Alok Kumar passes away

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On September 26, 2009, Alok passed away at 10:45 in the morning due to a cardiac arrest. He was 48. He left behind his spouse Archana and their only kid Harshul (fondly known as Siddhu to us).

We offer our heartfelt condolences to his family. For us, in Institute of Physics, it is an irreparable loss at every front.
Institute of Physics

We will miss you

Prasanta Tripathy, IIT Madras:

I have heard this horrifying incident about Alok this afternoon. This is really the saddest day in the history of IOP.

I have no words to express my condolences to all of you at IOP.


Aalok Mishra, IIT Roorkee:

I can not believe this - I do not want to believe this!

Alok Kumar was almost like a string theory Ph.D. supervisor for me who not only introduced me to working in string theory thereby making my transition from my Ph.D. thesis area to string theory, complete, but also was the one who helped me develop a sense of uncompromising independence and restlessness which has helped me ever since. Though he would have hated it, I wish I could have told him one more time - thank you - and could have touched his feet as my teacher.

I pray that Mrs.Kumar and Harshul(Sidhdhu) find it within themselves to come to peace with what has now come to pass.

In prayer,


Sandip Trivedi, Tata Institute, Mumbai:

This is very shocking news indeed!

Alok was one year my senior at IIT Kanpur. I first met him shortly after I joined IIT. He was encouraging about my wanting to quit engineering and do physics. Later, in Hall I he lived in a wing close to where Atish and I did, and provided important guidance about applying abroad for further studies. I remember being struck at this time by his cheerful attitude and especially his infectious laugh, which we have all heard.

It was wonderful that our interests coincided more recently on the topic of flux compactifications and I had several many interesting discussions with him in this regard.

My heart goes out to his family in this very difficult time.


Kamal Panigrahi, IIT Kharagpur:

No words to express my feelings. I missed a couple hours to see Alok yesterday and it is unbelievable that those will not never come again in my life ! I am in Bhubaneswar, yesterday planned to visit him in the afternoon. It was not in my destiny to see him and talk with him. I am devastated, do not want to belive this. I wish that like a dream this may pass away and Alok is back again.

I lost one of the most important person of my life who taught me why are we here. The string community and the country lost one of the most serious string theorist and a lovable person. Since the time, I was a student I was involved emotinally with Alok and with his family, it is very hard to believe that I will never see him again in this life.

The vacuum created by Alok will never be filled.

All my feelings are with his family. May God give them enough courage to face the forthcoming.

In prayer,


Sunil Mukhi, Tata Institute, Mumbai:

This is a shocking tragedy, almost impossible to believe. Alok has been a major presence on our scene for such a long time. His enthusiasm and pro-active nature were admirable and he's also guided more students than most of us. I remember spending time with him last August in Geneva - together with some others we had a long drive in the Swiss countryside.

Hard to accept that we won't be seeing him again. He has touched all of our lives and will long be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to the family.


Bala Sathiapalan, IMSc, Chennai:

I just saw the header and wondered who it could be and I was shocked to hear the news. I was reminded of the lines "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls-it tolls for thee" because he was very much part of all of us. It is definitely a great loss to everyone who knew him. He was special not only as a physicist but just as a person. I was always attracted to his straightforward personality and enjoyed talking to him. I always looked forward to seeing him at our string meetings. We will all miss him. Please convey my condolences to Alok's family.


Sumathi Rao, HRI, Allahabad:

Dear Somen,

I just spoke to you, but still feel that the whole thing is unreal! IOP has been really unlucky recently. There was Joydeep Majumdar, who had just joined and passed away ( since Joydeep was from HRI, we all knew him and were really feeling bad about it, since things were just looking up for him) and now this. For IOP, this is really sad. Alok has been there almost 20 years. Even I was with him as a colleague for so many years, and for you and Avinash and Jmu, and all who knew him from the beginning and have been with him for so many years, it is really hard. And even more because his family is also part of the extended IOP family.

We are really worried now as to what will happen to Archana and Sidhu.
More later then,
With best regards,

Rohini Godbole, CTS, Bangalore:

dear sudipta

This is a terrible news. I am really saddened to hear this. Can you please send me Archana's telephone number so that I can convey my condolences to her? I dont know, however, what words can offer at terrible times like this. Did Alok have any history of heart problem at all?

I am sure that Alok will always be remembered for his hard work, positive attitude and the large number of excellent students he trained. I am also sure that all of you, his friends at IOP, be a pillar of support to Archana.

Cumrun Vafa, Harvard University:

I am very sorry to hear about this news. Alok was a deep physicist and a wonderful person. I enjoyed my collaboration with him. Please convey my condolences to Archana and Harshul.

Regards, Cumrun.

Kalyana Rama, IMSc, Chennai:

I am very sorry to hear about Alok. Please give my condolences to Archana and their child Harshul, and their family and friends.

It is really shocking. I don't know how to react or what to say.


Karim Benakli, LPTHE, Paris:

I am chocked by this horrible news. He was a very nice, and a very special person. Beyond his family and close friends, no doubt that many people will feel the loss. Thank you for letting me know. I wish all his relatives and friends a lot of courage.


Debajyoti Choudhuri, Delhi University:

I just can't believe it ! He was always so full of life. So many discussions we had, so many stories to share ! My heartfelt condolences.


Diptiman Sen, CTS, Bangalore:

I am shocked to hear this. Alok was always cheerful and enthusiastic and was great fun to be with.

Please convey my best wishes and regards to his family,


Sumit Das, University of Kentucky:

Dear Archana, Harshul and friends at IOP

This is a very sad moment for all of us. My heartfelt condolences


Shibaji Roy, Saha Institute, Kolkata:

Do you know any detail how it happened? It is hard to believe that cardiac arrest occurred without any signal. As far as I know, Alok had some congenital kidney problem, but never had any heart related problem. He was a non-smoker, non-drinker and also his physique does not indicate that he could have any heart problem. I am curious to know how did such a tragedy occur.


Gautam Mandal, Tata Institute, Mumbai:

I am shocked beyond belief to hear the news.

Alok was a personal friend to me and my family. Our families had a wonderful time together as neighbours in Meyrin, when both of us were spending a sabbatical in CERN, and have been in regular touch since. It is hard to reconcile oneself with the realization that a person like Alok, who was so full of life, is no more.

Our sincerest condolences to Archana and Siddhu.


H K Kunduri, DAMTP, Cambridge:

I am very surprised and saddened to hear of this tragic news. During the beginning of my Ph.D, Alok very kindly agreed to collaborate with me when I showed interest in some of his work, even though I was just a student from another institution. I have always been very grateful to him for this help. In fact only two weeks ago I asked Anirban Basu, who is moving from Cambridge to Bhubaneswar, to send my greetings to Alok. We can only offer our best wishes for his family and especially his wife and child.


Luis Alvarez-Gaume, CERN, Geneva:

I am very sad about the news of Alok no longer being with us. He was such a kind and wonderful person, that it even hurts to write these lines. Please accept my deepest sympathy and condolences to you, the family and our friend there.

A big hug,


Massimo Bianchi, INFN, Rome:

we are all shocked by the very sad news of the premature loss of Alok and join you and Alok's family with our thoughts and prayers in this terrible moment of sorrow

Augusto, Francesco, Francisco, Gianfranco, Massimo and Yassen

Dileep Jatkar, HRI, Allahabad:

I have no more words to add because in spite of circulating the news, I myself have not managed to come to terms with the reality.

Please communicate my condolences to Archana, Siddhu and other members of Alok's family whenever you meet them.


Avinash Dhar, Tata Institute, Mumbai:

It is with great shock and sadness that I learnt the terrible news of Alok's passing away. It is difficult to believe he is no more. My heart goes out to his wife Archana and their son Siddhu. May they find the courage necessary to bear this terrible loss.


Sanjay Siwach, BHU, Varanasi:

It is extremely sad. Alok and his family were the closest to my family during our stay at Bhubaneswar, It is irrepairable loss to us. He was my mentor and guide until today. May God give strength to Archana and Siddhu to bear this loss.


Debashis Ghoshal, JNU, Delhi:


I cannot believe this! Please pass on our heartfelt condolence to his wife and son, whom I heard about but never got to meet. For you personally also it is a great loss.

I dont know what else to say...


Parthasarathi Majumdar, Saha Institute, Kolkata:

Have been completely shocked and depressed ever since I heard about Alok's passing on Saturday. Spoke to Sudipta and Swapna. Its quite unbelieveable, given that one didn't hear earlier about any serious illness. He was so active and energetic, and so very committed to string theory. This is a tragedy of great proportions.

Got to know Alok at the time he was writing his PhD thesis at the Univ of Maryland, way back in the fall of 1987. I myself was just about beginning to learn aspects of heterotic string theory, and was a bit jealous of this young graduate student working for Rabi Mahapatra, who seemed to know so much more and was doing a lot better than I in this field. He continued to do very well in newer and upcoming areas in string theory, and has mentored several excellent students who are known string theorists on their own right. Even though I've quit the field, Alok and I hit off particularly well whenever we met, and the last time was during Chandrasekhar's thesis viva. We talked a lot about physics, physics politics and many other things, almost over an entire day. I'm really going to miss him, and no doubt the entire community of physicists too, not to mention the string community of which he was a very prominent member.

As the current Colloquium organizer at SINP, I am discussing with colleagues the possibility of starting a yearly Colloquium lecture on string theory called the Alok Kumar Memorial Lecture where I propose to invite eminent string theorists to tell us how things stand in string theory. Other options could be a prize or a fellowship for outstanding string theory graduate students, named after Alok, as he had inspired and guided so many young people on this path that he loved to tread.

My deepest condolences to Archana and Siddhu with the hope that they will derive their succour from an inspiring husband and father, to tide over this terrible tragedy and continue living as Alok would have always wanted them to.


B. Chandrasekhar, IFM, Sao Paulo:

my condolences to his family. I was travelling last two days without internet. I am really shattered and shocked beyond words.

Sayan Kar, IIT Kharagpur:

I heard this shocking and unbelievable news on 26th afternoon through Kamal Panigrahi, who is my colleague here at IIT Kharagpur. I was away and just returned to IITKgp a few hours ago.

I really do not know what to write. I have known Alok and have been in touch with him for the last fifteen years. While I write I can almost see him in my minds eye. Too many memories keep flashing by.

Its a great tragedy for the entire physics community. Someone young, dynamic and always so ready to help others (particularly those who were younger than him) in every possible way, with a smiling face, has left us all too soon.

My heartfelt condolences to Archana, Harshul and everyone else in his family and to everyone in the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar.

Sayan Kar

Marios Petropoulos, Ecloe Polytechnique, Paris:

We are all shocked here. Is there an e-mail address where we can reach Archana.

All the best,


Jayanta Bhattacharjee, S.N.Bose Centre, Kolkata:

This indeed is difficult to digest.Alok was in the final year of the integrated program in IITK when I joined in Oct 1982.Had known him quite well in those early days since he was headed for Maryland for graduate study and whatever tips I could...Decades went by and in the last few years have been in IOP a couple of times and on each occassion spent extremely entertaining late evenings at Alok's place...absolutely stunned

Jayanta Bhattacharjee

Abhijit Mookerjee, S. N. Bose Centre, Kolkata:

It was shocking to hear of the passing away of Alok. He was our student in IIT, Kanpur where I was a faculty till I moved here. I remember him well and cannot picture him passing away !

Please convey my heartfelt condolences to his wife and child.


Abhijit Mookerjee

Suresh Givindarajan, IIT Madras:

Dear colleagues,

Please post your condolence messages via comments at the blog:

With best wishes,

Suresh Govindarajan

Suresh Givindarajan, IIT Madras:

It has taken me a couple of days to even put up this message on the blog -- I find it hard to believe that Alok is no more. My deepest and heartfelt condolences are towards his wife, Archana and son, Siddhu.


(posted on the above site)
Harvendra Singh, Saha Institute, Kolkata:

Dear Friends,

I was informed by Kamal on 26th that Alok has passed away on his way to the hospital. At first it was very shocking and unbelievable to hear what Kamal said then. I spent many quite moments later recalling his overbearing presence on the Indian string community as a whole. He trained many prosperous students at IOP. I particularly was very much benefitted by his physics discussions and closely followed him while doing my Ph.D at IOP. He was a very inspiring researcher, a teacher and also a friend to most of the students on the campus. Several of us were very much influenced by his work style, his dedication to research and of course by his warm and friendly company. His family has been very loving and caring as well and whenever there was a chance they touched you by heart. My family also shared some of these caring moments when we were in Bhubaneswar. We will miss Alok a lot. The last time I met Alok and his family it was in Geneva last year. We went on a day long car trip to the Swiss countryside driven by Sunil. It is now only a memory.

May God give strength to Archana, Siddhu and his relatives to overcome this personal tragedy!

Harvendra Singh

Mohsen Alishahiha, IPM, Tehran:

This is a sad shocking news. I can't believe that Alok is not with us and we can not see his smiling face any more. I had very nice time with him at CERN around 1999-2000 and during these years we have worked and published some papers together. I cannot forget the time we had together at CERN, Bhubaneswar and IPM.

My deepest condolences to Archana and Siddhu.

(posted at String Samachar site)
Ashoke Sen, HRI, Allahabad:

This has been a great tragedy. It is hard to find words to describe it.

Alok has been a significant figure in the Indian string community for a long time. He has always been extremely kind to the younger generation and has supervised many students. But what I valued most about Alok is his honesty; he never compromised on his principles and hesitated to voice his opinion. I hope we can live up to his standard.

I met him first in Maryland many years ago when he was a graduate student there. We were staying with a friend who shared an apartment with Alok. But we hardly saw Alok as he was always busy at work. Since then I have met him many times; at various conferences and also for an extended period during my sabbatical at IOP. Alok was always full of life and a lot of fun.

I had close interaction with Alok this summer at Florence where we were staying in the same building. We had several dinners together and discussed many things. Then I met him again in Rome. That was the last time I met him personally. I cannot believe that I shall not see him again.

I hope Alok's memory gives Archana and Siddhu courage to survive this loss.

(posted at String Samachar site)
Shibaji Roy, Saha Institute, Kolkata:

It is really shocking and very hard to believe that Alok is no more and we won't be able to see his smiling face again. When I first got the news, I could not believe it and was very curious to know how and what happened. So, I was trying to get some information and after talking to Sudipta, I came to know that he was not feeling well for the last ten days. From the symptom and some blood test results it appears to me that he had Na+/K+ deficiency in his blood. This could be fatal if not treated in time. The treatment is simple - one needs these supplements either through IV injection or orally by some tablets. It seems to me that the doctor was misguiding and mistreating him. In fact the night before he died, his face was swollen. He had vomitted and he was prescribed antacid. But his case is a clear-cut case of Na+/K+ deficiency for which he remained completely untreated. My mother had similar problem a few years ago and that is how I came to know about it. This really made me angry with our medical system, but have no idea what to do.

We were very good friends and I will miss him. Our families also knew each other. My heartfelt condolences to Archana and Siddhu. This is a very difficult time for them, particularly, little Siddhu who was very close to Alok. I have no words to express my feeling to them.

(posted at String Samachar site)
Arun Pati, IOP/BARC:

In sad memory of Alok...

How uncertain
This life is
Who was there yesterday
He is no more
Who is there today
He may not be tomorrow
Still we try to live
Burning like a wick
And with heartfelt sorrow

How cruel
This life is
It does not give
Time to think
Without telling anyone..
It goes silently
Does not even look back
At his family and friends
Who may be crying
Who may be calling..
And waiting for his return path..

Yet.. he lives
With all of us
With his unforgettable smile..
That be there with us..
With his foot prints
On this familiar road..
His presence
Will be there in air..
Always.. always

Arun Pati

Bishnu Parija, IOP, Bhubaneswar:

Alok symbolised spirit of youth in the Institute. He was springy in his actions, he always encouraged students and he was straightforward. It is difficult to accept that such a youthful person is no more.

Bishnu Charan Parija.

Soumen Roy, University of Chicago:

Just now I came to know of the horrible news of Alok's death from Tanay.

I am shocked and stunned beyond grief. He was not just a good scientist, but also an extremely upright person.

I can not even imagine what Archana and Sidhu are going through at this moment. It is also a deep loss for both of you and for IoP. My heartfelt condolences.

Sincere regards,

Y. P. Viyogi, VECC, Kolkata:

Dear Prof. Khare

I was shocked to learn the news of very untimely and sad demise of Prof. Alok Kumar. Just could not believe it. It is really very sad that IOP lost an extremely promising faculty.

Pl do convey my deepest condolences to his family.


Jogesh Pati, SLAC, Stanford:

I was shocked and saddened to hear from Rabi about the sudden passing away of Alok Kumar. I saw him during my last visit to IOP in January . He was full of spirits and really active in research . He also invited me for a tea party at his residence where I met his wife and son. It is indeed hard for me to take this news.

I would greatly appreciate it if one of you would kindly convey my deepest condolences to his wife and family.
Greetings to you all,
Jogesh Pati

Rajesh Gopakumar, HRI, Allahabad:

I am really distressed that the second time I am visiting this common string webpage is to offer condolences yet again. Coming so close on the heels of Jaydeep passing away, it is really a terrible set of events that have struck our community. To see someone like Alok, in his prime, cut off just like that is cruel beyond words. If it is indeed true that it was medical carelessness that is even more shocking and irreconciliable.

Alok was such an important member of our community. His energy and commitment are known to all of us. I keep recalling the last time I met him in IOP about six months ago where he was as usual full of questions and brimming with life. I can imagine the devastation his wife and son must be experiencing. My heart goes out to them and I wish they are able to come to terms with this void in their life.

(Posted at string samachar site)
L. Satpathy, IOP, Bhubaneswar:

Alok Kumar's sudden passing away is as much shocking to his family as to all of us and IOP. He was a central figure in IOP and was in the middle of his illustrious carrier. It is an irrepairable loss to friends ,colleagues, family and above all to the physics community of India. It is indeed a tragedy that he chose to pass away without giving any notice and even in a holiday. I heard this terrible news only at 10'O clock in the night.On hearing I could do nothing except praying for his soul to rest in peace.

Prasanta Panigrahi, IISER, Kolkata:

it was shocking and unbelievabele to hear that Alok is no more. A close friend, with tremendous jest for life, Alok was always driven by research. It looks like yesterday, when we first met in Maryland and then in Chicago, when I was at UIC and Alok in North-Western University. A ready laugh and direrct approach tp problems, was Alok's hall mark, from whom and Darwin Chang ( with whom Alok was associated), I learnt many subtle aspects of field theory. Alok was always at the forefront of research, through his sustained hard work and dedication. Although our research interets were different, we have met frequently in IOP and caught up on both research and family fronts. When on the foundation day of IOP, Archana said that Alok was slightly indisposed, we thought of meeting in our winter visit. We did not realize that, this meeting will never materialize. A brilliant life has been cut tragically short. Kindly convey my heartfelt condolence to Archana.

With regards,
Prasanta Panigrahi
Subhendra Mohanty, PRL, Ahmedabad:

Alok was well known and universally liked, even outside the string community. I recall his cheerfulness and laughter. And I have seen how he was literally worshipped by his students. I hope Archana and Siddhu will take some comfort from the fact that Alok left an indelible impression on so many. My heartfelt condolences to Archana and his family.

Koushik Ray, IACS, Kolkata:

I was travelling with friends through a valley near Kullu, enjoying its beauty along with the old songs that played in the car when I was hit by the intelligence. Coming to terms with it was, and still is, impossible. A strange trance of numbness froze my feelings --- it was impossible to picture Alok without the radiant vivacity. Suddenly the song changed bringing me out of the spell. The new song was: yaad aa raha hai.

(Posted at String Samachar site)
Ralph Blumenhagen, MPI, Munchen:

I was shocked and devastated when I heard of the sudden and unexpected death of Alok, a former collaborator. I remember that I met him for the first time in 1999 at CERN, where, in his open manner, he directly approach me with a number of very good question concerning my work at that time. Impressed by his intellectual thrill and his friendly manner, I directly invited him to visit us at the Humboldt-University in Berlin. He came for a week and we had long and production discussions resulting in a paper on Type O strings. The last time I met him was just a couple of months ago at the GGI workshop in Florence, where we talked and had dinner together. Nothing indicated that these days were the beginning of his last summer. I cannot imagine that this should be the last time that I will ever see him. The string theory community in India and the world has lost one of its most enthusiastic members. Alok dedicated (part of) his life to string theory, a theory still very much of the speculative kind. His ideas are still with us. Even though I never met his family, my thoughts and condolences are with them in this very hard time.

(Posted at String Samachar site)
Tapobrata Sarkar, IIT Kanpur:

It is really terrible that in the last few months i visited this page twice, both times to offer condolences for colleagues who passed away at their primes. I will remember alok as that ever smiling person with that broad grin and the amazing passion for physics. he was just so full of life that it is difficult to imagine things without him. my heartfelt condolences for his family. My heartfelt condolences to the family of Faheem Hussein. Anyone who knew Faheem will really miss him. Hard to believe we will not hear that booming laughter in the ictp corridoors any more.

(Posted at String Samachar site)
Trilochan Pradhan, Bhubaneswar:

It is shocking to learn from your email, the sad and untimely demise of Professor Alok Kumar who was one of our very talented physicists and who would have had many more years to carry out his unfinished researches. It is a great loss to the Institute and the physics community of India and personal tragedy to his family. Please convey condolences from me and my wife to his wife, Archana.

Abbas Ali, AMU, Aligarh:

Ah Alok!
We did not even begin the wonderful things that we could have done together and you are no more. I miss you so much. We all do. May God Almighty make it easy for Sidhu and Archana in this mind numbing situation.
Abbas Ali

Syed Afsar Abbas, CTP, Jamia:

It is a shocking news. I am completely nonplussed. How couild it have happened? He had zest for life and always spoke up against any wrong, whereever he saw it. We shall miss him dearly.
Syed Afsar Abbas

Augusto Sagnotti, SNS, Pisa:

During the Summer of 2008, I had the privilege of sharing an office with Alok Kumar at the Ecole Polytechnique, where we had first met several years before. Alok was, as usual, very quiet and considerate, especially since at the time we were working on different subjects, so much so that he felt visibly embarrassed when his son would call him during the day just for the sheer pleasure to hear him. It was really moving to see how deeply he loved his father and how he quickly missed his presence. It was also moving to see Alok, visibly proud of his son's attentions, complaining mildly with him for the calls during working hours, with his eyes full of emotion. May his son learn in this way, via these small reminiscences of a colleague, of a small aspect of his father's life and of his deep devotion to his family.

Thanks to IPM, Tehran for one of the pictures.
Last updated: 26 October, 2009.