he also could understand Tamil and Telugu, liked studying ancient Egyptian, and was amazing in French. Well, almost amazing. Years later when he was visiting the town in France where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake he thought he was asking a wary local where Joan of Arc was martyred but it came out as “Where was Joan of Arc made a bishop?” which definitely broke the ice.
Timothy’s father was a mathematician, and at a young age when Timothy needed entertaining, his father taught him binary notation on the blackboard in his office. In spite of this early brilliance, Timothy did not talk until he was about 3 years old! Of course Einstein himself did not speak until he was about 4, so this was not alarming!
Timothy attended a private boys’ school in Bangalore when he was older, finishing high school at age 16 and starting a degree in electrical engineering at Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, which I’ve been told is the respected Indian equivalent of our MIT and is extremely hard to get into. He received both a bachelor’s and master’s there. His mother says she knew he was learning something when he would visit home and take apart all her clocks like he had all his life but now he knew how to put them back together so they would work!
Timothy wanted to continue toward a PhD degree so took the GRE and I understand is one of the few people in the world, perhaps the first, to get a perfect score on it, even the “puzzle” part that many people almost fail. In fact, he found that part so easy that he finished it like half an hour at least before everyone else and was therefore certain he’d done something wrong. Because of that amazing score he had the choice of any university he wanted in the USA with a full scholarship, and he chose Columbia University in New York because he admired the man who would be his advisor. Along the way he designed a chip and of course was published in various computer journals. He also worked at Bell Labs.
Of course Timothy’s move to New York was extremely lucky for his future wife. We met at St Michael’s Episcopal in New York and became the love of each other’s lives after a year or two of being very close friends. He loved my 2 children so very much and regarded them as his very own. We had a very romantic and very New York courtship: ethnic dinners out on the Upper West Side where we lived, walks in Central Park, many days spent at the Metropolitan Museum, artsy movies near Lincoln Center, etc etc, then a wedding at the same church, our wedding night at the Plaza Hotel, and a honeymoon in Paris.
Just some of the many other things Timothy much enjoyed in New York were hearing Paul Simon in concert in Central Park, watching the fireworks from a yacht on the Hudson, many wonderful friends, singing in choirs with his marvelous rich voice, and being the thurifer at the Cathedral of St John the Divine (which made Timothy himself smell divine, as a thurifer is the guy who swings the incense around). He like I became more agnostic than anything over the years, but he always much appreciated the social involvement of that cathedral.
We eventually moved to India for over a decade when his father became ill, and Timothy so very enjoyed studying the weaver ants on some land his dad gave us. We designed a house there built of local granite with the room we’d both always wanted – a 2-story round library. When India became too much for me, he without one moment’s hesitation said we would move back, and within a couple weeks I was home.
Timothy’s professional life included being a VP at various computer firms in New York, India, Texas, and now St Louis. He loved Asynchrony/WWT the most, I want you to know, finding its people extremely good people, which was very important to him.
His intellectual life included very many fields: geology, astronomy, evolution, microbiology, chaos theory at least decades ago, history especially of war and of Asia, ants, and I’m sure many others that I’ll remember after this is printed! He loved reading science fiction and also fantasy, especially with strong female characters. He loved watching Star Trek Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, admiring their captains very much. In music he always loved Jewel and adored Fauré’s Requiem, which I found morbid, but Timothy was always well aware of truth and was extremely brave and strong in facing even very difficult truths. I want to mention that his last wish was not to suffer unnecessarily because of what had happened, and I am very grateful that he only felt ill literally for one afternoon, though he actually was very sick. He faced it with unimaginable courage and great physical strength and I am learning did all he could to shield me from as much sadness and stress as he could.
Timothy often said that his role model starting when he was a teenager was Albert Campion, a fictional detective in Margery Allingham’s British novels of the 1920s-1950s. He often told me he had patterned himself after Mr. Campion; he loved that Mr. Campion was a gentleman, was brilliant with very wide knowledge, was kind, was brave, was funny, was so very classy in the best sense of the word.
Mr. Campion in those stories eventually became a very marvelous husband. I’m sure you all have many many other stories about Timothy and that you know these are only my own extremely fond memories of the love of my life, a wonderful husband and my extremely close and best friend and the best dad my kids could ever have had. The world is so much richer for his having lived here.
– Loreli Balraj
Celebration of Life and Memorial Service for
Friday, July 19, 2019
Location: The Pratt Performing Arts Center
Visitation and refreshments: 2pm-3:30pm
Life Celebration and Memorial Service:
There will be an open mic for those who wish to share.
*In Lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to cancer patient care fund being established. More information to follow.