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In Memory of Rishi

My cousin Rishi was a special person. He was just seventeen years old when he passed away suddenly in June this year, but in his lifetime he touched many souls. I am writing this blog in loving memory of Rishi, and his love for animals and people.

Rishi had just graduated from high school in Maryland, USA; and was going to join George Washington University in the fall to study animal sciences and subsequently become a veterinarian. Ever since he was young, Rishi had a deep love for animals and was always drawn to them, as they were drawn to him. Last summer, when Rishi's family got a new puppy, Rishi did a lot of research to help the puppy and the family cat get along. He made a blog site called “Foe to Friend” about it, so that people facing the same issue could learn from his experience. Do check it out here.

Rishi with Summer

Rishi with Gatsby

Rishi was a very interesting and talented person - a violin prodigy, a track and field athlete, and most of all a warm and gentle person who cared deeply for people and animals. When he was 14 years old and I was 10 years old, he did a violin concert in Bangalore to raise money for an orphanage called Snehagram, which is a home to children living with HIV. Prior to this I had never thought about doing anything so big for anyone, so I decided to donate to Rishi's cause. Perhaps more importantly, this later inspired me to start my own project on conservation of African wildlife. I am very grateful Rishi inspired me when he did, because without him, I may have never thought of giving back to the planet.

In honor of Rishi, Johns Hopkins' University started an endowment, called the Rishi Children's fund, that would support orphans and vulnerable children of the world. If you would like to contribute to the causes that Rishi cared about, you can donate here.

In planning this blog, I asked Rishi's brother, Roshan Shet, some questions about Rishi. Here's what Roshan said:

What were some aspects of Rishi that made him who he was?

  • Rishi was a fun, happy person, with a very kind heart. He was passionate when it came to running and put a lot of effort into practice. And he made a lot of people quite happy with the beautiful music he played on his violin. As brothers, we did a lot together, and he was my best friend.

What was Rishi going to study in college, and how did he choose his subject?

  • I think he has always shown a great interest in animals. When we were in India, he was always rescuing some stray dog or the other. He decided that being a veterinarian and helping animals was what he wanted and earned a veterinary assistant certificate earlier this year.

Rishi horse riding

When did he first start taking an interest in animals, and what pets did he have in his life?

  • From our earliest days, I remember that he loved animals. His greatest love was for dogs and cats, so he was always looking out for them. He had Jazz our elderly retriever, and Gatsby, a kitten that he adopted from a nearby shelter, and Summer, a new puppy he added to our family in June 2020.

Rishi with Jazz

How did he show his love for animals?

  • He would spend time training them and taking them for walks. When we got Summer as a puppy and Gatsby was upset, Rishi did some research and figured out how to address the problem. He then took a whole month to get Gatsby acclimatized to Summer so that they got along. He would also play rambunctious games with Summer charging all over the house and playing hide-and-seek with her.

How do you think people can learn from Rishi's interest in animals?

  • Adopting a pet is a wonderful experience but can sometimes pose unexpected challenges. Rishi showed that patience and nurturing can eventually help animals get along. Maybe from him, we could learn ways to help animals deal with stress. If more people understand this, there might be fewer unwanted pets. Animals give us so much unconditional love and loyalty. Perhaps Rishi could make us appreciate what owning animals really means.

Rishi with Elsa & Jazz

I hope that all of you can appreciate Rishi for what he brought to this world. I hope that his legacy will be forever remembered. It would mean a lot to me if you could help support the Rishi Children's Fund. His birthday is August 22nd and he would have turned 18 that day. Johns Hopkins is hoping to raise USD $100,000 by this date, which will allow the fund to be endowed in perpetuity and continue its work into the future.

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Sheella Pacheco
Sheella Pacheco
Jul 17, 2021

Aayan, you have written a truly hearfelt tribute to your elder cousin, Rishi. May his memory live forever in the scholarship that will provide education to deserving students.

Ayan Mehra
Ayan Mehra
Jul 17, 2021
Replying to

Thank you! I hope that his life will inspire people to care more about the people and animals less fortunate than themselves.

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