February 2, 1929 ~ February 8, 2018
Eulogy to Devi Masi delivered by Rasik Ranchord
As the eldest of my many brothers, I have been given the high privilege to pay tribute to my Masi, Deviben Dahyabhai on behalf of the extended family.
Today we have gathered together as members of our extended family (our kutumb) that represents four generations. Firstly, my father and Dahya kaka’s generation, secondly Suresh, Dinu and my generation. Thirdly, our children’s generation represented by Joshila and fourthly our children’s children’s generation, the youngest one being Jude, the son of Trishul and Nicole. My apologies that Lalita, my wife, is unable to be here today. She was very upset because arrangement had to be made in a hurry. She’s a great woman of prayer and she will be praying for all of us today.
We have gathered here with mixed feelings. We are sad that Devi Masi is no longer with us but just as every cloud has a silver lining, so our cloud of sorrow is tinged with the warm glow of wonderful memories. Over the years, I have often looked into the eyes of all three sisters; Devi Masi, Jamna Masi, and my Ba. Those large round brown eyes were like deep pools of limitless liquid love. Devi Masi turned 89 on Feb 2nd and the family celebrated her birthday the previous day and on that day Lalita and I communicated with her via Skype. Last Thursday she passed away peacefully at home surrounded by her family. She had a long fruitful life, and though her health was failing she was not in any pain. I want to specially commend my sisters on Dune St, El Segundo for taking good care of Masi right to the very end. About twenty weddings were conducted from the house where Masi lived.
I can still remember when Masi came from India to Fiji in the early 1950’s. She was a pretty young woman, my mother’s youngest sister newly married to a very handsome young man with wavy hair, my father’s youngest brother Dahya Kaka. So two brothers married two sisters and Suresh, Dinu, Satish, Naresh, Malvika, Daxa, and Sandhya became not just first cousins but double first cousins of Laxmiben, Manu, Kusum, and myself!
My dad was a pioneer who left the village of Samthan in South Gujarat to pursue the dream of a better life for himself, his brothers, including Vallabh kaka, their wives and in due course their children. When I was about ten years old my paternal grandfather Ranchord Dada passed away and my mother had to go to India (taking with her my younger sister Kusum who was then four years old) to look after my grandmother [Kanku Ma]. It was the most heart-wrenching episode in my mother’s life, leaving her two young sons whom she would not see for over ten years. So my brother Manu and I grew up in a large house where three families lived together and Devi Masi became our second mother. Then her first three children came along. I was at least eleven years older than Suresh, Dinu, and Satish and my job was to look after my three cousin brothers, showering them, dressing them, combing their hair, playing with them, teaching them while Masi did the house work. We slept three or four in one bed! During those early years we all got closely bonded together, bonds which have lasted over fifty years. Masi had to cook not just for her own family but also the extended family as well as for many of our shop workers. I can still picture in my mind the stack of rotlis which she had to make every day. My bapuji and his two brothers Magan daji and Dahya kaka had a saree shop named ‘Madhubhai & Co.’ which became the most famous saree shop in Fiji.
The reason I am recounting our parents’ journey is because they illustrate four virtues which Devi Masi and Daya kaka, my bapuji Madhubhai and my Ba Maniben modelled. Those four virtues are (1) Hard work (2) Great sacrifice (3) Selfless unconditional love and (4) deep devotion not just for the nuclear family only but also for the extended family. Devi Masi is no longer with us but she has left us a legacy: not of material wealth but moral and social wealth. If today’s forecast is for a rising tide of mixed raw emotions it will in the course of time recede like an outgoing tide. But today is the day when Devi Masi is passing on to the family members of my generation and our children’s generation and our children’s children’s generation the four virtues which will remain constant and that will make our lives meaningful, productive, beneficial to humankind and bring glory to God.
I arrived on the day when Masi passed away. That night Dinubhai showed me a video clip of his grand-daughter Laila rubbing her cheek against her great grandmother’s, then lovingly caressing her great grandmother’s round face. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. That picture is now indelibly written in my heart and mind. A little child teaching us older ones of love that begets love. A love of an 89 year old great grandmother being reciprocated by her five year old great grand-daughter. A love which is not only reciprocal but a love which radiates from the nuclear family to the extended family and beyond in ever-increasing circles. My guru is Jesus Christ and the Bible [1 Cor Chapter 13] describes the highest form of love. “Love is patient and kind, love does not envy or boast, love is not arrogant or rude, love does not insist on its own way, love is not irritable or resentful, love does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. Now faith, hope, and love remain but the greatest of these is love.” The pioneering generation has largely gone. There are only two of that generation remaining and who are with us today, namely Parvati foi and Kamu bhabhu, whom we must continue to cherish while they are still with us. There is however one other pioneer that I must acknowledge today his name is Dinubhai, Masi’s second son. In singling him out, I intend to show no disrespect to my other precious brothers and sisters and their wonderful spouses all of whom I love dearly. As my father (accompanied by my mother) took his younger brothers and subsequently their wives from India to Fiji to pursue a better life, so thanks to my father’s relentless persuasion, Dahya kaka allowed Dinubhai to come to the USA. It takes one pioneer to recognize another pioneer. He came here in 1968, it will be fifty years this year! I made my first trip to Los Angeles way back in 1972. I stayed with Dinu in Inglewood. He made massive sacrifices endured much hardship and suffered intense pangs of loneliness in order to carve out a future in a new land far away from family and at a very tender age. That torch of pioneering passed from my father to him. He became a trailblazer enabling him in due to time [about 1980] to bring his large family and many other extended family relatives to the USA and to continue to support them in so many ways. The torch travelled from India to Fiji and then to the USA. Dinu prospered financially, but he did not keep it just for himself. Like Devi Masi he shared what he had with the nuclear family and the extended family and beyond. In this endeavor, God blessed him with a wonderful wife in Minakshi who also had a very generous heart like Dinubhai’s.
I consider myself and my peers, our children and our children’s children as settlers. Pioneers cut a pathway with blood, sweat, and tears and then we settlers follow and reap the benefits. Not everyone can be a pioneer.
Devi Masi has now departed. Her personal jewelry will be passed on to her daughters. But there are far more precious jewels that are moral and social that she is bequeathing to all of us. These are the four virtues she embodied. The challenge for each succeeding generation of settlers is to choose between hard work and laziness, [indolence], between sacrifice and entitlement, between selfless giving love and selfish grabbing lust and between devotion which is limited to the nuclear family only and deep devotion that reaches out to the extended family and beyond. This challenge will increase with each new generation of settlers and it is imperative that every successive generation instills these virtues into their children diligently; only then will our inheritance not be squandered; only then will we continue to prosper.
Magnanimous (big-hearted) Masi:
ï‚§ May your virtues live in all of us forever,
ï‚§ May we all build together a museum of memories in your honor, may we hang many and varied pictures of you in the gallery of our hearts and minds and sit back and admire them and be inspired by them to follow her example,
ï‚§ And now we commit you into the ever lasting arms of God
ï‚§ May your soul rest in peace. Shanti Shanti Shanti!
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