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Fairfax Native Says Allen's Words Stung
His political interests follow family tradition. His great-grandfather accompanied Mahatma Gandhi to London for talks on political reform. His grandfather, R. Srinivasan, was secretary of the World Health Organization in the 1990s. His father, Shekar Narasimhan, aided some political campaigns, usually for Democrats but not always, Sidarth said.
Sidarth's father, a prosperous mortgage banker, came to the United States to study about 25 years ago. His mother, Charu, a teacher of Indian classical dance, followed later.
Both played important roles in the founding of Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, one of the largest Hindu temples in the country, said Narayanswami Subramanian, the temple's president. Shekar Narasimhan is a trustee emeritus, Charu Narasimhan chairs the board of trustees and Sidarth volunteers there.
"They've instilled in him all the values that are important to a Hindu: being honest, working hard," Subramanian said.
Ali Batouli, a senior biology major at Stanford University who befriended Sidarth in a 10th-grade calculus class, said Sidarth could solve complicated math problems in his head faster than anyone else. As a high school senior, Sidarth also seemed to know more than his Advanced Placement classmates about Virginia and United States government history, Batouli said.
Once, Batouli recalled, a roomful of Thomas Jefferson students were competing in an online academic contest against schools across the country. Sidarth answered most of the questions, helping the team to vanquish much of the competition.
"He basically knows a lot about a lot," Batouli, 20, said by telephone this week.
But Sidarth was not the kind to raise his hand a lot or show off, and he was interested in public service before any of his peers were, Batouli said. "On the weekends or something, I'd call him, and he'd be volunteering somewhere," Batouli said.
It was his volunteering that started the clock on his 15 minutes of fame.
On Aug. 7, Sidarth was given a digital camcorder, a copy of Webb's Republican opponent's schedule and orders to record Allen during his "Listening Tour" of Virginia. It is a routine campaign practice known as tracking, and both sides were doing it.
Sidarth set off in a dark green, 1996 Volvo 960 with a faded American flag decal in the rear window and a washed-out "God Bless America" sticker on the rear bumper.
At campaign stops, Sidarth said he and Allen's aides made small talk about the long trek, whether they had slept well and the name of the staffer from Allen's campaign who was doing what he was doing -- keeping an eye on the opponent.