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Indu Bhusan Mishra

February 10, 1938 ~ September 13, 2022 (age 84) 84 Years Old

Obituary

Indu Bhusan Mishra was born the eldest son of Baikunthanath and Kausalya Devi Misra in Kujahala, Orissa, on February 10, 1938. He was preceded in death by his brothers Tofan, Bulu; sisters Bina, Basanti; brothers-in-law Suka Deva, Umesh. He is survived by his wife Kanan, son Tinu (Gina); daughters Nina (Dave) and Seema (Michael); brother Nanda (Manju), sisters Haripriya, Buddhi (Bibhuti); sisters-in-law Mani, Baby; and grandsons Tej, Jag. He is adored and admired by many nieces and nephews and affectionately called “Badababa”.

Indu met his closest confidante and wife, Kanan (known as Jhunu), in Orissa, India. They were married in Cuttack on February 9, 1964. He nicknamed her “Sundaree”, or Beautiful One. He was lovingly married to Jhunu for 58 years. Forever the romantic, he could be found singing her love songs, particularly Chaudhvin Ka Chand Ho. When she would enter a room, his face would light up as she was his beloved. 

His other ardent love was science. Indu would tell stories of his first exposure to chemistry and physics with absolute zeal, eyes sparkling. He received a Bachelor’s degree from Fakir Mohan University in Balasore, Orissa in 1957, a Master’s degree in Chemistry from Ravenshaw College in 1959 and a PhD from the University of Southern California under the renowned Prof. Anton Burg in 1971. Indu was a technical master of boron hydrides. He became a professor of Chemistry spanning three continents: Asia (India, Ravenshaw College), South America (Brazil, University of Brasilia) and North America (USA, Howard University, University of Nevada-Reno, South Dakota School of Mines and Arizona State University). He trained and inspired thousands on the beauty and wonder of chemistry. His teaching style was infectious – often using storytelling to explain complex concepts to engage students. He was the foremost teacher of chemistry to many of the original Oriyas immigrating to the United States. Because of this, he was revered in his community.

Indu’s research led to trail-blazing innovations that benefited society. He has numerous publications and patents on this topic.  One of the best examples was the perfection of the airbag. Indu holds the early patent on the propellant used in the Azide Airbag deployed widely in automobiles today. Because of Indu, billions of people feel safe driving a motor vehicle as the airbag is its primary safety feature. In a twist, he used an explosive to save countless lives.  

Furthermore, he proposed that NASA use airbags in human capsules for deployment in case of impending shuttle disasters. The airbag was used subsequently to drop payloads on Mars and has been successfully field tested by dropping human capsules from 100,000 ft to assure a soft landing. He also suggested that the Navy equip submarines with airbags to avoid sinking – as the buoyancy post airbag deployment could prevent disaster.

His genius spread beyond airbags. Indu invented a first-of-its-kind sound wall (known as Kanwall) made from recycled tires and corrugated steel – a way to simultaneously absorb sound and recycle tires from polluting the environment. The sound walls are multifunctional: they are sound barriers, can protect people from free radicals emitted by power plants, and can be used in construction. His more recent work focused on the development of titania nanotubes for the detection of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to aid and protect soldiers in the field. His final aspiration was to create a 100-year battery. Indeed, Indu’s whole career was focused on thinking big – without boundaries – being fearless, forever anchored in enabling humanity.

Always a passionate supporter of charitable giving and volunteering, Indu embodied a deep humanitarian spirit. He was a die-hard supporter of Habitat for Humanity and Amnesty International - volunteering his time and heart for many initiatives including the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. He led, in collaboration with many local Oriyas, the creation of Our Village Trust (OVT), a charity that built homes for the homeless in India.  He contributed to resuscitating villages in Orissa which were affected by the Catastrophic Odisha Super Cyclone in 1999. Indu was also a strong supporter of women’s education. When he would travel and meet someone with promise, he could be found offering to pay for her post-secondary education. He would give talks locally and internationally inspiring women into STEM.  He had a gift to empower any person he would come across who was down or discouraged, and he would work with them until they could stand on their own. To this end, he has inspired so many with his wholehearted kindness and empathy.

Being adventurous and traveling the world were synonymous with Indu. When Indu was young, he was an avid mountaineer, having scaled the Himalayas prior to college. In fact, he was the first Oriya to do so. He was curious about people and cultures, having been to every continent except Africa and Antarctica. He was known to share stories of the most obscure locations as he presented papers and gave talks worldwide. He traveled to Rome in his later years (to keynote a Chemistry conference), medical conditions notwithstanding. Not only was he well-traveled, but he spoke several languages including Oriya, Hindi, Portuguese, Urdu and English. He would hilariously speak Portuguese to native Spanish speakers, just to express some level of kinship.

Indu loved food like no other. He was known to sneak a vada, samosa or Long John Silver’s hush puppy into his pocket. He loved uttapam and dosa and often craved shrimp, fish, goat and lamb curry. A simple grilled cheese sandwich dipped in a cup of tea or coffee was a way to his heart. His smile, when he would eat, could melt one’s soul; it was infectious (often inspiring others to steal food for him as the Gopis would with butter for Krishna). 

Perhaps most substantially, Indu was deeply spiritual all his life, particularly about Hinduism. He was well versed – having voraciously read nearly every Upanishad and Vedic text available. Often, he was heard quoting, with absolute clarity, from the Gita. He met with gurus worldwide, with great excitement, always seeking the unknown: Sai Baba, Swami Chinmayananda, Gurumayi among many others. Physically, he was often compared with Swami Nityananda – as their likeness was hauntingly similar. He repeatedly watched episodes of the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Vishnu Purana on YouTube. In his later years, he chanted hymns religiously.   Always the fan of lifelong learning, he began taking singing lessons in his early 80s – all the way up until the last week of his life. He was drawn to bhajans, especially those sung by Jagjit Singh, Lata Mangeshkar, Bijay Jena and Mukesh.  His spiritual depth had a great impact on his scientific ethos and achievements.  

Indu instilled everlasting core values into his children

A quest for learning, for education, for seeking truth (within ourselves and our professions)...to never settle or back down, to participate and activate in community, to shoot for the stars, to be bold, to be curious, to love food with complete abandonment, to be loyal, to be tender, to love fiercely, to see the divine in everyone and to look at the world with absolute wonder and realize that we are limitless.  

In the last few days of his life, being the guru he always was, he showed his family who he was as he merged into the infinite. His passing was transcendent. He revealed his true self as the Supreme Being. Brahman. And the glow that emanated around him was effervescent. In fact, he was resplendent. His last moments were unforgettable and have changed his family forever.  

One of Indu’s favorite quotes was from Isaac Newton:

"If I have seen further [than others], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

We are now blessed to stand on Indu’s shoulders as we see with absolute clarity.

Celebration of Life Events are being planned in disparate locations.  In lieu of flowers, donations to Habitat for Humanity and Amnesty International are appreciated.


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