Friday, April 18, 2008

Bad Things Happen To The Best People

Last month my father-in-law ("Daddy") informed us about the murder of Asha (aka Aasha) and her husband Brij Chhabra in Troy, Michigan. Asha was the only child of Daddy's best friend and cousin, S.K. Mirchandani who had passed away a few years ago. She had inherited a sizeable estate in India worth over $2 million.

Now in the US with her family, Asha let a close family friend still maintaining Indian connections manage the property for her. This person whom she trusted completely was Narayan Thadani, who now lived in Texas. Well, Thadani secretly sold off her estate and stole all the proceeds. When he was exposed and on the verge of losing a lawsuit in Texas, he hired two El Salvadoreans to kill Asha and her husband. As this news story reports, by sheer chance the two were caught following a routine traffic stop after they drove away from the crime scene.

Their deaths were horrible news to us, though Anita recalled little if anything about Asha and I hadn't met her or her husband. Or so I thought. But Daddy said my own parents knew the family of Mr. S.K. Mirchandani well. When I called with the news my parents said that I too had known Asha well from way back. I was surprised.

They told me Asha's dad Mr. S.K. Mirchandani was my dad's boss for about two years when he first joined the Indian government long before I was born. Mr. Mirchandani was one of the finest and upright of people so my Dad was devoted to him, and remained friends long after their official association ended. My parents said we'd visit the Mirchandanis often in Delhi, and I loved playing with Asha.

Then it hit me who Asha really was. She was the first person that I had asked to be my best friend (she accepted) when I was five and she was eight years old. She was bubbly and caring and fun. My favorite play then was simply to run and she'd laughingly run alongside. Or we'd play tag on her lawn. I'd eagerly look forward to going to her house. I was too young to have been a true playmate for her, but she indulged me with gusto and kept me so happy and excited that I'd hate to leave.

I last saw her when I was eight, after quite a gap because of my parents' preoccupation with other family matters. I was excited to see her again and noticed how much she'd changed. She must have hit a growth spurt because she was now a few inches taller than I. She had become graceful and lady-like and with her large eyes and now shoulder-length hair looked to me like an angel. While we didn't play physical games like before, she showed me interesting things in her room and responded to my chatter. I remember how she laughed at my fascination with flashlights and produced one for us to play with.

Till now I was unaware that I had ended up marrying her second cousin. Her family (maiden) name Mirchandani hadn't registered in my young mind when I knew her or I'd have made the connection much earlier. Now she and her husband are tragically gone, and I've heard they were every bit as nice as what I recalled about her. This other news item other details of the killing and its immediate aftermath. There are also pictures of them and their killer(s) on the internet - just search Google images. My heart goes out to their young daughter Suman that they left behind.

I'd like their cold-bloodied killers (including the family friend who ordered the hit) to be punished under the fullest extent of the law. But this won't bring Asha and her husband back.


Anonymous said...

Such a tragic story - may their souls rest in peace. As you mentioned, Suman is left bereft of both loving parents at such a young age. Nothing can assuage her predicament.

Thanks for sharing Asha & Brij's story of yesteryears.

Please convey my deepest sympathies to Suman.


kenrod said...

Sorry to hear of the loss of your friend, Asha. Do you support the death penalty in Thadani's case?

Sandip Madan said...

Thanks, Rene. We understand Suman has relatives from her father's side who are taking care of her. We haven't been in contact with her. Given that for Asha this Narayan Thadani was "like a father figure", I'd expect Suman to be understandably wary of strangers reaching out to her.

Kenrod, to your question I'd hate to see any innocent person executed. I support the death penalty when guilt is certain - i.e., beyond lingering doubt, not just beyond reasonable doubt. This case clearly appears to meet that standard.

kenrod said...

Of course we have to use the highest standards of 'beyond reasonable doubt' when imposing the death penalty.

Personally, I have my mixed feelings about the death penalty. After all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. And I think the verse in the Bible that is quoted by death penalty advocates, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is misunderstood. In Hebrew it actually means "no more an eye for an eye". That means you cannot take more from the criminal what s(he) has taken from the victim.

But if death penalty is the standard, I find it so ridiculous that people appealed to the Supreme Court that lethal injection was too cruel. I thought it was totally humane to be first sedated and made unconscious. Then the lethal heart stopping injection made.

Remember it was only about 300 years ago when the criminal was drawn and quartered. That meant four horses pulled each limb apart and then an axman chopped up the poor victim. Supremes, that's a no brainer.

Let's hope Thadani is brought to justice.

Sandip Madan said...

Good thoughts, Kenrod.

"Beyond reasonable doubt" is just not a high enough bar for capital punishment, in my opinion. That's why purely because of lingering doubt I'm not comfortable with the death penalty for someone like Scott Peterson. We have cases of death row inmates being narrowly cleared after several years based on DNA evidence. These jury trials can be quite arbitrary in some cases.

That said, "an eye for an eye" making the whole world blind only happens if half of us are cold-bloodied killers. The adage shouldn't hold of course also in cases where an eye is taken out unintentionally, say in drunken driving cases. Of course, none of these qualifiers apply to Thadani or the hired killer(s).

kenrod said...

If Thadani is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, would you rather watch him do hard labor and time, or watch him sit on the electric chair? I've always wondered if the criminal was getting away easy by getting the death penalty. If he got to suffer in prison without parole, he would have time to think about the crime he did all the days of his life.

Sandip Madan said...

As I said "merely" beyond reasonable doubt is not a high enough bar for capital punishment, in my view. It should be "beyond lingering doubt" or say a 99.99% probability of guilt.

If a life sentence is more punishment why do most of those on death row so vigorously fight their execution? And remember, those "just" sentenced to life have better conditions than the ones on death row.

Anonymous said...

thought you would be interested in this - saw your blog on google. the killer is having a sale - everything - take a long look at what he owns - he looks like a thief AND a killer to me!!! look at his possessions. the sale is this weekend. so sorry about your loss.

Sandip Madan said...

Wow, that's a lot of stuff. Thanks for the update and your comments. I couldn't find anything linking this property to the killer - may be you have other information.

I see that the maximum penalty faced by the killers here is a life sentence. That includes watching TV, pumping iron and free healthcare...

Anonymous said...

So shocked to read the news! I knew Brij when he was consulting in Chicago and had just found out about his wife's illness. Remember how heart broken he was about the news but determined to do the best for his wife. It's a shock to read this and deepest sympathies to his daughter.

Sandip Madan said...

Yes, it must be terrible for their daughter as well. Thanks for the input, anonymous.

gautam said...

What's the latest on Narayan Thadani ?
Our family knew Asha and Narayan and their parents very well.

Sandip Madan said...

Sorry, I haven't kept up with this. I hope he gets the stiffest penalty, but the process is likely to be slow, and I'm not holding my breath. They took 7 years to execute the DC sniper even though it was an open and shut case.