I am heart-sick at Chandra’s untimely passing and a little bit outraged too; how could she leave us when there is so much going on that requires her acute diagnosis, academic energy, and excellent humor?
I will never look at a Dirty Martini without thinking of her, and the champagne bar at St. Pancras is forever “her place” in my mind. Chandra called it her “old lady choice” but it was perfect for a meet up with her!
I first met Chandra in the early noughties when she was working at IPA in New York. We worked on different issues in parallel spaces. We got to know each other better when we decided to swap countries; she to Britain and me to the U.S. I still recall the glee with which she informed me of delights such as “chiggers” (disgusting bugs that get under the skin), and her nonchalance in the face of my threats about gloomy weather in the UK, declaring that she preferred that to sunshine.
Subsequently we met up a couple of times a year to eat, drink and discuss the bureaucratic ridiculousness of the institutions / countries we were now working in. This usually involved a mix of laughter and annoyance as we tried to understand the kinks of our new homes. She could hold a good grudge, which I enjoyed (as I was not on the receiving end of said grudge) and be very funny – and self-knowing – about it.
She was a wonderful cook and a great host. At the annual meeting of the ISA she could be relied upon to have found the best restaurants in town, booked them and then curated the groups to go. All this was done with understated good humor when others would have moaned about the chore.
Chandra made some brave career decisions, prioritizing happiness over prestige and I admire her for that. I also admire her for being a great pioneer, institution builder, money raiser and mentor. Most of all I admire her for remaining nice when others would not have.
The last couple of years were tough for Cha, and she had begun to worry a lot more: about her Mom, about her visa in Brexit Britain, about her institutional position, about a crazy student and lack of support in dealing with said crazy student. I wish it had been easier for her as I think it took a toll.
It will be very strange being in London in November without seeing her. I am heart-sick, but will try to sooth myself by raising a cocktail to her (but not a Dirty Martini)