My two nieces, Sarika and Aarushi.
I looked for another photo, but it was going to be a tough call between this one and that. So, I chose a photo of my brother and I. One of my very favourites.
My first name “Shanta” is a Hindu name meaning “peaceful”. The more common name “Shanti” means “peace” and is more commonly heard in eastern chants such as “Om Shanti”.
When I was born, they said that I was so peaceful that they decided to give me the name of my paternal grandmother. It is truly an honour to have the same name as she.
She became bedridden shortly after my grandfather passed away. There she stayed for more than 12 years. Her hearing started going along with her eyesight. But she never complained. She would sit there day in and day out praying for the welfare of her children and grandchildren, like me.
I was fortunate enough to spend two months in India in her home and the last day I gave her, along with the other women of the household, including the servant, a dozen roses. I like to think that whenever she smelled roses, she would think of me. She passed away a few months later.
I can only hope that I will do her name justice and continue to bring peace.
From my cousin Meera:
“Dear Friends and Family,
Neeta, my unstoppable little sister who tenaciously conquered every obstacle in her path, finally chose to rest at 3:30 this morning. She wanted to fight against this infection, and she did as hard as she could, but it was so very difficult for her. Her heart failed just minutes after we brought Sarika to her who sweetly waved goodbye. Neeta is now at peace. Of course, this news deeply saddens us, but we are relieved that she is liberated from her suffering.
Neeta had many challenges in her life, with the onset of kidney failure when she was a toddler, her kidney transplant as a teenager, numerous illnesses from rejections, and lastly, cancer, chemotherapy, and infection. Despite all that she had undergone, she never let her ailments erode her compassionate, courageous and spunky spirit, right up to Saturday when she was sedated. Nor did she allow her illnesses to limit her experiences of life and her ability to touch other people’s lives. She walked to the beat of her own drum.
Her life was full. She was student council president in junior high and high school, and valedictorian. She was a style fashionista like any other urbanite, but also loved the outdoors and the environment. In her twenties, she hiked, camped, and cross-country skied in the Rockies, and lived in a teepee in the small village of Argenta in the interior of British Columbia when she was a tree planter. Neeta had a forestry degree from Lakehead University and worked as a conservation officer in northern Ontario. Most recently she worked for an NGO that certified sustainable forestry practices, and was starting her own business as a currency trader, to give her the flexibility to work from home. Her most favourite pastime was being a masi (aunt) to her niece Sarika, whom she loved the very most in this world.
Though Tim and I were not able to respond to all your emails of love and prayers, we shared them all with her and it pleased her. She relied on all your energies and appreciated all your support. When she was just a toddler, I remember sitting with my mom in the reception of Sick Kids Hospital, asking if Neeta was going to die. Doctors had told us then that she had only 6 months to live. Somehow our family was blessed with 30 more years and we are so thankful for that.
Thank you for all your love and support. Please, don’t just be saddened by this news, but celebrate with us the rich life that she lived.
UPDATE: I decided to update this the day after her birthday, 2012. She’s been gone for almost 3 years and she’s still with us. Here’s the tribute video done by Meera. Happy birthday Neeta. We still miss you.