Sudhir Jain: Scientist. Punster. Letter writer. Music fan. Born July 31, 1938, in Dehradun, India; died Sept. 10, 2019, in Calgary, of lymphoma; aged 81.
Born in pre-Independence India, Sudhir had the temerity and resilience to cross many national and cultural boundaries in his life. He was born the youngest of three brothers. His mother fought for her sons’ success, despite the family’s hardships, and Sudhir spent several years living with a wealthier relatives, who treated him as the poor cousin. He later attributed his ambition to his financially unstable childhood.
On a full scholarship, Sudhir completed a BSc and master of technology in geophysics at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur. His work there led to a PhD position in the United Kingdom. He sailed away in 1961, with £5 in his pocket. He would only return a handful of times, but supported his mother until her death.
In Liverpool, he stayed in an Anglican hostel for overseas students. One day, he invited an effervescent young British woman named Evelyn to take his one concert ticket, then insisted on walking her through the “dangerous” urban neighbourhoods. At the venue door, magically, two tickets appeared, to Evelyn’s delight. The courtship blossomed and she invited Sudhir home for Christmas dinner. Her parents felt the sparks in the room and took him aside to express their concern. “We know men like you have other wives, so stay away from our Evelyn!” He responded with his sly smile, “Yes, but don’t worry, we are allowed four.” It was the beginning of an intensely loyal and loving marriage.
Once Sudhir completed his PhD, and Evelyn her social-work degree, the couple moved to London. In 1966, a job offer in Libya meant Sudhir and Evelyn could escape England’s racism and classism. They enjoyed life there, made life-long friends and welcomed their first two children, Lochlann and Kamini.
In 1971, Sudhir moved the family to Philadelphia for work until another opportunity arose in Calgary. In his pitch to sell Evelyn for another move north, he neglected to mention anything about the climate. The February move to Alberta in 1974 was a shock, but Calgary became the Jains’ lifelong home and the birthplace of their third child, Anita.
In Calgary, Sudhir founded Commonwealth Geophysical, which developed industry-shifting innovations. While his contributions were honoured within the geophysical community, Sudhir turned more philosophical about the oil industry and its global impact in his later years.
For their first 15 years, Sudhir brought home the bacon and Evelyn cooked it, as he liked to say. Then Evelyn decided to pursue a career in medicine, considerably disrupting his marital expectations. Disappointed, he still helped her in pre-med mathematics, and came around to give Evelyn his full support.
Sudhir loved nothing more than spirited banter, and allowed his three children a great deal of independence. He was immensely proud of their achievements and those of his two grandchildren, Kahlo and Asha. He was always available for a telephone conversation from afar or a game of Scrabble at the kitchen table.
He loved the spirit and expanse of Canada and took many backcountry hiking trips with Evelyn. He also loved classical music. He gave talks in Calgary about Mahler’s music where his pauses were not just to let the point soak in but to control some of his own emotions. Sudhir and Evelyn travelled to cultural events, most notably to see Wagner’s Ring Cycle at least seven times.
Later in life, he became a volunteer driver for the cancer hospital and looked after his youngest granddaughter. He also discovered fiction and opinion-writing and published five books (Bayeux Arts Press) and penned hundreds of letters to the editor.
Sudhir will always be precious to us: None came close. The loss is unfathomable.
Lochlann Jain is Sudhir’s eldest child.
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