By Peter Haise
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the author of Bombay to Brew City, Dr. Balaraman “Raman” Kalyanaraman. After we spent some time together over lunch, I left thinking he was a very cool and likeable guy, and it sounded like he had an interesting story to tell of international travel and cultural assimilation. I truly had no idea what was awaiting me in the pages of his memoir, but Bombay to Brew City was a wonderful and engaging read that did not disappoint.
From the days of his youth growing up in Chennai, India, “Dr. K” embraced cultural difference and displayed tolerance and determination. He didn’t see his parents very often because they lived in a city 400 miles away. His grandmother ran the family household of his youth, which included his two aunts and uncles, his brother and sister, and seven cousins. There were 15 people in a single-bathroom house with no refrigerator, but there was always fresh food and plenty to eat for everyone. Report cards went immediately to grandma for perusal and encouragement. They were often tough and trying times, but they were the true foundations of life, love, and character for the future chair of the Department of Biophysics at the Milwaukee College of Wisconsin.
Raman has impressed and even contributed to scientific research communities all over the world, specifically regarding the fundamental biochemistry of free radicals. His works have led to advancement and greater applied understanding in the study of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, cardiac injury, and vascular biology.
A Wauwatosa resident for more than 40 years now, Raman and his wife Lillian raised their children, Regina and Rajiv, here and still love being in the city of Fireflies. Though he is a humble man, Raman has been celebrated by both his professional colleagues and his community, receiving accolades including lifetime achievement awards, distinguished service recognition, and so much more.
Bombay to Brew City is a memoir of his life, and it is filled with many great tales of travel, humor (I mean, who goes to the wrong Las Vegas??) indecision, friendship, and perseverance. It’s also a story of skillful and conscientious cultural assimilation and full adaptation in a new society.
The recollections he shares of Alabama and Green Bay Packer games are recounted in such great detail, that I found myself saying “hey, I was at that game, and I know exactly where I was for that one, too.” He mentions a few key moments in Milwaukee Brewer and Bucks history as well.
It seems The Kalyanaraman’s could have had their own “Keeping up with…” show for a while there as well. Stories of their family adventures in Milwaukee in the late 1970s and 80s include Summerfest, tailgating, skiing, and really embracing all the sports and seasons that we have to offer here in Wisconsin.
Although the book is sprinkled with meaningful quotes to lead off each chapter, the best advice or life lessons come from Dr. Kalyanaraman (I still don’t know if I’m saying that correctly. Emoji here) himself in one of the later chapters. He shares the concept of reimagining some of the usual things in life and finding power in “reinventing the routine.” For him, it has paid off well in research, a work-life balance, relationships, and stress reduction through mindfulness. He also uses the book to offer up some straightforward lessons and advice as he spotlights the wisdom and creativity of Sir Isaac Newton and Sir William Shakespeare.
The relationships Raman and his family have made and kept from southern India to the upper Midwest are impressive, to say the least. He is a world-class researcher, a world-class mentor, and a world-class human being. Bombay to Brew City is a book worth reading for all ages and for many reasons. It’s a priority of my own to catch-up with him this football season and share some brews over a Packer game…and maybe we’ll even give Randy Sprecher a call.